National Food Security Act
National Food Security Act
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, amongst other articles, places the issue of food security in the right perspective. In India, it is now believed that the Right to Food is a guaranteed fundamental right of every citizen. This comes from the fact that our very independence from the British rule was based on a vision for the country where without adequate provision of balanced food to its people, India will never truly achieve Swaraj. Considered to be landmark legislation to alleviate the conditions of the poor and the population’s food insecurities, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013 offers legal rights and entitlements with respect to food for all. This article talks about the various essentials of the NFSA.
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) offers for legal rights and entitlements to individuals of eligible households. Such individuals receive 5 KGS of foodgrains per month per individual at subsidised prices such as INR 1, INR 2 and INR 3 for coarse grains, wheat and rice, respectively. The Act aims to provide to more than 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population.
However, such coverage is achieved by the NFSA by revisiting their goal of universalisation of the Public Distribution System (PDS). The PDS is a framework of partnership that exists between the Central Government and the various State Governments. This is where the Central Government determines the numbers, criteria and the schemes and, on the other hand, the State Governments identify various eligible households and implement the provisions of the Act. The NFSA is crucial as it marks the shift from a family-based approach of the Government to an individual-based approach in terms of administering entitlements.
The objective of the National Food Security Act of 2013 is as follows:
To provide for food and nutritional security in the human life-cycle approach by guaranteeing access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity.
Eligibility and Coverage
The NFSA defines the term eligible households through two significant categories:
- Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)
- Households deemed as priority households under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
The Central Government determines the coverage of eligible households in the rural and urban areas under the TPDS. This is based on the latest census figures collected by the Government. The entitlements of eligible household members would extend up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population.
The State Government is vested with the responsibility of determining and identifying eligible household under the NFSA. Moreover, the State Government is required to frame guidelines and update the list depicting eligible households that are to be covered under the TPDS.
Beneficiaries of TPDS
The beneficiaries of the TPDS are as follows:
- Households above the Poverty Line (APL): APL households are not identified. However, any APL household may apply for an APL Ration Card.
- Households below the Poverty Line (BPL): The BPL households are covered under the provisions of the Act. Accordingly, these households will be provided with a Food Security Ration Card, or commonly known as FSC.
- Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY): The AAY scheme focuses entirely on the poorest amongst the BPL households. The following individuals come under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana.
- Marginal farmers
- Landless agricultural labourers
- Rural artisans or craftsmen such as tanners and potters
- Individuals employed in the informal sector such as porters, rickshaw pullers and cobblers.
- Slum dwellers
- Destitute people
- All primitive and tribal households
- Households headed by the following:
- Terminally ill individuals
- Disabled people
- Individuals of 60 years or more of age with no assured or regular means of survival.
Each household on priority is entitled to receive 5 KGS of foodgrains per individual per person under the TPDS from the State Government. However, households under the AAY are entitled to 35 KGS of foodgrains per household per month at a subsidised price that does not cross the threshold price of INR 1, INR 2 and INR 3 for coarse grains, wheat and rice, respectively, for 3 years from the date of implementation of the Act.
For Women and Children
The NFSA gives special attention to the nutritional support offered to women and children. Every pregnant and lactating woman is entitled to a meal at free of cost through the local Anganwadi. This will apply to women during pregnancy and will last up until 6 months after childbirth. Additionally, the Central Government has prescribed to offer INR 6,000 and more as maternity benefits through instalments to such women.
The NFSA also ensures that every child up to the age of 14 is covered under the Act. The following are prescribed by the NFSA to fulfil the nutritional needs of a child:
- Children of ages between 6 months to 6 years are entitled to receive age-appropriate meals from their local Anganwadi.
- Children between 6 years to 14 years of age are entitled to receive one mid-day meal from the Government or Government schools.
Food Security Allowance
The NFSA ensures to offer individuals who suffer from food shortage or the non-supply of entitled quantities of meals or foodgrains with Food Security Allowance from their State Government. This Allowance is to be paid to such individuals in the time and manner that is instructed by the Central Government itself.
In terms of Women Empowerment, the NFSA has prescribed the eldest woman (of 18 years of age, and above) of an eligible household to be the head of the household in order to issue ration card for the said household. In cases where an eligible household has no women of the prescribed age but has a female member below the age of 18, the eldest male member of that household would be the head of the same in order to issue a ration card. However, the female member may be the head of the household for such ration cards when she attains the age of 18, instead of a male member.
The following are a few of the reforms of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) as prescribed by the NFSA.
- Door-step delivery of foodgrains to TPDS outlets.
- Application of Information and Communication Technology/ ICT tools, including end-to-end computerisation.
- Using Aadhaar for better identification of the beneficiaries.
- Complete transparency of records and documents.
- Diversification of commodities under the TPDS.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism
Every State Government is required to implement an internal grievance redressal mechanism which includes Call Centres, Help-lines, Designation of Nodal Officers and other such mechanisms as may be prescribed by the NFSA. Additionally, the State Government is required to appoint or designate an officer in each district to be a District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO). This has been implemented for expeditious and effective redressal of complaints and grievances in matters concerning the distribution of entitled foodgrains/ meals. Moreover, this enforces various entitlements under the NFSA.
State Food Commission
The NFSA has prescribed that every State Government is required to set up a State Food Commission. This Commission would monitor and review the implementation of the NFSA provisions in the concerned State. The Act prescribes the detailed composition and functions of the National Food Commission and the State Food Commission including the recruitments, services, salaries and allowances of every member in the Commission.
Obligations of the Central Government
The following are the prescribed obligations of the Central Government:
- Procure foodgrains for the Central Pool.
- Allocate the required quantity of foodgrains for the States.
- Provide for transportation of foodgrains according to the designated depots in every State.
- Provide foodgrains with respect to entitlements to the State Governments at prices for individuals from eligible households.
- Create and maintain essential modern and scientific storage facilities at every level and in case of shortage of supply of foodgrains from the Central Pool to a State.
- Offer funds to meet the statutory obligations of the Government.
- Exercise power to make rules and issue directions occasionally to the State Governments concerning the implementation of the Act.
Obligations of the State Government
The following are the prescribed obligations of the State Government:
- Vested with the responsibility of implementing and monitoring the various schemes under the Act.
- Delivery of foodgrains from designated depots to the eligible households and individuals in the State.
- Ensures actual delivery and supply of foodgrains to individuals of eligible households at subsidised prices.
- Ensure the efficient operation of the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
- Create and maintain scientific storage facilities.
- Strengthen the capacities of the Fair Price Shops and State agencies.
- Responsible for the payment of food security allowance.
The NFSA has the provision for levying penalty. However, the penalty should not exceed INR 5,000 and required to be imposed on public servants or authorities by the State Food Commission if they are found guilty of not complying with the reliefs offered by the Act.
The nutritional requirement of the country is the driving factor of the National Food Security Act/ NFSA of 2013. The Act steps in to ensure that no one is denied the right to food under any given circumstances considered the staggering rate at which poverty is prevalent in the country.