Expand PDS to include non-ration card holders and 10 crore excluded by using old census figures: Right to Food Campaign
A coalition of civil society activits has criticized the Union Budget 2023-24 for reducing government spending on the social sector by a massive amount. The economic crisis induced by the Covid-19 pandemic was borne disproportionately by those at the bottom of the pyramid and in this context spending on social protection schemes such as the Public Distribution System, anganwadis, pensions and MGNREGA is especially important. But the Government of India has shown no sense of accountability in Union Budget 2023-24 with the massive reduction in social security allocations.
Dipa Sinha of the Right to Food campaign said that the Central Government’s decision will result in reducing the ration entitlement of 81 crore people by 50%. Ration cardholders have been getting 10 kgs cereals per person per month since April 2020 (5 kg under NFSA at a subsidized price and 5 kg free under PMGKAY) but with the discontinuation of from January 1, 2023, the ration entitlement of people is halved- and they are now entitled to only 5 kgs ration per person per month (normal NFSA entitlement) instead of the current 10 kgs ration per person (NFSA+PMGKAY).
Anjali Bhardwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan said that while on the one hand entitlements for those with rations have been halved, on the other hand there is no provision for food security for those without ration cards in the budget. She explained that the coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in terms of the number of the people entitled to have ration cards was determined on the basis of the 2011 census and was to be increased after the next census of 2021. However, the government has failed to undertake the census on the pretext of COVID though all other activities are fully underway. The Supreme Court in its judgment in the Suo Motu migrant workers case in June 2021 directed the government to re-determine coverage under NFSA as the population has increased since 2011. Upon failure of the government to comply, the case was again reopened and in July 2022, the SC directed that if the census is not underway, the government should use the official population projections and increase coverage as more than 10 crore people are being left out only due to the 2011 census being used. However, the government has failed till date to increase coverage.
Annie Raja said that women and children have among the poorest outcomes for health and nutrition which impacts their growth, education and economic productivity. She said the government was good at coming up with acronyms for new schemes but was giving very little in real terms. She said the budget does not reflect the reality of the challenges being faced by the women of the country. She said the total budget of Women and Child Development Ministry is pegged at less than 0.1% of the GDP though this is the key ministry for children’s nutrition and health.
Aysha, from the Right to Food campaign highlighted that all reports and studies point to unprecedented crisis among people on account of the slowdown in economic activity due to COVID and high inflation. Even government reports show the high level of anaemia and malnutrition among women which also has an adverse impact on children.
Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan said that the allocation for NREGA announced in the budget for FY 2023-24 is an assault on the peoples’ right to work. The amount given in the budget means in real terms only about 20 days of guarantee for those who go for work as of today. He said Rs. 1.24 lakh crore was required just to give an assured 40 days of work to active job cardholders. As of today, there are pending liabilities of almost Rs. 17,000 crore and the current budget fails to make allocations to address this or current inflation.
Kindly click here to access the press release by the Right to Food campaign
Right to Food Campaign, 6 January, 2023
Tagged with: Right to Food MGNREGA Right to Work Social Sector Entitlements Budget 2023-24 Public Distribution System