Resource centre on India's rural distress
 
 

Right to Food

 

As per the [inside]CAG report on the status of NFSA's implementation (tabled in Parliament on 29 April, 2016)[/inside], officially entitled 'CAG Audit Report no. 54 of 2015 on the Preparedness for implementation of NFSA (2013)' (please click here to access):

Identification of beneficiaries and issuance of ration cards

• Although the NFSA (2013) that came into effect from July 5, 2013 aimed to provide foodgrains to 81.34 crore beneficiaries at highly subsidized rates, only 11 states/ Union Territories (UTs) reported identification of eligible households within the stipulated timeline of 365 days whereas seven states/ UTs reported identification of eligible households under NFSA during June-October 2015, thereby taking the figure of implementing states/ UTs to 18. 

• Out of the above 18 states, eight states/ UTs fully completed the identification as per coverage under NFSA. However, it was noted that in case of 10 states/ UTs NFSA was implemented even though these states did not complete identification of required number of beneficiaries under NFSA. In these 10 states/ UTs, as against the total 262.13 million beneficiaries, only 207.79 million were identified. This resulted in benefit of subsidized foodgrains under NFSA not reaching 54.34 million remaining unidentified of the targeted beneficiaries.

• Identification of beneficiaries was one key milestone to be achieved within a year, but most of the early implementers (Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra) recycled the old system and re-branded it as NFSA compliant. There were repeated extensions of timelines by the Central Government for identification of beneficiaries for which there was no provision in NFSA.

• The CAG audit has noted that under Section 10(1) (b) of NFSA, the state government shall continue to receive the allocation of foodgrains from the Central Government under the existing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), till the identification of such households is complete. Hence, the NFSA clearly stipulates that identification is necessary for receiving foodgrains under NFSA.

• In Himachal Pradesh, 6.9 lakh old ration cards were stamped as priority household and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households and re-issued as NFSA compliant. In Karnataka, 8.90 lakh bogus and ineligible ration cards were found (June 2015) in the existing system during seeding of Elector’s Photo Identity Card details. However, instead of cancelling these bogus or ineligible ration cards, state government continued to issue foodgrains to them. In Maharashtra, the ration cards were revalidated by merely affixing stamps on the existing ration cards under different categories.

• Upto 75 percent of the rural and 50 percent of urban population as per Census 2011 at the national level were to be covered under NFSA and the states/ UTs were supposed to be allocated foodgrains as specified for the above coverage. However, only 51 percent of the eligible beneficiaries had been identified and 49 percent beneficiaries were yet to be identified in all the states/ UTs.

• The reasons for delay in implementation of NFSA by non-implementing states/ UTs were non-finalization of figures under Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), lack of infrastructural facilities, insufficient funds and manpower. The work of survey of rural and urban areas under SECC 2011 was not completed till July 2013.

• The CAG audit noted that prior to enactment of the NFSA in 2011 many states had raised the issue of identification of beneficiaries as one of the major constraints. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had clarified that data collected under SECC will have information of a number of socio-economic indicators. The same Ministry also indicated that the Ministry of Rural Development and the Planning Commission in consultation with states, experts and civil societies will arrive at a consensus on the methodology, consistent with provisions of the Food Security Bill, to ensure that no poor household is excluded from the coverage under Government programmes. However, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution finally decided to allow the states/ UTs to formulate their own guidelines/ criteria for identification of priority households. This contributed to delay in implementation as many states were still waiting for the completion of SECC.

• Most of the implementing states did not identify the AAY and priority household’s beneficiaries as per the provisions of the NFSA but used the old database of beneficiaries for extending the benefits.

• The maternity benefit, though made mandatory through NFSA, were yet to be extended to pregnant woman and lactating mothers in the country and was available to a few chosen districts.

• As per Section 5 (1) of NFSA, in case of children in the age group of six months to six years, appropriate meal, free of charge, was to be provided through the local Anganwadi Centre (AWC) so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in NFSA. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in consultation with the state governments, made the Supplementary Nutrition (under the Integrated Child Development Services scheme) Rules 2015. However, no provision was made in the Rules for the payment of food security allowance to the beneficiaries of the AWCs, which were required under Section 8 of the NFSA.

Reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)

• Doorstep delivery of foodgrains was not implemented in Assam, whereas in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra it was implemented partially. In Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, doorstep delivery was being done by Fair Price Shop (FPS) dealers themselves against the provision of NFSA.

• Computerization of TPDS operations was not completed in the selected states/ UTs and was at different stages of implementation.

• Unavailability of required computer application and hardware were the limiting factors in the selected states/ UTs. Inadequate digitization of the identified beneficiaries’ data was observed in the states/ UTs.

