A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking to establish state-funded or Public Private Partnership (PPP) community kitchens pan-India, to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and starvation deaths prevalent in the country.
Community kitchens are institutions that provide cheap or free nutritious food as a service to the general public usually run by religious institutions or by the state. These are viewed as a complement to the existing schemes of the Government for combating hunger and malnutrition in India.
The Petitioners in the present case have cited various international conventions that India is a party to and all of which recognize the right of a person to a standard of living which is adequate in terms of health, food, clothing, housing and medical care. To name a few, the Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition, adopted by the World Food Conference under United Nations General Assembly provides that it is a fundamental responsibility of the governments to work together for higher food production and a more equitable and efficient distribution of food between countries and within countries. Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly states that the States Parties to the Covenant recognize the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.
They have also relied on various media reports, surveys and calculations, depicting the scarce access to food in India, malnutrition crisis, starvation deaths, aggravating infant mortality rates, diminishing life expectancy and likewise. It has been claimed that India has been constantly slipping down the Global Hunger Index and as per the Global Nutrition Report, 2018, the country holds almost a third of world's burden for stunting.
Aggrieved by this deteriorating state of health in the country and to mitigate deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition and starvation, the plea has been filed.
The Petitioners have prayed the court to direct all States and Union Territories to formulate schemes to implement the concept of community kitchens to combat hunger, malnutrition & starvation and deaths resulting thereof and to direct the Central Government to create a national food grid for those persons beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme. They have also prayed to direct National Legal Services Authority to formulate a scheme in order to further the provisions of Article 51A of the Constitution.
Various articles were cited discussing the operational and financial viability of operating these kitchens where payment of money is merely a token for procurement of food at subsidized rates. The raw material and cost of supplies for running the kitchen are met through the Municipal Corporation or another auxiliary of the state as well as benefit is taken from the existing schemes aimed at eradication of hunger. These institutions can also, unlike other government schemes, raise money from charity.
The petition has taken cue from pre-existing and successful run community kitchen services provided by certain state governments such as Amma Unavagam in Tamil Nadu, Annapurna Rasoi in Rajasthan, Indira Canteens in Karnataka, Aam Aadmi Canteen in Delhi, Anna Canteen in Andhra Pradesh, Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat Yojana in Jharkhand and Ahaar Centre in Odisha. These programs were established by these respective states with the same object of combating hunger and malnutrition crisis and providing nutritious food at subsidized rates to the lower socio-economic strata of the society. These are akin to "soup kitchens" of the U.S. and Europe to feed the poor by serving a limited menu of nutritious cooked food at below the market price.
Apart from the aforesaid, the Petitioners have relied on a plethora of grounds to support their cause. A few of them are enlisted below:
Petitioners also clarified that the petition did not seek replacement of any of the existing schemes of the government with the concept of community kitchens and rather anticipate it as an added mechanism for provision of nutritious food. They also suggested that the model may be implemented block-wise, thereby affixing liability upon each Block Development Officer for accountability, effective implementation and ensuring widespread reach of the same.
The petition titled Anun Dhawan & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., was filed by AoR Mr. Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi and Advocates Ashima Mandla and Mandakini Singh on behalf of Social activists Anun Dhawan, Ishaan Dhawan and Kunjana Singh.
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