In this note I have tried to put together some lessons that I learned from the Right to Food Campaign. I have drawn these notes from the activities of the campaign, the discussions we have had, the materials we have prepared for the public interest litigation and for the campaign. The campaign deals with questions that are similar to what we are going to deal with in the seminar viz. ensuring a hunger free India.
I have drawn extensively on the materials we have prepared in the campaign, and specially on discussions with the ‘support group’. I would like to acknowledge up-front that this note involves a lot of piracy. I wold like to thank the ‘support group’, Dr N C Saxena and the numerous participants of the campaign whose ideas form the notes below.
The Right to Food Campaign in particular has been home to a spectacular variety of activities for the various reasons. One, hunger is a ‘bottom-line concern’ for people working in a variety of areas. Thus the campaign has got participants from large areas of work and regions. Two, hunger has an impact on most developmental issues e.g. education and health. Thus established campaigns on these issues have a stake in the issue of right to food. Third, a large variety of institutions have been utilised by participants of the Right to Food Campaign adding to the diversity in the activities. The following, for example, have been used frequently: mass mobilisation, advocacy, social audits, courts – ranging from the Supreme Court to the district courts, human rights commissions, a monitoring system based on a commissioner with oversight powers over all food and employment schemes, research, seminars, media advocacy and public hearings. A proper documentation of the campaign would have been invaluable. Unfortunately, such a systematic effort has not gone into it so far. In the limited time one has had for writing this paper, I have tried to make notes of some of the most important lessons on the way ahead to make a hunger free India. I hope it adds value to the deliberations.
I made friends with a boy of 15 from rural UP. He once asked me what I do. In the best of my Hindi I told him about the Right to Food Campaign. After listening for a while and signaled that he had understood what I do – ‘acha! roti banathe ho’ (oh! You make bread).