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    Petition to urge proper implementation of the Right to Food Act

    Date : 27/05/2005

    Sh. Ved Prakash Gupta vs. State of Punjab & others

    Ved Prakash Gupta filed a petition under article 226/227 of the Constitution over the inability of the government to implement its own schemes ensuring the Right to Food for vulnerable sections who cannot afford food for their minimum subsistence. The case revealed a blatant violation of basic human rights by government officials causing health hazards in children, pregnant women and nursing mothers, which is a clear violation of Article 21 of the Constitution. It resulted in a positive outcome with the High Court accepting Gupta’s demands.

    Case Details and Status
    Gupta, who is a member of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, General Secretary of Punjab Human Rights Committee, has been actively involved to keep vigilance on the violation of human rights all over the state especially in the district of Bathinda, invoked his right to extraordinary jurisdiction following the news published in the Tribune dated 27.05.2005 regarding distribution of rotten food to children at Anganwadi centres, exposing a scandal.

    In 1975 the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), perhaps the largest of all the food supplementation designs in the world, was initiated to ensure that every child up to 6 years and pregnant woman belonging to the marginalized groups specially the SC/ST categories are provided with the required calories and grams of protein. The policy of the State Government has been to involve these groups in implementation of ICDS at village level through Anganwadi Centres.

    A vital component of ICDS Scheme is the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) which was introduced in 1995 requiring a cooked meal to be given to all children in government-assisted schools instead of dry rations. The Union of India and the FCI were directed to inspect and ensure provisions of average quality grain for the scheme.

    Despite such directions from the central government and various orders from the apex court (orders dated 7.10.2004 and 20.08.2001), in Bhatinda, a district in the state of Punjab, food stocks worth about Rs. 65 lacs, were purchased from Jaipur based JVS Foods Private Limited for Anganwadi centres. These were not of consumable quality as a result children coming to these centers, already battling poverty; on consuming the rotten food served to them fell seriously ill.

    Gupta also highlighted that as required food stocks had not been tested at a laboratory prior to purchase. Of the 38 samples of the food products taken from the Anganwadi’s, 31 samples failed. Laboratory reports revealed the presence of mould growth and worms rendering them unfit for human consumption.

    The case revealed a clear violation of the objectives of the ICSD scheme and directions given by the Apex Court, the need for criminal proceedings against the guilty and compensation to the victims.

    The petition thus sought

    • The immediate constitution of a monitoring committee to monitor the ICDS in Punjab,
    • The issue of a writ prohibiting the purchase of dry rations at Anganwadi centres through contractors and ordering an inquiry into the scam in Bhatinda.
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