• The National Foodgrains Movement Plan was not prepared despite being decided in 2012.

• In the test checked states the storage capacity of foodgrains was not adequate for holding 3 months requirement and the condition of existing storage capacity with the states/ UTs needed upgradation.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism and Monitoring

• Though, six out of nine selected states/ UTs were found to have put in place the grievance redressal mechanism, these were not fully functional. Vigilance committees at all the four levels were not in existence in any of the selected states/ UTs. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution did not have the information on grievance redressal mechanism and vigilance committee, and was not in position to monitor the implementation. Similarly, monitoring done by the states was inadequate and there were shortfalls in inspections.

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Please click here to access the [inside]National Food Security Act, 2013[/inside], which got the Presidential assent on 10 September, 2013. 

Please click here to access the [inside]National Food Security Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha[/inside] on 26 August, 2013.

The [inside]Chhattisgarh Food Security Act 2012[/inside] can be accessed from here.

The [inside]National Food Security Ordinance, 2013[/inside] notified by the Union government that entitles 67% of the Indian population to receive subsidised grains from government every month can be accessed from here

In order to access the [inside]Shortcomings of the National Food Security Ordinance[/inside] (source: Right to Food Campaign, dated 1 August, 2013), please click here.

[inside]Summary of the National Food Security Bill 2013[/inside] (revised version, as tabled in Parliament, 22 March 2013) can be accessed from here

The revised version of National Food Security Bill 2013 tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2013 gives legal entitlement to 67 percent population for subsidised grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System. The National Food Security Bill 2013 can be accessed from here

A [inside]Critique of the National Food Security Bill cleared by the Cabinet[/inside] can be accessed from here.

[inside]A critique of the Standing Committee’s recommendations on the NFSB[/inside] can be accessed from here

To know more about the recommendations of the Standing Committee pertaining to the National Food Security Bill, please read the newsalert titled: Parliamentary prescriptions revive hunger debate.   

Please read the Fact-finding Report (May, 2013) on Implementation of RTE Act and ICDS programme in Tileibani Block of Deogarh district, Odisha here

[inside]Key Features of the Draft National Food Security Bill, 2011[/inside]


* Every person shall have the right of access to sufficient and safe food either directly or by purchasing the food.

* The central and state government shall share the financial cost of procuring, storing and distributing food grains to the population entitled to it.

* There are special provisions for pregnant and lactating mothers, children in the 0-6 age group, destitute persons, homeless persons and disaster affected persons.  The appropriate government shall take immediate steps to provide relief to persons living in starvation.

* The state government shall provide all children upto class 8 freshly cooked meal in all schools run by local bodies and the government.  It shall also provide mid-day meals to children who are admitted under the 25% quota for children belonging to disadvantaged groups in unaided private schools

* Each household shall be categorised into priority and general in rural and urban areas.

* Each individual in the priority group households shall be entitled to at least 7kg of grain every month at a maximum price of Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 1/kg for millets.

* Each individual in the general group households shall be entitled to 4kg of grain per month at 50 per cent of the Minimum Support Price for paddy, wheat and millet.

* The state government can exclude certain persons who fulfil the exclusion criteria in rural and urban areas.  However, it has to cover at least 90% of the population in rural areas and 50% of the population in urban areas.

* The Bill lays down norms for procurement, storage and distribution of food grains under the Public Distribution System.  It also gives detailed norms for Fair Price Shops, ration cards, and monitoring the system.

* It seeks to set up a National Food Commission and State Food Commission in each state.  The Commission shall inquire into complaints on denial of entitlement, advise central and state governments and monitor the schemes.  Each district shall have a District Grievance Redressal Officer.

* The Bill includes penalties for dereliction of duty by public servants, which includes deduction of penalty from the salary of the public servant.

* Any person deprived of his entitlement to food shall be entitled to compensation from the appropriate government.

* The Gram Sabhas should conduct social audits of all schemes under this Act.

 

On October 23, 2010, the NAC made certain recommendations on the National Food Security Bill.  The Bill seeks to address nutritional deficiencies in the population.

 

Some of its key recommendations are:

 
§ Legal entitlements to subsidised food grains should be extended to at least 75% of the population – 90% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas.

§ The priority households (46% in rural areas and 28% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 35kgs at Rs 1 per kg for millets, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice.  Rural coverage can be adjusted state-wise based on the Planning Commission’s 2004-05 poverty estimates.

§ The general households (44% in rural areas and 22% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 20kgs at a price that does not exceed 50% of the current Minimum Support Price (the price at which the government buys food grains from the producer) for millets, wheat and rice.

§ Government should specify criteria for categorisation of population into priority and general households.  Full coverage of food entitlements should be extended to all by March 31, 2014.

