KATHMANDU, April 10: Issuing a directive to respect access to food as a fundamental right of the people, the Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the government to manage food for those facing serious food deficit even during difficult situations in the country.
The SC ordered government authorities to take all necessary steps and make every effort to ensure food to the people of food shortage areas.
A division bench of SC Justices Bal Ram KC and Bharat Raj Uprety issued the directive to this effect.
“It is the constitutional obligation of the government to provide food to those facing such problems even if it means importing foodstuff from abroad,” reads the directive, adding, “The government must initiate all efforts to overcome food deficit in the country even during adverse situations.”
The SC has also asked government authorities to provide free food if necessary during emergencies. “The government has to take serious steps to manage food even during acute food shortage periods, especially in remote areas,” reads the directive, adding, “The government has to take adequate precautionary measures to solve possible food deficit problems in the country.”
The apex court has also ordered government officials to use both land and air transport to supply food in food deficit areas at the earliest.
“The government should leave no stone unturned to save people from famine even in an adverse situation,” the directive further states.
Responding to a writ petition filed by advocate Prakash Mani Sharma and others, the apex court said, “The government cannot shy away from its responsibilities on the excuse of natural calamities like drought.”
The apex court has further asked the government to abide by the UN declaration on eradication of hunger and malnutrition.
“It is a fundamental responsibility of government to work together for higher food production and a more equitable and efficient distribution of food between countries and within countries,” the directive further reads.
The government´s data shows that nearly 300,000 people of Kalikot, Humla, Mugu, Dolpa, Bajura, Achham, Dailekh, Darchula, Baitadi, Dadeldhura, Rukum and Jajarkot districts face food deficit.
“Every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop fully and maintain his or her physical and mental faculties,” the directive says, citing the UN declaration on eradication of hunger and malnutrition.
According to the government´s latest data, the size of the population facing food deficit has tripled in comparison to previous years. The country faces a nearly 316,000 metric ton food deficit this year, compared to a deficit of 132,000 metric tons last year.