National Food Security Act, 2013

THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013

Overview:

Our public distribution system has been severely criticised for its gaping lacunae. To fill in these gaps, a new Act was originally conceived by the National Advisory Council headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who on 27 October, 2010, forwarded the basic framework of the proposed National Food Security Bill (NFSB) to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Bill envisaged covering 75 per cent of the country’s population, 90 per cent in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. The National Food Security Bill followed from the National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 that was promulgated by the government on July 5. After being introduced in both Houses of Parliament, it was passed in August 2013. Under the new law those beneficiaries would be provided rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat for Rs 2/kg and jowar for Rs1/kg.

Targeted Public Distribution System:

The Act categorizes the population into an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) group, a priority group and an excluded category. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana is a scheme launched by the Central Government in 2000.

The excluded category is retained at 25 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population. The AAY category will be as per existing norms (about 10 per cent of all households).

The Act provides different entitlements to groups. The poorest of the poor (the AAY group) will receive 35 kg of foodgrain/family/month while others (the priority group) will receive 5 kg of foodgrain/person/month.

Main Features:

  1. Statutory acknowledgement of hunger and malnutrition and making the right to food a legal entitlement.
  2. Almost doubling the people covered under PDS scheme 36% to 67% of the population.
  3. Strengthening and expansion of the PDS, from a situation of it being dismantled to the fair price shop and the ration system being there to stay.
  4. Although not universal, it is the first step towards moving away from the poverty line based divisions of APL and BPL
  5. States who were buying huge quantum of APL grain like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh will continue getting it at current APL prices, so at least there is no loss (Schedule IV).
  6. The maternal entitlements will now be universal;
  7. In schedule II, the deletion of notes 1, 2 and 6 have at least prevented the logic for the entry of contractors. Although the clauses asking for removal of commercial interest from all food schemes and preference to local community, ’s groups and panchayats has not come in.

Brief of the Act:

Section 2(3) of the Act states that eligible households mean households covered under priority households and the Antyodaya Anna Yojana. Priority households are entitled to 5 kg of food grains per person per month at subsidised prices mentioned in Schedule 1. Chapter VI provides for identification of eligible households.

Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana are entitled to 35 kg of food grains per person per month. These prices are also mentioned in Schedule 1. Entitlements will extend upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population. The state government may also provide wheat flour in lieu of the entitled quantity of food grains.

Section 2(11) of the Act states that a meal means a hot-cooked meal or pre-cooked and heated meal or take home ration, as may be prescribed by the Central Government. Children aged six months to 14 years will get take-home rations or hot cooked food.

Women and the Food Security Act:

In a bid to give women more authority in running their households, the oldest adult woman in each house would be considered the head of that household for the issuing of ration cards. Moreover, pregnant and lactating women will be entitled to free meals during pregnancy and six months after child birth. They will also receive maternity benefit of at least Rs. 6000.

 

Centre-State Division of Responsibilities:

The obligations of both the Centre and State governments have been differentiated in the Act.

The centre will allocate food grains to states based on the number of persons to be covered in each state. However, if the annual allocation to a state is less than the quantity of food grains it lifts from the central stocks for the last three years under the existing TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution system, the same shall be protected at prices determined by the Centre. The Act specifies the quantity of allocation to states.

The Centre will be responsible for transporting food grains to the central depots in each state. The state will be responsible for the last mile delivery — transporting food grains from the state depots to each ration shop. In case of short supply of food grains, the Centre will provide cash to the states, which will be passed on to the beneficiaries. The Act specifies that the Centre will provide states with funds in case of short supply of food grains. The Centre shall also provide assistance to state governments for meeting their expenditure on intra-state movement, handling of food grains, and margins paid to fair price shop dealers.

States have also been given the responsibility to decide on eligibility criteria based on socio-economic and caste census (SECC) data. However, the SECC survey is likely to take six more months.

Grievance redressal system:

Chapter IX provides a grievance redressal system. It has been set up at the district and state levels. Vigilance committees have also been established at the state, district, block and ration shop levels. The bill also contains provisions for social audits. The Bill provides for penalty to be imposed on public servants or authority, if found guilty of failing to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.

Amendments:

As per the amended proposal, states have one year to implement the scheme. Earlier, the limit was six months.

Gaps in Legislation:

  1. The PDS coverage should have been Universal. The privileged class could have easily been excluded by simple exclusion criteria like those who pay income tax, permanent government employees, and those who use four wheelers for personal use.
  2. No adequate provisioning of pulse-oil.
  3. There should be provision of 14 kg for adults and 7 kg for those under 12 years of age (average 10 kg)
  4. Remuneration for farmers, MSP, income guarantee and other protection for farmers should be elaborated and consolidated.
  5. Prices can after 3 yrs, schedule 1 remains.
  6. Commercial interest in food not fully removed.
  7. Maternal entitlements have not been clearly stated that it is unconditional and not indexed and linked to minimum wages.
  8. Cash transfers and Aadhar remains.
  9. GM foods remain.
  10. The section on food security allowance and section 44 “force majeure” relating to withdrawal of the right in times of natural calamities and war remains. The Act specifies that the Centre and States shall not be liable for failure to supply food grains in conditions such as war, flood, drought, earthquake, etc. It allows the Centre to consult with the Planning Commission to declare the onset of any of the above conditions.
  11. What was needed was a complete reimagining of the food economy in the country by keeping the small and marginal farmer who is producing food and the most vulnerable person who needs food at its centre.
  12. No provision for Community kitchens similar to the scheme for such kitchens in Tamil Nadu
  13. Women’s safety should be linked to food Act. Food production should be handed to vulnerable women.
  14. As compared to earlier versions, the Act does not include entitlements for starving, destitute and homeless persons although pregnant women and children continue to be included as beneficiaries.

 

State

Entitlement

Target population

Special feature/problem

Maharashtra

The state will require
45.02 lakh tonnes of food grain to implement the subsidy.

 

Increase in food
grain storage capacity from 5.62 lakh metric tonne (MT) at present to 19
lakh metric tonnes.

Rajasthan

Rajasthan will get
around 27.92 million tonnes of food grains from the central pool under the
scheme.

 69% of rural
population and 53% of urban population will be covered under the UPA’s
ambitious scheme

The government is trying
to avoid overlapping the Food Security Act with its own ‘Mukhyamantri Anna
Suraksha Yojana’ which is gaining popularity. 

Goa

Goa is entitled for only
36 lakh tonnes of food grains but will receive 53 lakh tonnes[1]
(after amendment 59 lakh tonnes)

 

 

Bihar

Bihar will be the
biggest beneficiary as more than 55.27 lakh tonnes of foodgrains would come
to the state under the scheme.

The Act would benefit
84% of the rural population and 65% of the urban people.

 

 

Eklavya Vasudev (with inputs from the Right to Food Campaign, Secretariat)

Research and Advocacy Officer, Lawyer’s Collective

Former co-ordinator of the Right to Food Campaign, Secretariat

Download the Copy of the ACT

 


[1] <http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-23/goa/40748324_1_goa-quota-grains>

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