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Hungry for Justice: Social Mobilization on the Right to Food in India


  • Shareen Hertel


type="main"> This article explores the potential and limits of contemporary economic rights-based social activism by analysing an ongoing ‘Right to Food Campaign’ in India. While social movement theory often positions radical and reform strategies as alternatives, the RTF campaign has adopted a hybrid strategy: it has made a radical legal demand that the right to food be recognized as intrinsic to the right to life, while seeking implementation of this right through reform of existing government feeding programmes. The campaign's dual strategy reflects two distinct logics of human rights: a logic of non-derogable rights that are immediately actionable (such as the right to life) and a logic of progressive implementation of rights that can only be realized fully over time (such as economic rights). This article draws on original data to demonstrate that the campaign's radical legal demands framed around the non-derogable right to life have come closer to fulfilment than its reformist demands around progressive implementation. The RTF campaign's relative success in galvanizing legal action on hunger is tempered by ongoing challenges in sustaining grassroots-level mobilization and influencing public policy implementation.

Suggested Citation

  • Shareen Hertel, 2015. "Hungry for Justice: Social Mobilization on the Right to Food in India," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(1), pages 72-94, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:devchg:v:46:y:2015:i:1:p:72-94

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. World Bank, 2011. "Social Protection for a Changing India : Main Report," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2745, The World Bank.
    2. World Bank, 2011. "Social Protection for a Changing India : Executive Summary," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2746, The World Bank.
    3. Vidar, Margret, 2006. "State Recognition of the Right to Food at the National Level," WIDER Working Paper Series 061, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    4. Shareen Hertel & Corinne Tagliarina, 2012. "Regional Party Politics and the Right to Food in India," Economic Rights Working Papers 20, University of Connecticut, Human Rights Institute.
    5. Gauri, Varun & Gloppen, Siri, 2012. "Human rights based approaches to developmen t: concepts, evidence, and policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5938, The World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sudha Narayanan & Nicolas Gerber, 2015. "Social safety nets for food and nutritional security in India," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2015-031, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.

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