In India, infrastructural constraints aside, there does exist a basic framework to ensure that poor families are provided with a minimum quantity of food. Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, poor families are guaranteed five kg of foodgrains per person per month, at heavily subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg. The Act reportedly covers 75% and 50% of India’s rural and urban populations respectively, and yet, the Santoshis and Paruls of India continue to fall through the cracks.
The reason is simple – to avail the benefits of the National Food Security Act, families are required to hold ration cards, and now, the #Aadhaar [carte d’identité biométrique] has further exacerbated the issue. Authorities at the ground level insist that these ration cards must be linked to Aadhaar, despite the fact that the constitutional validity of Aadhaar is hanging in balance – the verdict in the matter has been reserved by the Supreme Court.
The fundamental question here is that should access to something as basic as food be governed by the availability of documentation such as an Aadhar card? Right to Food is a basic human right, and in India, is enshrined as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees right to life and liberty. The right to life as referred to under Article 21 has been interpreted to mean a right to live with dignity and not mere animal existence and that implies ensuring access to food and not just availability of food..