§ Need for enabling provisions to revitalise agriculture, diversifying the commodities available under the Public Distribution System (PDS), ensuring universal access to safe water and proper sanitation, universalising primary health care, and extending nutritional and health support to adolescent girls.

In response, the Prime Minister set up an Expert Committee under Dr C. Rangarajan to examine the Bill and make recommendations.  The Rangarajan Committee submitted its report in January 2011.  It stated that it would not be possible to implement the NAC recommendations because of lack of availability of food grains and huge subsidy implications.  It was in favour of restricting entitlements of Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice to households falling below the Tendulkar Committee poverty line plus 10 per cent of the BPL population.  This is equivalent to 48 per cent of the rural and 28 per cent of the urban population, which is about the same as the NAC categorisation for priority households.

The NAC however criticised the Rangarajan Committee’s stand and proceeded with the task of drafting an appropriate legislation.  It finally posted the draft of the National Food Security Bill on its website and has asked for public feedback.

 

Divergent Perspectives


The draft has been critiqued by various experts.  A group of distinguished economists wrote an open letter to Mrs Sonia Gandhi opposing the NAC’s draft on the grounds that it legalises the PDS even though there is a large body of evidence of the inefficiency of the system (see Wadhwa Committee reports and Planning Commission report).  The economists contended that in addition to reforming the PDS, other alternate models of subsidy delivery should be examined such as direct cash transfers or food stamps.  The system of direct cash transfer through food coupons was also outlined in the Economic Survey of 2009-10.  It stated that the system would be less prone to corruption since it would cut down government’s involvement in procuring, storing and distributing food grains.

However, there are divergent views on direct cash transfer too.  Some experts such as the economist and member of NAC, Prof Jean Dreze contend that food entitlement is better because it is inflation proof and it gets consumed more wisely than cash which can be easily misspent.  Others are of the view that cash transfer has the potential for providing economic and food security to the poor.
 

[inside]The Back Story to the National Food Security Bill[/inside]

 
The Right to Food Campaign

In April 2001, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against the Government of India, Food Corporation of India, and six state governments. The petition contended that the right to food was a fundamental right under “the right to life” provided by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Although no final judgment has been given, the Supreme Court has issued several interim orders in the case.  Among the most significant of theses is the conversion of eight centrally sponsored schemes into legal entitlements, including the Public Distribution System (PDS), Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, also known as “Mid-Day Meals scheme”, and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), among others.

 

Some orders by the Court in the area of food security include:

BPL families are entitled to 35kg of foodgrains at a subsidised price.

State governments are to implement the Mid-Day Meals scheme by providing every child in government schools and government assisted primary schools with a prepared mid-day-meal with a minimum content of 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein each day of school for a minimum of 200 days.

Six priority groups have been identified who are entitled to the Antyodaya card.  The card entitles the people to 35 kg of grain per month, at Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice.

On May 8, 2002, the Supreme Court appointed two Commissioners for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the interim orders.  The Commissioners have submitted a number of reports highlighting the issues of concern on the implementation of the interim orders and making detailed recommendations.

Government Initiatives

One of the key commitments made by both UPA I and UPA II was on food security whereby it proposed to enact a legislation that would entitle every BPL family in both rural and urban areas to 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 per kg.  However, the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC has differences with the central government on the contours of the legislation.  The basic issues on which there are divergent views include (a) coverage under the Bill; (b) method to be adopted to ensure food security; (c) the amount of food grain required; and (d) the impact on the food subsidy burden.


SOURCE-  

 

http://nac.nic.in/foodsecurity/nfsb_draft_3june2011.pdf

 

http://nac.nic.in/images/recommendations_oct.pdf

 

http://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/2011/06/13/nacs-draft-food-security-bill-a-hit-or-miss/

 

MORE

 

• The National Food Security Act would be formulated whereby each below poverty line (BPL) family would be entitled by law to get 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3/- per kg (For more information, please go to next page) 

• The above poverty line (APL) population will be excluded from the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) under the new Food Security Act (draft).

• The new Food Security Bill proposes to reduce the allocation for a below poverty line (BPL) household (e.g. in the case of Antodaya Anna Yojana) from 35 kg of rice/ wheat per month to 25 kg of rice/ wheat per month.

• Many feel that the Government is likely to streamline other food and nutrition related schemes by bringing the new Act.

• There is an alternative draft of the National Food Security Act which has been prepared by a team headed by Prof. Jean Dreze (and was released on 24 June, 2009), which proposes to consolidate, in law, entitlements that are currently in place through eight food and nutrition-related schemes.

