Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The National Food Security Bill:

The prime objective of the Bill is to provide food and nutritional security to citizens by making sure that the poor have access to food at affordable prices. The requirement of the food security was felt after the National Family Health Survey 2005-06 which revealed that 22 percent population of India is malnourished. The new Bill will duty bound public servants to ensure the availability of subsidized foods failing which they will have penal liability.  The said Bill provides that the 75 percent of rural and 50 percent of the urban population entitled to five kg food grains per month at Rs 3, Rs 2, Re 1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains, respectively.  Pregnant women and lactating mothers entitled to nutritious meals and maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months. In case if there is non-supply of food grains the concerned state government is required to provide food security allowance to the beneficiaries. 

The eldest woman in the household, 18 years or above will be the head of the household for the issue of the ration card.  The work of identification of eligible households has been left to the states. The central government will ensure food grains to states or provide funds to states in case of short supply of food grain.

But there are also outlandish claims of leakages of food through the PDS (Public Distribution System). This may be true of a few states, but not all. Because under the pressure of the Supreme Court, including Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, have shown a remarkable improvement in both the coverage as well as reduction in leakages. To make the Gandhian thought of entitlement revolution a success Govt. should take serious measures to check leakages. Those who are against the PDS and right to food to the poor and worried about food grain inflation should not forget that Bharat is also part of India and any sustainable progress requires them to be included as stakeholders.

The Bill is passed by the parliament and awaiting the president’s assent and notification in the official guzzet. Implementation will give right to subsidised food grain to 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people.

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