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Food rights activists condemn cow vigilantes 

By Matters India reporter

Kolkata: Around 400 food right activists representing major religions in West Bengal have condemned violent acts of cow vigilantes in various parts of India.

The activists attended the right to food convention at Badu in Madhyam Gram in Kolkata, capital of the eastern Indian state.

The April 6-7 convention bemoaned use of religion by leaders of some fundamentalist groups for political gains.

Harsh Mander, former Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India, noted that the politics of hate has become dominant voice in the largest democracies of the world – India and the United States.

Leaders of similar nature in both countries try to create a situation where the majority is taught that the minority is responsible for all their woes. The strong were being encouraged to suppress the weak, Mander added.

The convention opened with Binayak Sen, a noted human rights activist, explaining how the government provides only carbohydrates in its rationing system and feeding schemes. No proteins or fat are being distributed leading to malnourishment in the country.

So far, the campaign has focused mainly on legal entitlements such as those under various welfare schemes.

Jesuit Father I Jothi, director of Udayani, a human rights center, expressed concern over the governments grabbing natural resources, especially agricultural land, in the name of development. “We understand that the Right to Food and Work has to go beyond and look at people’s control over natural resources, including land,” he asserted.

The convention was held when several farmers from Tamil Nadu protested in New Delhi and of scores committing suicide all over India. The Kolkata meet demanded immediate action from the governments to redress farmers’ problems.

The meet also condemned the attack on people’s right to choose the food they eat. In the name of gau raksha (cow protection) and vegetarianism, not only are diets being dictated, but people are even being killed, the participants said.

They condemned the attack on democratic rights and freedom of people that is increasingly affecting our rights to food and work.

An assault on the privacy is being done through making Aadhar cards and digital transactions compulsory for a number of things, they noted.

The linking of Aadhar to different welfare schemes were also condemned.

The participants also noted with concern that the state and federal governments have reduced their budgets for welfare schemes and created various classes among the beneficiaries.

The campaign demands that the production of food must be given top priority in the use of land; and that the government must give full and unstinted support to farmers and agriculture;
The campaign also demanded decent wage, guaranteed work and the right to organize for all workers. It also demanded universal coverage for all in schemes providing food, work and social security benefits.
The members resolved to demonstrate at the Khadya Bhawan on April 27 to highlight their problems with the implementation of National Food Security Act.

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