Insights into Editorial: Extending food security
Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the two States that were holding out against pressure from New Delhi to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA), have finally given their approval for the implementation of the act.
The Centre had recently warned of action if Kerala and Tamil Nadu failed to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and had said if there was no immediate improvement in the situation, foodgrains for distribution to above poverty line (APL) families in these states will be provided at a higher rate. So far, the central government has been able to implement the NFSA in 34 states and union territories.
About the National Food Security Act, 2013:
Also called as the Right to Food act, this act aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people. It extends to the whole of India. The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion(1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.
Under the provisions of this act, beneficiaries are able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals at the following prices:
- Rice at 3 Rupees per kg
- Wheat at 2 Rupees per kg
- Coarse grains (millet) at 1 rupee per kg.
- Under the act, 75% rural and 50% of the urban population are entitled for three years from enactment to five kg food grains per month at 3 Rupees , 2 Rupees, 1 Rupee per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively.
- The states are responsible for determining eligibility.
- Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
- Children 6 to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
- The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supplies of food grains. The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of food grains.
- The Public Distribution System will be reformed under the act.
- There will be state- and district-level redress mechanisms and State Food Commissions will be formed for implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the Act.
- The poorest who are covered under the Antodaya yojana will remain entitled to the 35 kg of grains allotted to them under the mentioned scheme.
Why there was delay in the implementation of the act?
- Identification of eligible households by few states was not done in time.
- Many states neither have adequate grain storage facilities nor a system of door-step delivery of grains to fair price shops (FPS) – both requirements that the Centre stresses are mandatory.
- An effective grievance redress mechanism to implement the Act was also missing.
- Besides, end-to-end computerisation of TPDS operations was also pending.
- Also there is a shortage of fair price shops in India. While there are 6 lakh villages in India, there are only 5.35 lakh fair price ration shops for disbursement of food grains.
- Duplication of beneficiaries, bogus ration cards, preparedness in allocation and erroneous registrations are some other problems that the states had to face.
- Food grains under the act will be distributed through the already existing PDS (Public Distribution System). But, these PDSs have many loopholes such as leakages of food grains, corruption etc.
- The exact number of poor is not calculated correctly. Different departments are giving different numbers.
- The cost of this bill, Rs.1.24 lakh crore will be a burden for the government, and may lead to fiscal deficit.
- As most of the food grains will be procured by Govt, exports will reduced, which is a big threat to the economy.
- Small farmers may shift to other crops, as they may get the subsidized food grains. This may reduce the production of food grains.
Effective implementation of NFSA would make an important contribution to food security and improved nutrition in the country. Recent experience shows that a well-functioning PDS makes a big difference to people who live on the margin of subsistence.
- The Act is also an opportunity to strengthen valuable child nutrition programmes such as school meals and the Integrated Child Development Services.
- Central and State governments are jointly responsible for the proper implementation of the Act.
Food Security law is definitely a boon, because it guarantees basic need, food. But the PDS system must be strengthened to avoid corruption and leakages. And procurement price must be increased. Farmers must be protected. If this law is implemented effectively, it can help in eradicating hunger and malnutrition.