Friday 20 July 2012

National Food Security Bill Marks a Paradigm Shift

Proposed National Food Security Bill marks a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security – from it being viewed as a welfare approach to a right-based approach”. The Act seeks to address the issue of food security in the country in a holistic manner by adopting a life cycle approach. This was stated by Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public distribution, while launching the bulletin bulletin on food justice in India” brought out by the Oxfam India, the institute of development studies and the centre for legislative research and advocacy here today.

       Highlighting the provisions of the Food Security Bill, Prof Thomas said that, the proposed Act provides for about two thirds of the population to become entitled to receive subsidized food-grains under Targeted Public Distribution System, with special focus on nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant women and lactating mothers, besides being entitled to meal, free of charge, as per the prescribed nutritional norms, will also receive maternity benefit @ Rs. 1000/- per month for six months. In case of non-supply of food-grains or meals, beneficiaries will be entitled to receive food security allowance.  Elaborate provisions for grievance redressal mechanism have also been made in the Bill besides other provisions for ensuring transparency and accountability such as disclosure of records of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), social audit and vigilance committees at various levels. The Bill is at present under consideration of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. The Government is awaiting the outcome of deliberations by the Standing Committee so that we could take further action to take the Bill forward, he added

Reiterating the Government commitment for food security, Prof Thomas said that ensuring adequate quantities of food at affordable prices has been a focus of planning and policy of Government of India.  To ensure food security at the individual or household level, the Government of India implements various schemes in partnership with State Governments and Union Territory Administrations. The Government is implementing the Targeted Public Distribution system (TPDS) under which food-grains at subsidized rates are provided to Below Poverty Line and Above Poverty Line Households through a network of more than 5 lakh fair price shops spread across the country. Currently, allocations of subsidized food-grains is being made for about 6.5 crore BPL households, which includes 2.5 crore AAY households, and 11.5 crore APL households.  Besides, Government is also implementing schemes to specifically address the concerns related to malnutrition, especially among women and children, through schemes like Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meal,Annapoorna, etc, he asserted.

Some of the major highlights of the Food Security Bill are:

·         Up to 75% of the rural population (with at least 46% from priority category) and up to 50% of urban population (with at least 28% from priority category) are to be covered under Targeted Public Distribution System.
·         7 kg of food-grains per person per month to be given to priority category households which include rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs. 3, 2, and 1 per kg, respectively.
·         At least 3 kg of food-grains per person per month to be given to general category households, at prices not exceeding 50% of Minimum Support Price.
·         Women to be made head of the household for the purpose of issue of ration       cards.
·         Maternity benefit to pregnant women and lactating mothers.
·         End-to-end computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System.
·         Three-tier independent grievance redressal mechanism.
·         Social audit by local bodies such as Gram Panchayats, Village Councils etc.
·         Meals for special groups such as destitute, homeless persons, emergency/disaster affected persons and persons on the verge of starvation.
·         Food Security Allowance in case of non-supply of food-grains or meals.

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