OAC Webinar: Take Long-Term Steps To Prevent Starvation, Experts Urge Govt

Bhubaneswar: Several speakers at a webinar organised by Odisha Alochana Chakra (OAC) warned that unless the government takes immediate steps, the state could see large-scale incidence of hunger and starvation in the monsoon season and beyond.

According to Biraj Patnaik, former Principal Advisor to the Supreme Court-appointed Right to Food Commissioners, the Central and state governments must continue with the scheme of food asssistance to the poor until June next year.

In view of the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of food material that economically backward families receive through the public distribution system (PDS) was doubled for a period of six months.

Patnaik, who currently heads the National Foundation for India in New Delhi, said Odisha was among a handful of states to have responded well in terms of food and cash assistance, and ensured a proper delivery system.

Prof. Reetika Khera of IIT Delhi was of the opinion that the government had misjudged its response to the pandemic, failing to anticipate disruptions and miseries that the lockdown would cause to the poor and marginalised people.

She lauded the steps taken by the Odisha government to provide minimum agricultural wages to workers under MGNREGS in migration-prone blocks and Keonjhar district.

Both Patnaik and Khera urged the central government to stop using the 2011 census figures to determine food assistance for the poor because it deprives nearly 10 crore families of benefits available through PDS.

Farmer leader Saroj Mohanty said Indian farmers don’t need the reforms that the Union government has announced. More importantly, they need relief after incurring huge losses during the lockdown.

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