A hastily rolled out cash transfer scheme was a major point of contention at a food security meeting organized by the Indian government last week which suggested that the role of the country’s aid community may soon be changing.
The government launched its Direct Cash Transfer Scheme with much fanfare Jan.1 in New Delhi and initially planned to cover 51 districts and 34 welfare schemes; it has since been scaled down. Heralded as a “game changer,” some civil society groups nonetheless view it as an “election gimmick.”
The program is impossible to roll out in rural and tribal areas due to a lack of relevant infrastructure, some nongovernmental organizations argue. This implementation gap would violate these people’s rights – because legislation being crafted by the government enshrines access to food as a fundamental human right.
Food distribution was also highlighted as an area that needs to be improved at the “Right to Food” conference hosted by National Human Rights Commission, Jan.4 in New Delhi.
At this point, food distribution is spearheaded mostly by the government and private contractors, although NGOs may apply for licenses. But aid groups are not likely to play a major role in food provision schemes, an international NGO official working in India told Devex.
The role of NGOs may therefore, in the coming years, be focused more on monitoring – that programs reach everyone and that access to food does not remain a privilege to those in urban areas – as well as advocacy and capacity building, the official further suggested.
Aid groups have pushed India to address food productivity as well – a topic the international community might be able to advise the government on in the years to come. The community is organizing itself and has provided feedback on a landmark food security bill that is currently being drafted through the Right to Food Campaign, Sphere India, the Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India and other networks.
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