• The proportion of population consuming less than 1890 kcal/cu/diem has in fact increased in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and marginally for Punjab*

• As many as eight states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have shown increase in the incidence of anaemia among women in the reproductive age group*

• On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the ‘very high’ level of food insecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat*

• About 18.7% of the households in the rural area and about 33.1% of the households in the urban area did not possess any card**

• Ration cards were held by 81% of rural households and 67% of urban households

• Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards were held by 26.5% of rural households and 10.5% of urban households**

• Antyodaya card holders were less than 3% of rural households and less than 1% of urban households**

* Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India (2009), which has been prepared by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the World Food Programme (WFP)

** Report No. 510 on “Public Distribution System and Other Sources of Household Consumption, 2004-05” based on the seventh quinquennial survey on Household Consumer Expenditure carried out during the NSS 61st round (July, 2004 - June, 2005) by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation

*** http://www.righttofoodindia.org/data/rtf_act_essential_demands_of_the_rtf_campaign%20_220709.pdf
 

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[inside]Recommendations made by the National Advisory Council (NAC) pertaining to the Right to Food Bill[/inside] during its sixth meeting, http://www.nac.nic.in/press_releases/23_october%20_2010.pdf:  

1. The Sixth meeting of the National Advisory Council was chaired by Smt. Sonia Gandhi on 23rd October, 2010 at 2 Motilal Nehru Place, New Delhi.

2. Members who attended the meeting were Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, MP, Dr. Ram Dayal Munda, MP, Prof Narendra Jadhav, Prof. Pramod Tandon, Dr. Jean Dreze, Ms. Aruna Roy, Shri Madhav Gadgil, Shri N.C. Saxena, Dr. A.K. Shiva Kumar, Shri Deep Joshi, Ms. Farah Naqvi, Shri Harsh Mander and Ms. Anu Aga.

3. NAC discussed in detail the proposal of the Working Group on National Food Security Bill. Recognizing the need to address the problems of hunger and malnutrition, the NAC finalised its recommendations as follows:

• Legal entitlements to subsidised foodgrains should be extended to at least 75% of the country’s population – 90% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas.

• The priority households (46% in rural areas and 28% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 35 kgs (equivalent to 7 kgs. per person) at a subsidised price of Re. 1 per kg for millets, Rs. 2 for wheat and Rs.3 for rice. Rural coverage can be adjusted state-wise based on the Planning Commission’s 2004-5 poverty estimates.

• The general households (44% in rural areas and 22% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 20 kgs (equivalent to 4 kgs. per person) at a price not exceeding 50% of the current Minimum Support Price for millets, wheat and rice.

• The minimum coverage and entitlements as well as prices should remain unchanged at least until the end of the XII Five Year plan.

• Government of India should specify the criteria for categorisation of population into priority and general households.

• The NAC recommends that in the first phase, food entitlements should be extended to 85% of the rural population and 40% of the urban population. Full coverage of food entitlements as enumerated above should be extended to all by March 31, 2014.

• Other important components of the food security bill recommended by the NAC include legal entitlements for child and maternal nutrition (including nutrition programmes for pre-school children, pregnant and nursing mothers, maternity benefits and mid-day meals for school children) as well as for community kitchens and programmes for feeding destitute and vulnerable groups. For the new components programmes will need to be developed as soon as possible.

• For further advancing food and nutritional security, the NAC has recommended as enabling provisions, among other things, measures for revitalizing agriculture, diversifying the commodities available under the Public Distribution System (PDS), ensuring universal access to safe water and proper sanitation, universalizing primary health care, extending nutrition and health support to adolescent girls, strengthening the school health programme, the programme for Vitamin A, iodine and iron supplementation and the national programme for crèches.

• An essential aspect of the PDS reform should be to plug leakages and enhance accountability. The NAC is examining proposals for PDS reforms including (i) decentralised procurement and storage; (ii) de-privatization of PDS outlets; (iii) doorstep delivery of grain to PDS outlets; (iv) revision of PDS commissions; (v) Application of ICT including end-to-end computerization of the PDS (vi) full transparency of records (including pro-active disclosure, transaction-based MIS, right of immediate inspection, and mandatory social audits) (viii) use of Smart Cards and biometrics subject to successful pilots.

• The NAC Working Group on Food Security will draft the National Food Security Bill for consideration of the Council.

4. The NAC also discussed the practice of manual scavenging in the country and decided to recommend to the government as follows:

• The NAC is deeply distressed to observe that the shameful practice of manual scavenging persists in India, despite being outlawed. This practice involves entrapping women, men and even children only because of the accident of their birth, into a humiliating vocation of gathering human excreta from individual or community dry toilets with bare hands, brooms or metal scrapers. It is intolerable that this endures, and is the worst surviving symbol of untouchability. The persistence of dry latrines in various parts of the country violates of human dignity, the law and articles 14, 17, 21 and 23 of the Constitution.

