"The 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 K V Thomas, minister of consumer affairs, food & public distribution, while launching "The Bulletin on Food Justice in India", brought out by 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, Thomas said that, the proposed Act provides for about two-thirds of the population to become entitled to receive subsidised food-grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), 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 at Rs 1,000 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 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, 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 TPDS under which foodgrains at subsidised 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 subsidised foodgrains is being made for about 6.5 crore BPL households, which includes 2.5 crore AAY households, and 11.5 crore APL households. Besides, the 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 per cent of the rural population (with at least 46 per cent from the priority category) and up to 50 per cent of urban population (with at least 28 per cent from the priority category) are to be covered under TPDS
" Seven kg of foodgrains 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 3kg of foodgrains per person per month to be given to general category households, at prices not exceeding 50 per cent 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 TPDS
" 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 foodgrains or meals