India Considers a Constitutional Right to Food

A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.


President of the Congress Party Sonia Gandhi. [Photograph: The Globalist]

One of the most highly-populated regions on the planet, India has more than 400 million people living in poverty. This low standard of living presents many day-to-day difficulties to families, but one of the most pressing national issues is hunger. An inefficient government-sponsored food distribution program does little for the families who need assistance most. How to address this problem has become a topic of major political debate.

At the center of reform-minded discussion is the president of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi. As the New York Times reports, Gandhi's plan would provide "every Indian family [with] a monthly 77-pound bag of grain, sugar and kerosene." She envisions a holistic plan, under which families' health could be improved and the country's morale lifted.

But the current government has countered with a more conservative approach, defining "food security" in narrow terms and reducing the provisions dramatically.

Gandhi's most recent iteration of the plan has reduced the scope of food distribution to affecting only the 150 or 200 most poverty- and hunger-laden districts of the country. Critics have said that this approach does not establish a universal right to food—rather, it addresses geographic hunger concerns and does not necessarily help those who are in most need.

It is yet to be seen how the two parties will move forward on the issue. But it's interesting to consider the broader implications of food as a constitutional right, rather than just a commodity.

For more information on the political background of this debate, read this article in the Times of India.