The Karnataka High Court has asked the State government to consider the recommendations made in the survey report titled "Rapid Assessment of the Impact of COVID-19 Lockdown on Food and Nutrition Security in Rural Karnataka," prepared by Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University Bangalore.
In the survey conducted by them a total 152 respondents were interviewed from 5 districts belonging to different categories. The districts are Bidar, Vijayapura, Koppal, Raichur and Ramanagara. One of the findings is that the Monitoring and Grievance Redressal System laid down in the National Food Security Act, 2013 has been rendered defunct during the pandemic and lockdown. It is also pointed out that the State Food Commission is not functioning proactively to monitor the service delivery and its toll free number is not functional.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna said "The State Government must respond on this aspect about the functioning of the Monitoring and Grievance Redressal System on or before the next date and specifically come out with a case whether the Monitoring and Grievance Redressal System is functioning. Secondly, the State must also highlight the aspect of the functioning of the State Food Commission and the toll free number. We also direct the State Government to look into the recommendations contained in the said report under 3 headings—immediate relief through schemes and services, health and social security and long term measures for sustainable food and nutrition security."
The bench also asked the state government to give details of the mechanisms adopted by the district administration outside of Bengaluru, on receiving the details about the needy persons who called on the hunger helpline number 155214, asking for assistance.
The court said "The calls received on the hunger helpline for demanding food need to be dealt with immediately. The State Government will have to specify in what manner the district administration acts after receiving the details of the calls received on the hunger helpline. In short, the State Government must set out what action is taken by the district administration to ensure that the genuine demands received on the hunger helpline for supply of food are immediately attended to and food is supplied."
The state government informed the court that the helpline number was already functional in the Labour department. As soon as the lockdown was announced, this helpline number was converted into a Hunger Helpline with seating capacity of 120 seats per shift. The helpline has so far received 3,13,542 calls till date, of which 1,23,143 (39.27%) calls were seeking cooked food, 1,37,142 (43.73%) calls were dry ration requests, and 53,257 (16.98%) related to other requests such medical requests, travel related queries, etc.
As regards calls received from other districts, the same are placed before the concerned district administrations for further action to be taken. The callers are also informed that they should reach out to the concerned district administrations or Gram Panchayat for necessary help.
Further it stated that cooked food has been given to all the callers contacting the helpline, and expenditure towards cooked food is borne by the Karnataka Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board ("the Board"). Cooked food has been distributed to the helpline callers with the assistance of the Labour Department, Department of Information and Public Relation, Civil Defence, NGOs, and volunteers. On an average, a total of 2 lakh cooked food packets are distributed every day. A total of about 1 lakh dry ration kits have been distributed through the BBMP to hunger helpline callers seeking dry ration.
Food is prepared in bulk at centralized mega kitchens like Compass, Adhamya Chethana, Elaan, Kamath, Maiyas, Srivatsa, Sri Sri Tatva, and Chef talk. Furthermore, philanthropic organisations like Wipro Ltd, Art of Living, Nasscom foundation, Aggarwals, and Jain Association have come forward to provide cooked food at no cost.
The state has to respond on the next date of hearing May 12.