Notes from the Right to Food Campaign 1


2.1 Rights based approach Vs welfare approach

The most significant part of the November 28, 2001 order of the Supreme Court pertained to the mid-day meal scheme[1]. Mid-day meal scheme was instituted in 1995 and on paper it said that all children in all government and government aided primary schools will be provided cooked mid day meal. The order from the court made what was a policy into a legal entitlement for each child studying in government and government aided primary school across the country.

The Supreme Court had also asked the government to implement fully its National Maternity Benefit Programme (NMBS). The programme offers Rs. 500 as maternity benefit to the first two live births of a woman living “below poverty line”. The scheme does not say that all “BPL women” will receive this maternity benefit. So, despite the order saying the scheme has to be implemented fully, maternity benefit has not become an entitlement. NMBS is still subject to the whim of the policy maker on how many are eligible to receive the benefit. Further the local official have a lot of discretion on who gets the benefit.

The entitlement that the order created with respect to mid day meals caught the imagination of the activists and the media alike. When most states missed the deadline to implement the order (all barring Rajasthan), a campaign started in large parts of India.

From March 2002 till date, there has been a spate of activities in regular intervals on the mid-day meal scheme. On April 9, 2002 a national day of action saw demonstrations in over ten major states of India. The issue of non-implementation of the order was raised time and again in the Supreme Court. Petitions were filed in the Ranchi High Court and the Manipur Human Rights Commission. The commissioner of the Supreme Court followed the non-implementation on regular intervals. Localised events were organised in most major states regularly. The spate of activities kept the interest of the media alive in the issue. They too kept a close watch on all aspects of the scheme. The defaulting governments faced a barrage of activities on a regular basis.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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One thought on “Notes from the Right to Food Campaign

  • Tanuj

    I started reading about right to food after the bill was passed, and got to know about the campaign that ran behind it for more than 10 years. I grew more interested in the campaign and activism that supported it, after I read a few snippets about it in a few articles, specially about the action day for mdm in 2002. I was searching about it, and landed up in this site. These notes give a great structure to the ideas behind the campaign.
    If there are any notes or articles or books that have a memoirs of being part of this campaign, or talk of the different activities that were carried out through out the campaign, then I would be really obliged if you can direct me to such resource.