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A summary of the National Food Security Bill, 2013

March 24, 2013

This summary of the National Food Security Bill 2013 (revised version, as tabled in Parliament, 22 March 2013) comes to us via Jean Dreze

1. Preliminaries

The Bill seeks “to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therwith and incidental thereto”.

It extends to the whole of India and “shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette appoint, and different dates may be appointed for different States and different provisions of this Act”.

2. Entitlements

Public Distribution System (TPDS)

Priority households are entitled to 5 kgs of foodgrains per person per month, and Antyodaya households to 35 kgs per household per month. The combined coverage of Priority and Antyodaya households (called “eligible households”) shall extend “up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population”.

The PDS issue prices are given in Schedule I: Rs 3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millets (actually called “coarse grains” in the Bill). These may be revised after three years.

Children’s Entitlements

For children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, the Bill guarantees an age-appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadi. For children aged 6-14 years, one free mid-day meal shall be provided every day (except on school holidays) in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools, up to Class VIII. For children below six months, “exclusive breastfeeding shall be promoted”.

Children who suffer from malnutrition will be identified through the local anganwadi and meals will be provided to them free of charge “through the local anganwadi”.

Entitlements of Pregnant and Lactating Women

Every pregnant and lactating mother is entitled to a free meal at the local anganwadi (during pregnancy and six months after child birth) as well as maternity benefits of Rs 6,000, in instalments.

[Notes: (1) “Meal” is defined in the Bill as “hot cooked meal or ready to eat meal or take home ration, as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. All “meals” have to meet nutritional norms specified in Schedule II. (2) The entitlements of women and children are to be delivered by state governments through schemes “in accordance with the guidelines, including cost sharing” to be prescribed by the Central Government. (3) Every school and anganwadi is to have “facilities for cooking meals, drinking water and sanitation”. (4) For purposes of issuing ration cards, the eldest woman in the household (not less than 18 years of age) shall be considered head of the household.]

3. Identification of Eligible Households

The Bill does not specify criteria for the identification of households (Priority or Antyodaya) eligible for PDS entitlements. The Central Government is to determine the state-wise coverage of the PDS, in terms of proportion of the rural/urban population. Then numbers of eligible persons will be calculated from Census population figures. The identification of eligible households is left to state governments, subject to the scheme’s guidelines for Antyodaya, and subject to guidelines to be “specified” by the state government for Priority households. The lists of eligible households are to be placed in the public domain and “displayed prominently” by state governments.

4. Food Commissions

The Bill provides for the creation of State Food Commissions. Each Commission shall consist of a chairperson, five other members and a member-secretary (including at least two women and one member each from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).

The main function of the State Commission is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the act, give advice to the states governments and their agencies, and inquire into violations of entitlements (either suo motu or on receipt of a complaint, and with “all the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908”). State Commissions also have to hear appeals against orders of the District Grievance Redressal Officer and prepare annual reports to be laid before the state legislature.

The State Commission may forward “any case” to a Magistrate having jurisdiction, who shall proceed as if the case has been forwarded under Section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

5. Transparency and Grievance Redressal

The Bill provides for a two-tier grievance redressal structure, involving the District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO) and State Food Commission. State governments must also put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism which may include call centres, help lines, designation of nodal officers, “or such other mechanisms as may be prescribed”.

Transparency Provisions

Mandatory transparency provisions include: (1) placing all PDS-related records in the public domain and keeping them open for inspection to the public; (2) conducting periodic social audits of the PDS and other welfare schemes; (3) using information and communication technology (including end-to-end computerisation of the PDS) “to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels”; (4) setting up vigilance committees at state, district, block and fair price shop levels to supervise all schemes under the act.

District Grievance Redressal Officers

DGROS shall be appointed by state governments for each district to hear complaints and take necessary action according to norms to be prescribed by state governments. If a complainant (or the officer or authority against whom an order has been passed by the DGRO) is not satisfied, he or she may file an appeal before the State Food Commission.

Penalties and Compensation

The Food Commissions have powers to impose penalties. If an order of the DGRO is not complied with, the concerned authority or officer can be fined up to Rs. 5,000. The Commission can authorise “any of its members” to act as an adjudicating officer for this purpose.

In case of “non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons”, such persons will be entitled to a food security allowance from the state government, as prescribed by the central government.

6. Other Provisions

PDS Reforms

In Chapter VII, the Bill states that central and state governments “shall endeavour to progressively undertake” various PDS reforms, including: doorstep delivery of foodgrains; ICT applications and end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “aadhaar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government.

Obligations of Government and Local Authorities

The main obligation of the Central Government is to provide foodgrains (or, failing that, funds) to state governments, at prices specified in Schedule I, to implement the main entitlements. It also has to “provide assistance” to state governments to meet local distribution costs, but on its own terms (“as may be prescribed”). The Central Government has wide-ranging powers to make Rules.

The main obligation of state governments is to implement the relevant schemes, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Government. State governments also have wide-ranging powers to make Rules. They are free to extend benefits and entitlements beyond what is prescribed in the Bill, from their own resources.

Local Authorities and Panchayati Raj Institutions are responsible for proper implementation of the act in their respective areas, and may be given additional responsibilities by notification.

7. Schedules

The Bill has three schedules (these can be amended “by notification”). Schedule 1 prescribes issue prices for the PDS. Schedule 2 prescribes “nutritional standards” for midday meals, take-home rations and related entitlements. For instance, take-home rations for children aged 6 months to 3 years should provide at least 500 calories and 12-15 grams of protein. Schedule 3 lists various “provisions for advancing food security”, under three broad headings: (1) revitalization of agriculture (e.g. agrarian reforms, research and development, remunerative prices), (2) procurement, storage and movement of foodgrains (e.g. decentralised procurement), and (3) other provisions (e.g. drinking water, sanitation, health care, and “adequate pensions” for “senior citizens, persons with disability and single women”).

