National Food Security Act, 2013- An Overview
Introduction to National Food Security Act
A major part of the population of India is malnourished due to the menace of poverty and hunger. Today, many people of India are living in poverty and dying out of hunger each day. The World Bank states “in India, the world’s second most populated nation, has 34% living on less than $1 a day and 80% living on less than $2”. The starvation index of people in India is very high.
It has been a challenge for India to have ample availability of food at a micro-level. To overcome this challenge, there was a need for a consistent and appropriate bill that will help to resolve the issue of qualitative as well as quantitative aspects of food security in terms of malnourishment and hunger.
The National Food Security Act was proposed in the Parliament to provide food security to the population of India. The National Food Security Act is also known as the “Right to Food Act”. It was proposed as a flagship scheme of the UPA government. The main aim behind the act is to provide food grains to the vulnerable and indigenous population of the country which is reportedly two-thirds of India’s total population of 1.2 billion people. The Act makes a special provision to provide food grains and cereals to vulnerable groups like women and children.
The act also seeks to make some reforms in the already existing PDS (Public Distribution System). India is lagging to provide nutritional food to the people so this act also seeks to provide nutritional security to the population of India. The act intends to help about 67% of the country’s population. The bill was first introduced in the Lower house of the Parliament in December 2011 to address the issue of food security.
Based on the report of Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs, and Public Distribution, the Union Cabinet cleared the bill on 4th July 2013 and paved a way to make the framework of the proposed legislation simpler by providing more flexibility to States/ Union territories in its implementation and to address some of the important concerns relating to food security.
In this article, the author will discuss the major highlights of the National Food Security Act, 2013 along with its merits and demerits. Whenever an act is passed by the parliament the first question that comes to mind is related to the implementation of the proposed act. The same question arises when we talk about this act and how it will be implemented so that it can be reached to the micro-level of the country.
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Major Highlights of The Act
Targeted Public Distribution System(TPDS)
The act makes it mandatory for the state government to provide five kilograms per person per month of food grains to priority households. Around 75 percent of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be benefitted under the Targeted Public Distribution System. Priority household means those households which are being identified by the State government.
Subsidized Prices under TPDS:
The act has fixed a subsidised prices of food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System. Rs. 3 per kg for rice, Rs. 2 per kilogram for wheat, Rs. 1 per kilogram for coarse grains are fixed for three years from the date of commencement of the act.
Antyodaya Anna Yojana:
According to the survey conducted by a National Sample Survey around 5 percent of India’s population sleep without having two meals a day. Because of poverty, these people are not in a position to be able to buy the food even on the BPL rates. The “Antyodaya Anna Yojana” was launched in the year 2000.
And the main purpose behind this scheme is to focus on this 5 percent of the population and to provide them the food grains at subsidized prices. National Food Security Act has reformed the scheme and stated that the households which come under this Yojana will get 35 kilograms of food grains per month at subsidized prices.
The act makes it mandatory for the anganwadis to provide a free meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers throughout the pregnancy and even after the pregnancy they will be entitled to a free meal for six months. The act also provides for a mandatory maternity benefit of Rs.6000.
Free meals to children:
The act also proposed free meals for children between the age group from 6 months to 6 years. Along with that, the act also makes it mandatory to provide one free mid-day meal to the children belonging to the age group of 6 to 14 years of age under the Mid-day meal scheme.
The National Food Security Act has led an example by making the eldest woman of the household who is eighteen years of age or above the head of the household for the issue of the ration cards. The male member of the household can be treated as a head if the woman is not available.
Food security allowance:
There is a provision made by this act for the people who did not avail of any of the benefits under the above-mentioned schemes. Those people are entitled to get a food security allowance.
Reforms in the Public Distribution System:
Reforms are necessary for the effective implementation of any scheme or any act. There were many reforms which were made related to the Public distribution system. These were doorstep delivery of the food grains, linkage of Aadhar cards for the identification of the beneficiaries. All these modifications were made in the Public Distribution System for the effective implementation of the act.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism:
The most important aspect of the act is the introduction of the grievance Redressal mechanism. The act makes it mandatory to establish a grievance redressal mechanism at the state as well as at the district level. It also includes establishing various call centers and helpline numbers with different nodal officers.
Transparency and accountability of records:
One of the modifications made under the Public distribution system as stated above was the transparency of the records. There must be some sort of transparency and accountability of all the records concerning where and how much people are getting benefitted from the act, the implementation of various schemes under the act, etc.
Responsibility of Central Government, State Government & local authority:
The central government will be responsible in case of non-supply of food grains to the state governments and it has to pay the funds to meet up the shortage of food grains. The state government is under obligation to implement the schemes provided by the actin their respective states and they will be responsible if they failed to implement those.
States to get assistance for intra-State transportation and handling of food grains:
Central Government will assist the state governments to provide intra-state transportation and handling of food grains.
Penalty for non-compliance:
If the public servants or any other authority fails to comply with the relief under the grievance Redressal mechanism then it will impose a penalty on them as provided by the act.
The immunity level of the population of India is decreasing for the past several years. For the country like India, this act can be useful to eradicate malnourishment from the population. However, the Central Government has not decided the specific limit for the eligible households under the Public Distribution System. With the introduction of this bill, Indians have a hope that their fight to get a ‘right to food’ will come to an end.
- “Govt defers promulgation of ordinance on Food Security Bill”. Times of India. 13 June 2013