The government could be violating human rights if it implements a national One Day No Rice Program, an analyst has warned.
“That’s an authoritarian policy because it’s telling people what to eat,” University of Indonesia public policy expert Andrinof Chaniago said on Sunday.
The One Day No Rice Program was introduced in Depok by Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail, but the controversial policy has been adopted in other regions and there are now calls to implement it nationwide.
Andrinof said a policy that banned people from eating rice could not be justified even for health reasons because food choices were not in the realm of the law.
“It will not be effective and if the government insists [on implementing it], it will violate human rights,” he said.
Andrinof said there were many other ways for the government to promote food diversification in people’s diets.
He added that the One Day No Rice Program could only be a recommendation and should not be enforced by sanctions.
“It’s better if the government teaches people how to grow breadfruit and cassava, not dictate to them what they can or cannot eat,” he said.
The One Day No Rice initiative in Depok has received mixed responses. An official from the Agriculture Ministry said on Saturday that the program would be developed for all of Indonesia to help promote food diversification.
Achmad Suryana, the head of the food security division at the ministry, said the program aimed to lower the public’s dependence on rice as a food staple.
“Through the program, people are expected to consume less rice and shift to other foods such as tubers,” he said.
He said the aim was to reduce rice consumption by 1.5 percent annually.
The average Indonesian consumes 316 grams per day of rice, corn and wheat, above the recommended 275 grams.
Meanwhile, the average consumption of tubers is only 40 grams per day, far below the recommended 100 grams.