Cabinet nod to be sought for food bill

Kathmandu, February 4

The Ministry of Agricultural Development is preparing to send new Right to Food Bill to the Cabinet for its endorsement.

Secretary at the MoAD Suroj Pokhrel told THT that his ministry would soon forward the bill to the Cabinet. The government will then register the bill in the Parliament.

He said the title of the bill would include both right to food and right to food sovereignty as provisioned by the constitution.

“The bill places responsibility on the government to meet citizens’ food needs but since the constitution has guaranteed right to food and right to  food sovereignty, the government cannot escape its responsibility,” he added. Pokhrel said Nepal was taking part in the global initiative to end hunger by the year 2030 and the bill would supplement it.

Key provisions

  • Imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or fine not exceeding Rs 500,000 or both for creating a famine like situation

  • Imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding Rs 500,000 or both for creating obstruction in the supply of essential foods

  • Imprisonment not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding Rs 100,000 for not distributing food to those who qualify for special protection

Pokhrel said Nepal Law Commission prepared the draft of the bill with inputs of all the stakeholders, including line ministries, and therefore, there might not be any substantial change in the bill. “The Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has given its nod to the bill,” he added.

Chairperson of NLC Madhav Poudel said the bill contained comprehensive provisions relating to right to food, right to food security and right to food sovereignty and if it was passed, it would be the first such law in the South Asian region. In Asia, only Indonesia has such a comprehensive law.

“Almost all Latin American countries have enacted laws ensuring right to food sovereignty. They interpret it as a comprehensive law that deals with right to food, right to food security and right to food sovereignty,” said Poudel.

He said the bill proposed to protect people from the impacts of climate change. “The government will have to compensate farmers if climate change affects their agriculture yield,” he added.

As per the bill’s provision, the government will have to identify poor families, regions and households facing hunger and famine. The bill proposes that federal, provincial or local government should provide subsidised or   free food to the poor and vulnerable sections of society and it will also have to stabilise food prices.

Section 8 of the bill states that the government can adopt special measures to protect interests of pregnant women, new mothers and newborn babies of the poor and vulnerable communities.

The government will have to provide free food to people affected by natural disasters, as well as malnourished children, and snacks to students of middle-level schools identified by the government.

The bill proposes that the government will have to provide free food to victims of domestic violence and human trafficking until they are rehabilitated.

The bill also provisions access to seeds and irrigation facilities for farmers.  The bill proposes to establish   Food Council at the centre and similar bodies at provincial and local levels. It proposes to insure farmers for possible loss in crop and livestock production.

The new bill proposes that organisations involved in recommending seeds, fertilisers and farming methods to farmers will have to compensate them if food production falls or the crop is damaged after following the oganisations’ instructions.

The Supreme Court recently directed the government to ensure right to food and right to food security by making adequate provisions for storing enough food grains in all regions.