• In 1993, Parliament passed the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, which declared the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry (non-flush) latrines to be an offence punishable with imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of two thousand rupees. But central, state and local governments have been very weak in implementing this law, and almost no one has been punished under this law in 17 years. Local bodies themselves routinely run dry toilets, and employ people of specific castes to clean these manually.

• One basic problem so far is that the effort has been viewed by governments more as an issue of sanitation, than of issue of human dignity as guaranteed to all citizens in the Preamble of the Constitution.

• The NAC urges the central government to coordinate with all state, local governments and also central government departments including the Railways, to ensure that this practice is fully abolished latest by the end of the 11th Plan period. This would require a) new survey in every state and UT, with wide public involvement, of remaining dry latrines and manual scavengers; b) demolition of all dry latrines; c) psycho-social and livelihood rehabilitation in modern marketable skills of all manual scavengers and their families; and d) special programme for education, including higher education and computer education of all children of manual scavengers. The Ministry of Social Justice should formulate 100% centrally sponsored scheme to support the rehabilitation initiatives. The law also needs to be amended to ensure shaper definitions of manual scavenging, and accountability of public officials who employ, or fail to prevent, manual scavenging.

• The NAC recommends that the implementation of this law should be monitored at the highest levels of the central and state governments.

The NAC will also monitor on a quarterly basis the progress in abolition of manual scavenging, in order to ensure the final end of this most degrading practice of caste discrimination.

• The next meeting of the NAC is scheduled to be held on 26th November 2010.


[inside]Reservations expressed by Prof. Jean Dreze[/inside] on the recommendations made by the NAC:

Four months have passed since the National Advisory Council began work on the proposed National Food Security Act. Many NAC members have a strong commitment to this issue and worked hard to frame the Council’s food security proposals. Unfortunately, the NAC seems to be expected to work within constraints imposed by the government that do not leave scope for anything like what is required to address the problem of hunger and undernutrition in an effective manner. The final NFSA proposals are very disappointing and, on this matter, the NAC has failed in its basic purpose of imparting a new vision to social policy in India.

The NAC began its deliberations on a visionary note but later came under a lot of pressure to accommodate constraints imposed by the government. The final result is a minimalist proposal that misses many important elements of food security.

The PDS framework is very fragmented and fails to abolish the artificial and divisive distinction between APL and BPL households. It takes on board food procurement limits that reflect the government’s reluctance to expand the PDS more than objective constraints.

The non-PDS entitlements, for their part, have been diluted beyond recognition. Entire fields of intervention that are crucial for food security (such as child development services and old age pensions) have been left out of the final proposals.

An opportunity has been missed to initiate a radical departure in this field. The NAC proposals are a great victory for the government – they allow it to appear to be doing something radical for food security, but it is actually “more of the same”. 

 

[inside]National Food Security Act (draft), 2009[/inside]

Promise of the United Progressive Alliance-II 

• Seeing the popularity of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which helped the Congress to win the 2009 parliamentary elections, the newly constituted Government has thought of mentioning the Food Security Act within the first 100 days of its stay in the office for the second time.

• President Pratibha Patil on June 4, 2009 said that a National Food Security Act would be formulated whereby each below poverty line (BPL) family would be entitled by law to get 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3/- per kg, a promise made by the Congress before general elections 2009. Many would agree that the proposal for a Food Security Bill has come at the right point of time when the world has already witnessed food crisis in 2008 that pushed millions of people to the brink of poverty and undernutrition.

• A concept note on the National Food Security Act was made available on 4 June, 2009 by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. The concept note on National Food Security Act promises to ensure food security (by supplying a certain minimum quality of rice, wheat and coarse cereals) to the below poverty line (BPL) population residing in rural and urban areas. The number of BPL households would be fixed by the Central Government based on the recent poverty estimates of the Planning Commission (presently of 2004-05). As against the accepted number of 6.52 crore BPL cards, there exists 10.68 crore BPL cards by end of March, 2009. The above poverty line (APL) population will be excluded from the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) under the new Food Security Act. Based on the recent poverty estimates (2004-05) by Planning Commission, the number of BPL households will come down from 6.52 crore to 5.91 crore and the number of APL households will increase from 11.52 crore to 15.84 crore. Only 25 kg of foodgrains to each BPL household would be supplied at subsidized rates under the new law. The validity of the new BPL ration cards issued, based on the recent poverty estimates of the Planning Commission (2004-05), would be for 5 years, after which they will automatically expire. Multiplicity of food schemes would be abandoned under the new law, which means discontinuation of a number of food and nutrition related schemes. Presently the Government provides 277 lakh tonnes of foodgrains for below poverty line (BPL) and Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) categories, with a subsidy amounting to Rs. 37,000 crore. Under the new Act, the government would provide 251 lakh tons of foodgrains for BPL and AAY categories, with subsidy amounting to Rs. 40,380 crore (if 25 kg of rice or wheat per month is supplied to each BPL household at Rs 3/- a kg). Computerisation of TPDS would take place along with setting up of village grain banks and food security tribunals, according to the concept note.         