9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2013 12:48 PM

    The bill is bad for many reasons.One it swells the government size even more.We need to cut down the size of government not expand it.Second it will alter drastically the food habits and drastically increase the incentive to grow more wheat and rice leading to diminishing returns for all.Most of the small farmers grow staples like sorghum /millet for subsistence and since the bill changes those habits of the people, it marginalizes the poor farmer who will now have to be dependent on the government.It does not address nutrition at all.People are still malnourished even when they consume rice/wheat because the proteins( pulses) and fat are not subsidzed. the amount of grains which the govt will buy would increase the costs beyond reach to those not covered in the bill mostly would be the lower bracket income tax paying families who wil be pinched and on whose taxes the scheme is going to be run.It uses the existing PDS channel and the less said about the PDS the better.Lastly there simply isnt enough money to pay for this bill

    • shourav permalink
      March 25, 2013 10:27 AM

      The logic of neo liberalism: there is not enough money to pay for a food security bill when we have more hungry people than sub Saharan Africa but apparently, there is enough money to give tax subsidies.. err..i mean incentives to corporates to the tune of 5 times the amount to be spent on the FSB.

      • March 29, 2013 1:33 PM

        Apart from the last point why don’t you bring up points which would be counter to those which I have mentioned.Incentives are not subsidies plus as it is India is an over taxed nation regarding the private sector.The crux of the matter is this the amount of social spending which goes down the drain is simply unacceptable.The size of beaurecracy ,and other employees and amount of benefits accrued to them compared to the productivity they bring is pretty lopsided. And then you have representation without taxation and taxation without representation dichotomy in the country.Only one part of the population (about 3 million ) pays income tax which is simply unacceptable.There is Air India,Prasarbharti,Coal India,Sail these are the organisations which you could very well sel bring down the liabilities take down the redundant coal/steel ministries ,I/B, and bring the whole expenditure down.Its a known fact that socialism has failed in India as it has over the world. As for welfare programs like food bill it should be implemented at very localized levels ,so that peoplle a such arent dependent on the government,the marginal farmers can still grow non rice/wheat crops.The benefits which would accrue are miniscule to the amount of money that has been put in here

  2. Bhoop Singh Yadav, V & P O : Ghuman Hera, New Delhi-110073, Mob: 9711113050 permalink
    March 28, 2013 3:05 PM

    The concept behind the proposal as NFS Bill is appreciable as it covers the entire country. The identification & entitlement of the beneficiary i.e. Priority (5 kg food grains per person per month) and Antyodaya (35 kg per household per month) households is already elaborated in the Bill which will facilitate the state governments to implement it easily. The combination of these house holds will cover up to 75 % of rural and 50 % of urban population of the society which will ensure that a big part of poor families will not go to bed at night without food.
    PDS issue prices are also given in Schedule-I : Rs. 3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millet (coarse grains) is nice step in this regard.
    The entitlement of children (6 months to 6 years) and Pregnant & Lactating women to a free meal during pregnancy and 6 months after child birth as well as maternity benefits of Rs.6000/- will be proved most beneficial for the selected group of house holds.
    The process of identification of the house hold groups is left to the state governments subject to the Scheme’s guidelines is a decision with open mind.
    However, the captioned bill needs to be accepted and passed at the earliest possible in the super Panchayat of India.
    Dt. 28.03.2013

  3. April 24, 2013 8:14 AM

    The intentions of this Bill are sound: right to food is a constituent element of the right to life, and India owes this to the teeming millions who struggle at subsistence level. The cookie, I am afraid, will crumble at the implementation level. A. The design of the Bill relies on the identification of eligible households. The current government methods of doing so have thrown up any number of inclusion and exclusion errors. So we have to rely on the hand of God in hoping that the entitlements will reach the right people. B. Given the cartelised behaviour demonstrated by the arhatiyas and the mandarins of the village mandis, the people we need to worry about are not just those who will *receive* the foodgrains, but also those who will *supply* it. As of now, the farmer gets only about 50% of the price shelled out at retail levels.
    What this Bill calls for is a drastic revamp of the way foodgrain is procured (FCI’s role), marketed (APMCs’ role) and distributed (the role of PDS). A tall order indeed. Simply legislating on rights will not put food on citizens’ plates.

    • Ravi Shyam permalink
      August 26, 2013 1:29 AM

      Rightly said, the implementation of all public welfare programs have suffered – only 10% goes to public, rest 90% to middlemen & corrupt officials & politicians.

      However, now scenario can change in retail corruption, only if .
      1. NFS is made 100% Aadhaar-enabled Service Delivery to eliminate fake beneficiaries (duplicates, imaginary, dead).
      2. Elimination of ineligibles can be done by comparing the Aadhaar-enabled databases of PDS and icome records, Land-Building-property-holding records, vehicle records, bank balance records etc.

      I know a few people who own car & multi-million rupee house yet are BPL-Ration card holder, using PDS sugar for self and grains for dog. At the same time, my maid and watchman (migrant workers) do not have any Ration card, no bank account, nor papers to prove their identity. So real eligible people are deprived of the subsidy. I hope the Aadhaar will help them a lot if implemented properly.

  4. Tahidul permalink
    October 25, 2013 7:55 PM

    sir. Who doesn’t get the ration cards ? We hear that all family will not be fit for the card. Some GP member demanded money . What action we should take to ?

Trackbacks

  1. Hunger, Food Security and The Poor
  2. National Food Security Bill: in whose interest? | Where is development?

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