"In 1985, a starving family sold their 12-year-old girl for a princely sum of Rs 40 in Kalahandi in Odisha. The news outraged the nation and triggered a visit by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who famously said that of every 100 rupees allocated to anti-poverty programmes only 15 rupees reach the intended beneficiary.
Last week, three young girls were found dead in their house. The post-mortem report declared that the three girls, eight-year-old Mansi, her sisters Shikha and Paro, aged four and two, died of malnutrition/starvation and related complications. In 1985-86, India spent around Rs 3,500 crore on food and fertiliser subsidies. The allocation for food subsidies alone in 2018-19 is Rs 1.69 lakh crore. Add an allocation of Rs 24,700 crore for the Integrated Child Development Services and Rs 10,500 crore for mid-day meals for schoolchildren like Mansi.
It is over three decades since Rajiv Gandhi made that defining statement about governance. Since then, the rationing system has morphed from PDS to Revamped PDS to Targeted PDS. In October 2000, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime introduced the Antyodaya scheme for the poorest of the poor. In 2001, following starvation deaths, Right to Food activists petitioned the Supreme Court to make right to food an enforceable right. The Court issued over 40 interim orders to the Centre and six states. In September 2013, Parliament passed the National Food Security Act—a law that makes right to food justiciable."
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