• The Budget Speech delivered by Minister of Finance Shri Pranab Mukherjee on 6 July, 2009 which stated that the United Progressive Alliance government was preparing a National Food Security Bill, confirmed that the Congress Party will deliver on its election promise of providing 25 kg of foodgrains per month, at Rs 3/- per kg, to every poor family

• A Group of Ministers was formed on 13 July, 2009 to examine the proposed National Food Security Act. The members of the group are: Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, AK Anthony, P Chidambaram, Mamata Banerji, Dayanidhi Maran, Anand Sharma and CP Joshi (Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Planning Commission, is a special invitee)

[inside]Key features of the proposed Right to Food Act prepared by Prof. Jean Dreze and his team[/inside]

• The Right to Food Act, which has been prepared by a team comprising of Prof. Jean Dreze, Harsh Mander, Biraj Patnaik, Reetika Khera and Dipa Sinha and was released on 24 June, 2009 proposes to consolidate, in law, entitlements that are currently in place through eight food and nutrition-related schemes. Most of these entitlements are already justifiable, based on Supreme Court orders in the “Right to Food” case, according to the authors of the proposed Act

• Below Poverty Line (BPL) households: All BPL households shall be entitled to 35 kg of foodgrain each month, at Rs 3/kg for rice and Rs 2/kg for wheat under the Public Distribution System. Each nuclear family shall be treated as a separate household. A new methodology for the BPL Census is being proposed, based on simple, transparent and verifiable criteria. For instance, in rural areas any household that meets any two simple inclusion criteria (such as landlessness and being SC/ST) shall be entitled to a BPL Card. Households meeting any of six “exclusion criteria” will not be entitled to BPL cards. Extensive transparency safeguards will also be introduced in the Public Distribution System (PDS)

• The proposed Act demands for continuation of existing food related schemes such as: Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Public Distribution System, Antyodaya, National Maternity Benefit Scheme/ Janani Suraksha Yojana, National Social Assistance Programme, including Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme and Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme, National Family Benefit Scheme, and Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme. All the provisions in various such schemes have been elaborately discussed in the proposed Act

• The proposed Act has asked for severe penalties against individuals and organizations/ companies who are held responsible for violation of food safety norms and standards that affects the public. It has demanded severe punishment to those who push for baby food instead of breast milk

• The draft Right to Food Act has safeguards against encroachments by corporate lobbies and private contractors in food and nutrition related schemes

 

Demands for food entitlements by the civil society (released on 22 July, 2009)


• The Act must hold the government accountable to ensure that no man, women or child sleeps hungry or is malnourished.

• The Act must place an obligation on the government to encourage food production through sustainable and equitable means, and ensure adequate food availability in all locations at all times.

• The Act must incorporate and consolidate all entitlements currently existing under Supreme Court orders (Annexure 1) and existing schemes, especially:
* Hot, cooked, nutritious mid-day meals in all government and government-assisted schools.
* Provision of all ICDS services to all children below the age of six years.
* Antyodaya entitlements as a matter of right for “priority groups”.

• The Act must also create new entitlements for those who are excluded from existing schemes, including out-of-school children, the elderly and the infirm in need of daily care, migrant workers and their families, bonded labour families, the homeless, and the urban poor.

• The Act must not abridge but only expand other entitlements such as old age pensions, maternity entitlements and work entitlements under NREGA.

• The right to food of children in the age group of 0-6 month’s must be ensured through services to the mother, including support at birth; skilled counselling especially to promote breast feeding; maternity entitlements; and crèche facilities at the work place.

• The Act must create an obligation for governments to prevent and address chronic starvation, and reach food pro-actively to persons threatened with starvation.

• The Act must create provisions for governments to deal adequately with natural and human-made disasters and internal displacement, including by doubling all food entitlements for a period of at least one year in affected areas; and removing upper limits to person days of employment in NREGA.

• All residents of the country, excepting possible for categories specially excluded because of their wealth, must be covered by the Public Distribution System, with at least 35 kgs of cereals per household (or 7 kgs per person) per month at Rs. 3/kg for rice and Rs. 2/kg for wheat. Coarse grains should be made available through the PDS at subsidised rates, wherever people prefer these. In addition, extra provisions of subsidised oil and pulses should be made.

