Right to Food Act in the offing

Kathmandu, June 16

The government is preparing to introduce Right to Food Act for the first time to ensure food security of Nepali citizens.

According to the constitution, legal provisions to ensure food rights of people have to be introduced within three years of promulgation of the constitution. As such, the Nepal Law Commission is in the process of preparing a draft of Right to Food Act, which the commission hopes will be endorsed by the Cabinet soon.

“We have almost completed the draft of the Right to Food Act and will send it to the Ministry of Agricultural Development and other stakeholders for their inputs within a couple of weeks,” Kamal Raj Gautam, under-secretary at the Nepal Law Commission, said, adding that promulgation of the act will be a milestone to ensure food security in Nepal.

The draft of the Right to Food Act basically envisions bringing down poverty in the country and addressing prevailing food insecurity in several districts.

The draft of the act talks about issuing food subsidy cards to the poor and members of marginalised communities.

Like ration card being distributed in several countries, the food subsidy card will allow identified poor citizens to easily access the food supplied by the government at subsidised rates.

In May, the government had identified 48 rural municipalities across districts like Humla, Mugu, Kalikot, Bajura and Gorkha as highly food insecure.

“Though we have decided to issue food subsidy cards to the poor, we are yet to set the parameters for identifying the beneficiaries,” Gautam said. However, he said the commission might take into consideration citizens or households termed as ‘poor’ by the Ministry of Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.

The MoCPA has been holding surveys across the country to identify the poor and distributing poor identity cards to them, which is expected to give them easy access to subsidised food and services provided by the government.

The MoCPA plans to categorise the poor sections of the society as poor, very poor and vulnerable segments.

As per the draft of the Right to Food Act, a food council will be formed to implement provisions and programmes envisioned by the act.

The new act also has a provision to compensate farmers. Under this provision, the government will compensate farmers if food production falls or the crop is damaged after using seeds and fertilisers recommended by the government.

“There have been cases where even the government-recommended seeds and fertilisers have not provided good yields. If this happens after the endorsement of Right to Food Act, the government will compensate farmers,” added Gautam.

According to him, farmers will be compensated on the basis of loss in food production.