Author: Mohit Mittal, a student at the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) was introduced by the Government of India in 2013. It is responsible for supplying subsidized food grains to up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population from all states and Union Territories (UT). The enactment of the NFSA marks a milestone in moving from wellness to a rights-based approach to food safety.
The National Food Safety Bill (NFSB) was originally introduced in Parliament in December 2011. The bill was approved by a parliamentary committee in January. The Lok Sabha of May 8, 2013, did not pass because the opposing party did not support the much-publicized National Food Security Bill that seeks to ensure access to an adequate amount of quality food at affordable prices for the people. Food security means the ready availability and access to food at all times in sufficient quantity in a safe and nutritious way to meet dietary requirements and food preferences for an active, healthy and productive life. The government may soon pass the National Food Security Bill to give cheap food to millions more people, fulfilling an election promise by the ruling Congress party that could cost about $23 billion a year and take a third of annual grain production.
Objectives of the National Food Security Act
The Act provides for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to an adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto
Salient features of the Act
Many people in India cannot afford even two full meals a day, their purchasing power is so low that even at BPL rates they cannot buy food grains. To target this category of people, the government launched the Antyodaya Anna Yojna in December 2000, the scheme is now owned by the NFSA, and ‘Antyodaya households’ identified by the central government are entitled to thirty-five kilograms of food grains per person per month at prices ranging from Rs 3 to 1 per kg. Children between the ages of 6 and 14 will receive lunch in schools run by local authorities, governments, and state-subsidized schools, except during school holidays. Identifying eligible households. State household coverage is determined by the central government and particularly by the NITI Aayog.
The task of identifying eligible households is left to the respective states/UTs, who may formulate their criteria or use data from the caste and economic census of the society. The list of “eligible households” defined by the state government should be publicly available. Commissions: The Act establishes a State Food Commission consisting of a Chairman, five other members and a Member Secretary, which shall include two women and one each from SC and ST. A DRGO will be appointed by the State Government who will look into the complaints and take the necessary action as per the rules laid down by the State Government.
Article 28 of the law stipulates that the state-authorized local self-government bodies are obliged to conduct regular social inspections of the activities of fair price shops, TPDS and other social schemes and take the necessary measures in the prescribed manner. The central government can also conduct social audits through independent agencies experienced in conducting such audits. Penalties: Section 33 of the Act states that the State Commission is empowered to impose fines not exceeding five thousand rupees on any public servant or authority found guilty of failing to decide an appeal or complaint or to provide a remedy, recommended by the DRGO, without good reason or willfully ignoring the same. The public official or relevant authority must be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before any sanctions are imposed.
Compensation: Under Section 8 of the NFSA, in case the authorized quantity of food grains or flour is not provided to the authorized persons, the State Government concerned shall demand the release of the amount within the time and in the manner prescribed by the Central Government.
Reforms in TPDS –
The obligation of the Central Government – The Central Government will provide food grains for the central common fund, distribute the required quantity of food grains among the states and ensure transportation of the food grains to the respective state depots. Responsibilities of the State Government: The State Government is responsible for the implementation and monitoring of various schemes as per law. Actual delivery of food grains to authorized households at subsidized prices is done by the state government. Maintenance and supervision of fair price shops and distribution of food in case eligible persons are unable to get food grains or meals are done by the State Government.
The Act was enacted to increase food production, improve food distribution, and food security at the household level, improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations, increase nutrition awareness, and improve health care.
There are many problems in the fight against food safety, here are some of them:
- Climate change: Rising global temperatures and capricious rains are making agriculture difficult. The change in temperature affects not only crops but also other species cultivated for food, such as fishing, livestock, etc.
- Lack of access: There is no access to remote areas. Tribes and other communities living in remote areas are unable to take advantage of food security schemes due to lack of access.
- Overpopulation: A significant increase in population, which is not accompanied by an increase in agricultural production, leads to food shortages.
- Non-food crops: Cash crops such as biofuels and dyes have reduced the cultivated area.
- Rural-urban migration: This causes a problem as it creates a lot of confusion about which POS store to buy subsidies from.
Criticism of the NFSA
Effective implementation of the NFSA is left to the states/UTs, and since governance differs from state to state, the effectiveness of implementation will also vary from state to state.
Lack of transparency. According to an audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in 2016, the NFSA benefited the wrong people. He accuses many states of using the NFSA despite knowing that its beneficiary list is false.
PDS leaks: A leak indicates that food grains are not reaching their intended recipients. Leaks can be of three types:
- theft during the transport of food grains
- referral to stores at a fair price for non-beneficiaries, and,
- exclusion of eligible beneficiaries from the list.
Storage: According to the CAG audit, the available storage space was insufficient for the amount of feed grains allocated.
Quality of Food Grains: People often complain that the quality of food grains is not up to par and that they sometimes have to be mixed with other grains to make them edible. There have also been complaints that the grains are also made up of inedible particles like pebbles.
The critical point in the NFSA debate is that it does not guarantee a universal right to food.
In Recent News
On 20th January 2020, the government announced that the One Nation One Food Card program will be introduced across India from 1st June 2020, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed it but also made it unavoidable given the current situation. created by the pandemic. During the announcement of the Rs 20 crore package, the finance minister announced that the One Nation, One Food Card scheme would be fully implemented in India by March 2021, with 20 states currently implementing it.
According to the One Nation, One Ration card scheme:
- Beneficiaries will be able to purchase food grains from anywhere in the country using the same card in accordance with NFSA.
- Beneficiaries will be identified based on their Aadhar card using electronic point-of-sale devices.
- A standard format will be issued for all ration cards, and the state government will be required to issue ration cards in a bilingual format, the other language being English or Hindi.
- Any legal citizen of India can apply for this ration card.
Ensuring food security is one of the most important goals of any developing country. Even after passing a whole law to ensure food security, the government failed to implement it, as seen in cases like Swaraj Abhiyan. Although India has managed to become self-sufficient in the production of various food grains and establish a public distribution system, the inefficiency and corruption in the work of various agencies leave no advantage to rights holders. To ensure the full effectiveness of the law, information technology must be used throughout the process, from procurement of food grains to distribution, information on storage facilities, quantity, and quality must be made available to beneficiaries to ensure full transparency. The coverage of the PDS Integrated Management must be introduced in all states. Despite all the restrictions and criticism for not providing adequate food security, the recent One Nation, One Ration scheme introduced by the government is a positive step towards achieving the objectives of the Law.