Or Ekta Parishad’s emphasis on land and forest rights, livelihood resources?
“The government has launched a scheme to provide food coupons being tested on a pilot basis in Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but the Ministry for Food and Consumer Affairs is advocating the inclusion of private companies in public distribution in India – ‘public-private partnership’.
“The food stamp programme in the United States – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programme (SNAP), as it is called in the US – uses food stamps to reach 46 million hungry – one in every seven Americans.
“A report from California-based organisation ‘Eat, Drink Politics’ has provided an insight into how the hunger programme adds to the profits of some big corporations and banks. It is alleged that Coca Cola, General Mills, Walmart and banks like JP Morgan Chase have profited from the food stamps programme. According to the report, in one year, Walmart received more than $33 million for nine supermarket centres in the province of Massachusetts, four times the money spent at farmers markets across the nation under the same programme. It also got half of the $1 billion spent in Oklahoma state. ‘Eat, Drink Politics’ was unable to obtain data of the total money claimed by Walmart for feeding the entire country. In Florida alone, JP Morgan Chase has a five-year contract worth $ 83 million. The US Department of Agriculture did not divulge how much money was paid to Coca-Cola and General Mills.”
Ekta Parishad’s International march in October 2012 will be called the Jan Satyagraha (“People’s March for Justice”). 100,000 people will again be walking to Delhi from Gwalior, and different actions will occur in 60 countries around the world.
Ekta Parishad’s policy:
“Our aim is to see India’s poorest people gain control over livelihood resources . . . Each one could benefit from equal and guaranteed access to land, forest and water, and the whole population – regardless of the origin or caste – could live with dignity.”
“A (good) land reform and development model would take into account the poorest so that the rights of all citizens would be fairly protected.”
Ekta Parishad was formally established in 1991. The initial emphasis of the movement was on access to forest resources because of the large population of tribal communities.
Later, it became evident that the right to land was the most critical issue due to displacement. Without right to land, people were being constantly displaced, disenfranchised and debased. Focus also shifted to forced evictions, indebtedness, alcohol trade, and usufruct rights related to the collection of forest produce.
Food stamps are a stop-gap, corporate-friendly, short-term urban measure; in rural areas of India, with land, forest and water, families can feed themselves long-term.