Adequate and sufficient food at cheaper cost for
poor to live life with dignity
Hallmark of Food Security Bill


By

Dr. Nitin Nayak
Director
Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University
Institute of Management & Research (BVIMR)
A-4 Paschim Vihar, New Delhi-110063
 


The National Food Security Bill (NFSB) 2012 UPA led government's produced baby is a historic Bill India ever witnessed since independence, a flagship program that provides log term sustainable food ensures nutritional security for poor while removing hunger which is bane for the country at large.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's brain child and dream project the National Food Security Bill 2013 got Presidential nod on September 12, 2013. The Bill introduced in Parliament in December 2011, passed by Lok Sabha on August 26 while Rajya Sabha cleared it on September 2 is treated as powerful electoral issue in the year 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The NFSB gives right to subsidize food grain to millions of people and provides for penalty for non compliance by bureaucrats.  This land mark legislation was passed  after due amendments with modifications on 10th September 2013 to provide food at throw away price and nutritional security to 67% of India's 1.2 million (73% of populace belong to rural beneficiaries- 50% are urban beneficiaries) ) oppressed, suppressed and downtrodden people who do not have any source of livelihood and guarantee to live with dignity.

Member countries of Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of UN have evinced keen interest in recently enacted National Food Security Act, and reacted it is the largest social welfare programme in the world to provide food security as legal right to about 82 crore people. Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K V Thomas will soon lead a delegation to attend the 40th Ministerial Level at FAO conference Rome ( from 7th to 11th October 2013) to make a presentation about this great initiative.

The Congress led UPA government has chosen to give communal colors through conceptualization, engineering thereby to what it calls NFSB essentially a problem of the social justice system by making available, abundant food to BPL fraternity at cheaper and affordable price. Mandarins of Congress party and its icons Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi realized large proportion of poverty stricken people are facing starvation or near to starvation, not even have square meal a day. This kind of missive is bound to attract starving people to at least get one meal a day.

It would have been understandable had Mrs. Sonia Gandhi referred to the general problem of poverty stricken people whose life should be warded off by government at centre as well as government of the state concerned. Yet poverty and lack of access to nutritious and hygienic food had made the life of poor living under BPL miserable. In order to see smile on their face and to make them content by providing two meals a day, was and is the mantra of UPA led Congress government which is striving day and night to appease the poverty stricken people. This selfless intention of the Congress government points to systemic malaise. It is a vicious circular loop, on the huge number of poor people- downtrodden oppressed and suppressed. This intention was amply demonstrated by Congress President and Vice President as he is mature enough to deal with any odd(s) so meticulously.

Sequel to the passage of this Bill in Parliament with Presidential assent the law makers are now engrossed in bringing some changes by formulating new rules in policies relating to land reforms and a new Land Acquisition Act would be implemented from next January or April followed by official notification to usher new era to fulfill the people's aspirations according to Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh.

The NFSB 2013, an ambitious Bill, seen as a game changer by the government and expected to benefit 82 crore people in the country. This Bill will serve as boon for the poor if implemented promptly and properly as it provides cheaper food grains to the poorest section of the society. This concept and process of conceiving and drafting of FSB is common ideological thread linking states that have best provided for the needs of their citizens. Some kind of bottom up pressure has pushed a disparate collection of states In this backdrop its worth asking why laggards should not be nudged into reforming faster by tying larger proportion of funds given by the centre to improvement in the governance. For sure, mandarins of Congress led UPA government in general and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi in particular have tied relatively small weight on performance as a way of incentivizing states to improve their institutions. In the same tune the Planning Commission also allocated certain portion of budget to states for improvement in their performance. In fact Rahul Gandhi felt improvement in states' governance is the crucial factor in transmitting the gains in economic growth to betterment of the quality of life of its citizens through prompt implementation of NFSB in states taking it to the grass root level reaching out to poor appeasing those living BPL oppressed and suppressed ones

BOON FOR THE POOR:

A CRISIL (Indian Rating Agency) says successful implementation of NFSB will leave more savings in the hands of rural and urban below poverty line (BPL) households, enabling them to spend on health, education and nutritious food. This will generate additional savings of around Rs.44,000 crore  this year for every beneficiary household in some states. This will not only guarantee food security for them, it will also improve their overall quality of life by enabling them to spend more on the health, education, protein rich food and household consumables. Rural BPL households currently spend around Rs.2400 on health and education annually. This is nearly half the amount which they will additionally save with the successful implementation of the NFSB. The savings would arise because BPL households that currently purchase food grains at the higher market price will have access to subsidized rice and wheat after implementation of the NFSB.  Less than 44% of BPL households had access to subsidized rice, and only 33% bought subsidized wheat in 2009-10. The additional savings of rural BPL households will be almost twice of what they spend on health and education annually now.

Having more disposable income this Bill would encourage BPL households to increase their discriminatory spending. Therefore, the benefits of the NFSB could go well beyond just food. However, for this to become a reality, the UPA government at centre should strive for its prompt implementation by creating amicable rapport with states. It is the contribution of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi who engineered the concept to see new horizon in Indian economy and devised this hard work in the form of Bill and to lit the light in the life of poor people who are living poverty stricken and to make their life more vibrant and radiant. Today poor people who are not getting square meal a day are now living with pride and honor and expressing their indebtedness to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi,

SALIENT FEATURES:

More than 75% of rural and 50% of urban poor is entitled to five kg food grains per month at cheaper price. The work of identification of eligible households has been left to the states. Pregnant women and lactating mothers entitled to nutritious meals and maternity benefit of at least rs.6000 for six months. The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supply of food grain. Current food grain allocation of the states will be protected by the central government. The state governments will provide food security allowance to the beneficiaries in casse of non supply of food grain. Public Distribution System (PDS) to be reformed. The eldest woman in the household 18 years or above will be the head of the household for the issue of the ration card. There will be state and district level redress mechanisms. This Bill sounds like a positive thing for India's poor. It is good attempt by UPA led government steered under its stewardship of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh which ensures food and nutritional security for people mostly women and children.

The bill is the right channel to prevent leakages in food distribution and centre had constituted various committees to explore measure for overseeing and monitoring the scheme. The Delhi government has already started distributing subsidized food using the PDS. Delhites have welcomed the attitude of Chief Minister Mrs. Sheila Dixit's efforts of prompt implementation. Similarly Andhra Pradesh's chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy hailed the passage of Bill and hailed the passage of the Bill and complimented the UPA's chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Congress Vice President Mr. Rahul Gandhi for their yeomen service and contributions.

The NFSB 2013 is an opportunity to clean up this mess, and to cure two basic defects of the PDS: large exclusion errors, and the leaky nature of the Above Poverty Line (APL) quota. In effect, the bill abolishes the APL quota and gives common entitlements to a majority of the population: 75 per cent in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. These are national coverage ratios, to be adjusted State-wise so that the coverage is higher in the poorer States. In this new framework, people's entitlements will be much clearer, and there will be greater pressure on the system to work. Indeed, wide coverage and clear entitlements are two pillars of the fairly effective PDS reforms that have been carried out in many States in recent years (other aspects of these reforms include de-privatization of ration shops, computerization of records and transparency measures). Seen in this light, the bill can be a good move not only for food security, but also from the point of view of ending a massive waste of public resources under the APL quota.

(VIEWS ARE PERSONAL)
 

                                                                                                                                                                               

   Published on IndianFaculty.com: 06/10/2013

 Source: E-mail 06/10/2013

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