The Scroll has reported that the state government of Maharashtra has used a loophole created by the center in the National Food Security Act to subvert its recommendation of hot cooked meals for children between ages 3 and 6. Yet another signature move by a BJP government that kills several of their birds with a stone at the cost of citizens.
This serves no purpose and represents a significant degradation of the quality of food provided to the children at ages when nourishment can make all the difference in their development. Packaged food cannot provide the nutrition freshly prepared food does. So what is essentially happening is another opportunity for contracts to private providers and bribes replacing government provisions. This time at the cost of children.
This will impact the livelihoods of small women's groups who provide freshly cooked food to schools. It will impose uniform foods in the place of diverse local cuisines. It will reduce quality without benefiting the state in any manner, while the corrupt skim off money from contracts. This wouldn't be the first time the government has tried to shut down smaller food manufacturers in favor of bigger industries. After all, it is the essentials that are profitable even when economy looks shaky. Food, gas, electricity, water... people can't afford to lose them no matter how broke they are and have to cut corners. And privatizing needs is where the biggest monopolies are consolidating.
In classic government doublespeak, tenders for the packaged food state that private manufacturers will be ineligible. The same tenders state requirements of advanced technology that no self-help group will own.... unless it is a front for large private packaged food manufacturers. In essence, the tender basically says that private manufacturers should apply with appropriate disguises and those who are supposedly helped need not apply.
I'm going to make one wild guess here. There will be some Guru/Baba businessman setting up some "charitable" organization to rake in this moolah. Or, of course, existing big packaged food manufacturers. Lots of big fish here and the small fish have no voice. Aadhaar, packaged food cronies.... just how many ways is the government going to deny children food? What are they going to do with this ill-gotten wealth and power?
This is an attack on the livelihoods of small scale self-help groups who will lose out on the business of feeding children statewide at a time when rural India is already reeling under an agrarian crisis, the devastation of demonetization and a wipeout of savings made as livestock in cattle. It will funnel more money out of rural economies and into fat big industry manufacturers somewhere.
To what end? Does adding "micro-nutrients" really compensate for food that is rich in nutrient dense vegetables that don't preserve well? Would you feed your kids mostly fillers and flavors and a hint of nutrient additives that have never been proven to do anything useful?
The National Food Security Act stands undermined. It's excellent provision for hot, freshly cooked food for children discarded. For what? Would you prefer your child ate packaged food on a daily basis rather than simple well-cooked food by an organization of real women known locally who are often mothers themselves and aware that they are feeding children? Food you can go and check as needed instead of some esoteric packaging plant somewhere providing to the government (so we know how much they will focus on quality) that you are simply informed is "good"?
So why should an entire state be scammed into this? Who profits? Follow the money.
This is most definitely an issue of child rights as well as an attack on livelihoods of women in rural Maharashtra and if anyone is challenging this in a legal or political manner, let me know and I will support to the best of my ability.