India: Food is a right Christian entrepreneur says, but warns laws must protect against corruption

INDIA_(F)_0704_-_Food_security_billWith the Food Security Bill, the Indian government wants to eliminate hunger in the country. At present, 43 per cent of children under five are undernourished. Critics believe implementing such a plan is impossible. For Freddy Mendonca, founder of a Christian Chamber of Commerce, ensuring the rule of law is a challenge.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – For Freddy Mendonca, founder of Dimensions, a global Christian Chamber of Commerce, India’s new Food Security Bill is a “very important” step for Indian society, but “it must be protected from corruption, the biggest threat to its actual implementation.”

The landmark bill promises to eliminate hunger in a country where, according to government estimates, 43 per cent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Indeed, the Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute places India in 15th position out of 67 countries afflicted by chronic hunger and famine, a situation that is “alarming”.

Proposed by the ruling Congress Party, but not yet ratified by parliament, the Food Security Bill proposes to make food a legal right.

Under this legislation, the government would be required to provide 5kg of subsidised food grain per person per month at a regulated price of 1-3 rupees per kilo as well as free meals for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children between six months and 14 years, malnourished children and the homeless.

However, the bill has its detractors. Some critics believe that the US$ 22 billion price tag is too high for the country at a time when it must reduce its budget deficit from 5.5 per cent to 4.1 per cent of GDP.

Others wonder who would be the real beneficiaries of such a bill since the target groups have not been clearly defined.

“When it comes to initiatives of this kind, it is not so important how much you spend, but how you spend it,” Mendonca told. “In this as in many other cases, the main problem is corruption, which could also affect such a plan”.

Indeed, under the terms of the bill grains would be handed out through state stores, where corruption is rampant.

Several studies have shown that, in recent years, between 35 and 55 per cent of the resources from food programs were taken and sold on the free market.

“Until we get honest leaders,” the Christian entrepreneur stressed, “it is impossible to think of an India that is honest, respectful of and living under the rule of law.”

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