South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Published in The Daily Star on Aug. 05 :: By Eshita Tasmin ::

Right to food- an inalienable human right which has been recognised worldwide. For the survival of a human being, among the all basic necessities food is the first one because it’s not only human being but all the living creatures on the earth requires food for their living. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 11 of the International Convenient on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) has adopted the right to food in spite of the millions of children who are suffering from malnutrition, dying for food scarcity and also undernourishment. Bangladesh being a state parties of these international instruments and specifically being a state party (signed and ratified in 1990) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), are obliged to implement the conditions of the international treaties. However, it is not only the state party who shall be held responsible for non incompliance but the whole community comprising of civil society, NGOS and even individuals have to hold each other’s hands to fight with this global problem.

Now the question arises is there any municipal law existing in Bangladesh to ensure this right to food. Article 15 of the Constitution of the Peoples Republic Of Bangladesh state- “it shall be a fundamental responsibility of the state to attain, through planned economic growth, a constant increase of productive forces and a steady improvement in the material and cultural standard of living of the people, with a view to securing to its citizen- the provision of basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care”. With this article of the Constitution everyone will get the assurance that state is all in all responsible to provide these basic necessities towards its citizen. However, it is also true that no one can compel state or claim this right from the state in case of non fulfillment as this article belongs to the part 2 of the constitution (fundamental principles of state policy) which cannot be judicially enforced (Kudrat -E-Elahi v Bangladesh 44 DLR (AD) 319). Dr Mizanur Rahman, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh gave his statement to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) regarding the issue of right to food that “the constitution of Bangladesh must endorse the right to food or right to be free from hunger”.  A proper legislation of food security law can play a vital role to deal with this issue.

While talking about this right to food- the utmost priority shall be given to the children of a state. Children of today are going to form the next generation. Millions of children suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, including low birth weight, stunting, underweight, Vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorders and anemia. According to the report of UNICEF, in Bangladesh there exists high prevalence of stunting in children who are mostly under 5 years. Also malnutrition runs over from one generation to next.  However, when we talk about the right to food for the children, the children also include street children as they are part of our society. These street children are growing up without getting any kind of care, shelter, safe water, proper food and nutrition and as a consequence just after reaching within the age of 8/10 they start taking cheaper drugs and other types of intoxication. As a result our society suffers the ultimate loss when a huge number of children from the upcoming generation left behind from the progress to contribute in the future development. Moreover, flood and other natural calamities mostly in southern part of Bangladesh like, Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Bhola, Barishal ) and  poverty in Nortern areas(Rangpur,Gaibandha, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat) also results malnutrition.

However, no matter what the circumstances are, the right to food for the children has to be ensured in all aspect. The nearest neighbor state India is going to enact their “THE NAIONAL FOOD SECURITY BILL, 2013”. It is a bill to “provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity”. The government of Bangladesh in the same manner shall take initiatives to enact a law on food security.  Minimum price of food at available market, standard of food -especially baby food, fruits and vegetables without formalin, proper measurement of tinned food, and most importantly maintenance of hygiene in the production of baby food – all these matters have to be taken in consideration.

With the die-hard effort of our farmers and government Bangladesh produced 33,889,000 metric tons of rice in 2012-2013 and successfully turned into a self-sufficient country in food. At this stage of success in food sector we strongly expect and hope that our children’s right to food shall be protected in all aspect and Bangladesh will get a healthy and nutritious generation.

The writer is an Advocate.