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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rs 25,000 fine for refusing info, only Rs 5,000 for denying food.

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, 15 July 2013

The government may have touted the food security law as a “game changer”, but its penal provisions are weaker than those of even the Right to Information Act — another of the UPA’s landmark laws — leaving ample room for officials to get away with shoddy implementation. While the RTI Act provides for a maximum penalty of Rs 25,000 for officials denying information, the food law provides for a fine of just Rs 5,000 for officials who fail to provide subsidised food to beneficiaries. Moreover, the food law also says officials can be penalised only after an inquiry is conducted. “Everyone knows that it takes years to complete an inquiry under a government system. Until then, a poor person will have to suffer,” a functionary of the Right to Food campaign said. Food ministry officials also have the power to suspend any provision if they think it is not implementable even two years after the law is enforced. They fear that beneficiaries or activists may take them to court if certain provisions are not implemented — which, they feel, may happen because of “harsh ground realities”. However, taking a cue from the rural employment scheme, the food law does provide for social audits by reputed organisations.

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