Right to Food
Please click here to access the National Food Security Bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha on 26 August, 2013.
The National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 notified by the Union government that entitles 67% of the Indian population to receive subsidised grains from government every month can be accessed from here.
In order to access the Shortcomings of the National Food Security Ordinance (source: Right to Food Campaign, dated 1 August, 2013), please click here.
The revised version of National Food Security Bill 2013 tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2013 gives legal entitlement to 67 percent population for subsidised grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System. The National Food Security Bill 2013 can be accessed from here.
A Critique of the National Food Security Bill cleared by the Cabinet can be accessed from here.
A critique of the Standing Committee’s recommendations on the NFSB can be accessed from here.
To know more about the recommendations of the Standing Committee pertaining to the National Food Security Bill, please read the newsalert titled: Parliamentary prescriptions revive hunger debate.
Please read the Fact-finding Report (May, 2013) on Implementation of RTE Act and ICDS programme in Tileibani Block of Deogarh district, Odisha here.
* Every person shall have the right of access to sufficient and safe food either directly or by purchasing the food.
* The central and state government shall share the financial cost of procuring, storing and distributing food grains to the population entitled to it.
* There are special provisions for pregnant and lactating mothers, children in the 0-6 age group, destitute persons, homeless persons and disaster affected persons. The appropriate government shall take immediate steps to provide relief to persons living in starvation.
* The state government shall provide all children upto class 8 freshly cooked meal in all schools run by local bodies and the government. It shall also provide mid-day meals to children who are admitted under the 25% quota for children belonging to disadvantaged groups in unaided private schools
* Each household shall be categorised into priority and general in rural and urban areas.
* Each individual in the priority group households shall be entitled to at least 7kg of grain every month at a maximum price of Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 1/kg for millets.
* Each individual in the general group households shall be entitled to 4kg of grain per month at 50 per cent of the Minimum Support Price for paddy, wheat and millet.
* The state government can exclude certain persons who fulfil the exclusion criteria in rural and urban areas. However, it has to cover at least 90% of the population in rural areas and 50% of the population in urban areas.
* The Bill lays down norms for procurement, storage and distribution of food grains under the Public Distribution System. It also gives detailed norms for Fair Price Shops, ration cards, and monitoring the system.
* It seeks to set up a National Food Commission and State Food Commission in each state. The Commission shall inquire into complaints on denial of entitlement, advise central and state governments and monitor the schemes. Each district shall have a District Grievance Redressal Officer.
* The Bill includes penalties for dereliction of duty by public servants, which includes deduction of penalty from the salary of the public servant.
* Any person deprived of his entitlement to food shall be entitled to compensation from the appropriate government.
* The Gram Sabhas should conduct social audits of all schemes under this Act.
On October 23, 2010, the NAC made certain recommendations on the National Food Security Bill. The Bill seeks to address nutritional deficiencies in the population.
Some of its key recommendations are:
§ Legal entitlements to subsidised food grains should be extended to at least 75% of the population – 90% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas.
§ The priority households (46% in rural areas and 28% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 35kgs at Rs 1 per kg for millets, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice. Rural coverage can be adjusted state-wise based on the Planning Commission’s 2004-05 poverty estimates.
§ The general households (44% in rural areas and 22% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 20kgs at a price that does not exceed 50% of the current Minimum Support Price (the price at which the government buys food grains from the producer) for millets, wheat and rice.
§ Government should specify criteria for categorisation of population into priority and general households. Full coverage of food entitlements should be extended to all by March 31, 2014.
§ Need for enabling provisions to revitalise agriculture, diversifying the commodities available under the Public Distribution System (PDS), ensuring universal access to safe water and proper sanitation, universalising primary health care, and extending nutritional and health support to adolescent girls.
In response, the Prime Minister set up an Expert Committee under Dr C. Rangarajan to examine the Bill and make recommendations. The Rangarajan Committee submitted its report in January 2011. It stated that it would not be possible to implement the NAC recommendations because of lack of availability of food grains and huge subsidy implications. It was in favour of restricting entitlements of Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice to households falling below the Tendulkar Committee poverty line plus 10 per cent of the BPL population. This is equivalent to 48 per cent of the rural and 28 per cent of the urban population, which is about the same as the NAC categorisation for priority households.
