The first responsibility of the welfare state is to provide food to the starving people, says SC to the Center for Community Kitchen Policy

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The PIL, tabled by social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, had also asked the Center to create a national food network for people not covered by the public distribution program.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its strong dissatisfaction with the Centre’s response regarding the development of a pan-Indian policy for the implementation of the community cooking program and granted it three weeks to hold a meeting with the states, saying that the first responsibility of a welfare state is to “provide food for the people.” to starve”.

A bench comprising Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli, hearing a PIL requesting instructions from the Center, States and Union Territories (UT) to formulate a community kitchens program to combat the hunger and malnutrition, was upset by the Centre’s affidavit as it was filed by an Under-Secretary-level official and did not disclose details of the proposed program and its deployment as requested.

“Nowhere does this affidavit state that you are considering making a plan. You are extracting information. It does not say what funds you have raised and what you are doing, etc. We wanted a consistent model of the Center. You have to ask. au declares … Do not collect information like the police, ”declared the court from the outset.

“You cannot ask for information that is already available. End your affidavit by saying that you will consider the project now. There is not a whisper in your 17-page affidavit,” he said. -he declares. affidavit of an undersecretary of the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Administration.

“This is the last warning I am going to give to the Indian government. Your Deputy Secretary is filing this affidavit. Why can’t a secretary-level officer file the affidavit? You have to respect the institutions. We say something and you write something. It has been said several times before, ”said the bench.

Initially, the case was debated by Additional Solicitor General Madhvi Divan and later Attorney General KK Venugopal intervened and assured the judiciary that a meeting would be held by the Center and that a decision would be taken on the matter and a requested four weeks from the judiciary. .

The top legal expert said that something can be worked out within the framework of the national law on food safety.

“The question is simple, last time we made it clear unless and until states are involved, there is nothing the Center can do. So we asked the Center to convene the meeting and define the policy areas where there is an immediate need, so that it can be implemented in a uniform manner, ”CJI said.

“See if you want to take care of hunger, no constitution or law will say no … This is the first principle: the first responsibility of every welfare state is to provide food to people who are dying of hunger”, said the judiciary.

In its order, the judiciary also indicated that it was not satisfied with the Centre’s affidavit filed by the Under-Secretary.

“We order that here after, a responsible secretary must file the affidavit. Yet, the Centre’s affidavit and submissions show that they continue to get suggestions and views. In view of this, we are finally giving three weeks to come up with a plan that may also be acceptable to states. “Otherwise, if states have any objections, we will consider it at the next court date. We call on all states to attend a meeting called by the Indian government to work out a plan,” the judiciary ordered.

Previously, the bench had asked the Center to make policy decisions regarding the implementation of the community kitchen program taking into consideration similar programs that are operational in different states.

The Supreme Court had also taken note of alleged incidents of child starvation and malnutrition in some states and asked them to file brief responses identifying the “districts / Talukas / villages where such incidents took place or took place “.

“We believe that as long as state governments are not involved in the implementation of the program, it would be difficult to implement it.

“Under these circumstances, it would be appropriate for the Indian Union to take a political decision regarding the implementation of the Community Kitchen Program taking into consideration other similar programs relating to Community Kitchen which are already in operation in different United States. », Said the bench.

The Supreme Court on February 17 last year imposed an additional cost of Rs 5 lakh each on six states for failing to comply with its instructions to file their affidavits on the PIL, which sought to formulate a plan. to set up community kitchens for the poor. The additional cost of Rs 5 lakh each has been imposed in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Goa and Delhi.

Lawyer Ashima Mandla, representing the PIL petitioners, was invited by the judiciary to prepare a table of all the states that have filed their responses to the PIL. She said 69 percent of children under five have lost their lives due to malnutrition and that it is high time for states to take action to establish community kitchens.

The Supreme Court had, on October 18, 2019, favored the establishment of community kitchens, saying that the country needed this type of system to fight against the problem of hunger. He had sent notices to the Center and to all states requesting their responses on a PIL requesting instructions from all states and UTs to formulate community kitchens. The advocacy claimed that many children under the age of five die of hunger and malnutrition every day and that this condition violates various fundamental rights, including the right to food and to life of citizens.

The PIL, tabled by social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, had also asked the Center to create a national food network for people not covered by the public distribution program. He also requested the issuance of an order from the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) for the formulation of a program to alleviate hunger-related deaths.

The call referred to state-funded and managed community kitchens in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Jharkhand and Delhi that serve meals at subsidized rates under conditions of hygiene.

The advocacy also referred to the concepts of soup kitchen, meal center, food kitchen or community kitchen in other countries where food is offered to the hungry usually for free or sometimes at below market prices.


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