• Women must be regarded as head of the household for all food-related matters such as the distribution of ration cards.

• The Act must seek to eliminate all social discrimination in food-related matters, including discrimination against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Most Backward Classes and minorities.

• Cash transfers must not replace food transfers under any nutrition-related scheme.

• The Act must include safeguards against the invasion of corporate interests and private contractors in food policy and nutrition-related schemes, especially where they affect food safety and child nutrition. In particular no GM food and hazardous or useless additives must be allowed in public nutrition programmes. Governments must not enter into any partnerships with the private sector where there is a conflict of interests.

• The Act must include strong, in-built independent institutions for accountability along with time-bound, grievance redressal provisions (including provisions for criminal prosecution), mandatory penalties for any violation of the Act and compensation for those whose entitlements have been denied. In particular, the Gram Sabha must have effective powers for grievance redressal and monitoring of food-related schemes.

• All programmes of food entitlements must have strong in-built transparency mechanisms, and mandatory requirements of social audit.

• Within the existing PDS system, the Act must provide for mandatory reforms such as de-privatisation of PDS shops, preferably to women’s groups, with sufficient capital and commissions for new owners; direct door step delivery of food items to the PDS shop; and computerisation, along with other measures for transparency.

• The Act must specify that no laws or policy shall be passed that adversely impact the enabling environment for the right to food.

 

Apprehensions about the new National Food Security Act (draft)

• If made into a law, the draft Food Security Bill (Government version) would reduce the allocation for a below poverty line (BPL) household (e.g. in the case of Antodaya Anna Yojana) from 35 kg of rice/ wheat per month to 25 kg of rice/ wheat per month. This would appear contradictory to many who expected the Bill to be a benign effort of the UPA-II to ensure food security.

• Instead of better implementation of the already existing schemes such as the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) etc., the Food Security law might make things unduly worse and unnecessarily complicated. A question here would be: Is the Food Security Bill going to replace all such food related schemes that existed before its enactment?  

• If the Bill is about ensuring food security, how can it leave those who may not fall below the poverty line but are already exposed to food insecurity? The Rome Declaration (1996) made during the World Food Summit states that ‘food security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active life’. Food security is about nutrition security too. If that is the case, the Food Security Bill has to rethink about the quality of foodgrains supplied and distributed. The Food Security Bill must also aim at providing fortified foodgrains along with edible oils, salt and essential spices. A balanced diet would ensure both food and nutrition security. The basket of commodities, which would be available to the consumers, should reflect local tastes and preferences and must include locally grown cereals and legumes.  

• If targeting of BPL households is done under the Food Security Bill, then that would lead to inclusion (including the non-poor) and exclusion (excluding the poor) errors. It would be wiser to go for universalization (rather than targeting) as was recommended by the Committee on Long Term Grain Policy under the chairmanship of Prof. Abhijit Sen (2000-02).

• Is India ready to rely exclusively upon biotechnology and genetic engineering for increasing its agricultural production so as to ensure food security for all? Much of debates have already taken place on the usefulness and pitfalls of GMOs.

• The World Development Report 2008-Agriculture for Development, which has been brought out by the World Bank mentions that India presently faces the problem of depleting ground water level that makes agriculture unsustainable and poses risk to environment. If rice is one of the foodgrains that is going to be supplied when the Food Security Act comes into being, then more and more farmers would go for cultivation of rice by looking at the price incentives offered by the Government. In the Punjab region, overexploitation of groundwater takes place thanks to the huge subsidies given on electricity. Moreover, minimum support prices (MSP) for rice increase the financial attractiveness of rice relative to less water-intensive crops, which makes depletion of ground water table more obvious.

• There are apprehensions that sustainability of Food Security law would be at peril if India faces lower agricultural production due to poor harvest, drought etc. in the future. Is India ready to rely upon food imports and food aid to ensure right to food at all cost? At present, the country has been facing shortage in south-west monsoon rainfall that might affect agricultural production and prices of commodities.

 

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According to the [inside]Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India (2009)[/inside], which has been prepared by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the World Food Programme (WFP),

http://home.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/newsroom/wfp197348.pdf:

 

  • On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the ‘very high’ level of food insecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat. The indicators used for computing the index of food insecurity in rural India are: a) Percentage of population consuming less than 1,890 Kcal /cu/diem; b) Percentage of households not having access to safe drinking water; c) Percentage of households not having access to toilets within the premises; d) Percentage of ever-married women age 15 – 49 years who are anaemic; e) Percentage of women (15 – 49 yrs) with CED; f) Percentage of children in the age group 6 – 35 months who are anaemic; and, g) Percentage of children in the age group 6 – 35 months who are stunted

 

  • The better performers include Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, all of which report an Index value below 0.5

 

  • The proportion of population consuming less than 1890 kcal/cu/diem has in fact increased in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and marginally for Punjab.

 

  • Almost 2/3rd of rural households in Jharkhand did not have access to safe drinking water in 2001.

 

  • More than 90 percent of rural households in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh did not have access to toilets within their premises.

 

  • As many as eight states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have shown increase in the incidence of anaemia among women in the reproductive age group. The highest increase in anaemia levels has been observed in Andhra Pradesh (51 to 64 percent), followed by Haryana (48 to 57 percent) and Kerala (23 to 32 percent).

 

  • The proportion of women with CED has drastically increased for Assam (28 to 40 percent) followed by Bihar (40 to 46 percent), Madhya Pradesh (42 to 45 percent) and Haryana (31 to 33 percent).

 

  • 12 out of 20 states under consideration have figures higher than 80 percent for proportion of rural anaemic children. Bihar, that already had a high figure of 81 percent, has further increased to 89 percent.

 

  • The proportion of rural stunted children in Karnataka has increased from 39 to 43 percent

 

  • While famines and starvation deaths remain the popular representation of the contemporary problem of hunger, one of the most significant yet understated and perhaps less visible area of concern today is that of chronic or persistent food and nutrition insecurity. This is a situation where people regularly subsist on a very minimal diet that has poor nutrient and calorific content as compared to medically prescribed norms.

 

  • The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) has led to exclusion of large number of needy poor. The Report recommends a return to the ‘universal PDS’ that existed till 1997. The Report also recommends universalization and effective implementation of ICDS and MDMS and employment generation programmes, like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). Greater involvement of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs) in food delivery at the grassroot level and integration of food and nutrition security objectives in ongoing Government initiatives like the National Food Security Mission and National Horticulture Mission are crucial.

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According to the Report No. 510 on “Public Distribution System and Other Sources of Household Consumption, 2004-05” based on the seventh quinquennial survey on Household Consumer Expenditure carried out during the NSS 61st round (July, 2004 - June, 2005) by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, http://mospi.nic.in/press_note_510-Final.htm:

 

  • Ration cards were held by 81% of rural households and 67% of urban households. Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards were held by 26.5% of rural households and 10.5% of urban households. Antyodaya card holders were less than 3% of rural households and less than 1% of urban households.

 

  • About 18.7% of the households in the rural area and about 33.1% of the households in the urban area did not possess any card.

 

  • Among the bottom of the rural households ranked by monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), an estimated 41% only held BPL ration cards. On the other hand, among top 5% of the rural population, an estimated 11% households held BPL ration cards. Among the next 5% of rural population 14% of households held BPL card, and among the next 10% of rural population, 18% of households held BPL ration card.

 

  • In urban areas, among the bottom MPCE class households, only 29% held BPL ration cards.

 

  • In rural area out of the total ration cardholder households about 10% were Schedule Tribe households, 22% were Schedule Caste households, 42% were Other Backward Class (OBC) households and 26% were other households.

 

  • In urban area out of the total ration cardholder households about 2% were Schedule Tribe households, 16% were Schedule Caste households, 35% were OBC households and 47% were held by other households.

 

  • 43% of “agricultural labour” households and 32% of “other labour” households in the rural area were in the possession of the BPL card.

 

  • As many as 51% of rural households possessing less than 0.01 hectares of land had no ration card at all, while in all other size classes 77-86% households held a ration card of some type. In respect of ration cards meant for the poor, the class possessing “0.01-0.40 hectares” was the one with the highest proportion of cards for both BPL (32%) and Antyodaya (4%).

 

  • The major State where consumption of rice from PDS was most common was Tamil Nadu followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala.

 

  • PDS consumption of wheat/atta was most common in Karnataka, rural areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and in Madhya Pradesh.

 

  • PDS consumption of sugar, like rice, was most prevalent in Tamil Nadu followed by Assam and Andhra Pradesh. Fewer than 2% households consumed PDS sugar in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.

 

  • Over 55% of rural households used PDS kerosene in all major States except Punjab and Haryana. Use of PDS kerosene was most common in West Bengal for both rural areas (91% households) and urban areas (60%).

 

  • In 2004-05, in rural India the Midday Meal scheme benefited children from an estimated 22.8% of households, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) benefited 5.7% of households, the Food-for-Work Scheme, to 2.7% households, and the Annapoorna scheme to only 0.9% households.

 

  • Among social groups, the Scheduled Tribes had the highest proportion of Food-for-Work and ICDS beneficiary households in both rural and urban India.