The NAC however criticised the Rangarajan Committee’s stand and proceeded with the task of drafting an appropriate legislation. It finally posted the draft of the National Food Security Bill on its website and has asked for public feedback.
The draft has been critiqued by various experts. A group of distinguished economists wrote an open letter to Mrs Sonia Gandhi opposing the NAC’s draft on the grounds that it legalises the PDS even though there is a large body of evidence of the inefficiency of the system (see Wadhwa Committee reports and Planning Commission report). The economists contended that in addition to reforming the PDS, other alternate models of subsidy delivery should be examined such as direct cash transfers or food stamps. The system of direct cash transfer through food coupons was also outlined in the Economic Survey of 2009-10. It stated that the system would be less prone to corruption since it would cut down government’s involvement in procuring, storing and distributing food grains.
However, there are divergent views on direct cash transfer too. Some experts such as the economist and member of NAC, Prof Jean Dreze contend that food entitlement is better because it is inflation proof and it gets consumed more wisely than cash which can be easily misspent. Others are of the view that cash transfer has the potential for providing economic and food security to the poor.
The Right to Food Campaign
In April 2001, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against the Government of India, Food Corporation of India, and six state governments. The petition contended that the right to food was a fundamental right under “the right to life” provided by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Although no final judgment has been given, the Supreme Court has issued several interim orders in the case. Among the most significant of theses is the conversion of eight centrally sponsored schemes into legal entitlements, including the Public Distribution System (PDS), Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, also known as “Mid-Day Meals scheme”, and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), among others.
Some orders by the Court in the area of food security include:
BPL families are entitled to 35kg of foodgrains at a subsidised price.
On May 8, 2002, the Supreme Court appointed two Commissioners for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the interim orders. The Commissioners have submitted a number of reports highlighting the issues of concern on the implementation of the interim orders and making detailed recommendations.
One of the key commitments made by both UPA I and UPA II was on food security whereby it proposed to enact a legislation that would entitle every BPL family in both rural and urban areas to 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 per kg. However, the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC has differences with the central government on the contours of the legislation. The basic issues on which there are divergent views include (a) coverage under the Bill; (b) method to be adopted to ensure food security; (c) the amount of food grain required; and (d) the impact on the food subsidy burden.
• The National Food Security Act would be formulated whereby each below poverty line (BPL) family would be entitled by law to get 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3/- per kg (For more information, please go to next page)
• The above poverty line (APL) population will be excluded from the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) under the new Food Security Act (draft).
• The new Food Security Bill proposes to reduce the allocation for a below poverty line (BPL) household (e.g. in the case of Antodaya Anna Yojana) from 35 kg of rice/ wheat per month to 25 kg of rice/ wheat per month.
• Many feel that the Government is likely to streamline other food and nutrition related schemes by bringing the new Act.
• There is an alternative draft of the National Food Security Act which has been prepared by a team headed by Prof. Jean Dreze (and was released on 24 June, 2009), which proposes to consolidate, in law, entitlements that are currently in place through eight food and nutrition-related schemes.
• The proportion of population consuming less than 1890 kcal/cu/diem has in fact increased in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and marginally for Punjab*
• As many as eight states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have shown increase in the incidence of anaemia among women in the reproductive age group*
• On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the ‘very high’ level of food insecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat*
• About 18.7% of the households in the rural area and about 33.1% of the households in the urban area did not possess any card**
• Ration cards were held by 81% of rural households and 67% of urban households
• Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards were held by 26.5% of rural households and 10.5% of urban households**
• Antyodaya card holders were less than 3% of rural households and less than 1% of urban households**
* Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India (2009), which has been prepared by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the World Food Programme (WFP)
** Report No. 510 on “Public Distribution System and Other Sources of Household Consumption, 2004-05” based on the seventh quinquennial survey on Household Consumer Expenditure carried out during the NSS 61st round (July, 2004 - June, 2005) by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation