India’s reports on hunger and malnutrition are abysmal. For a rapidly developing country, showing much promise for the future, it still remains a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition and hunger. While around 30 percent of people live in poverty, many more suffer from problems of malnutrition. According to World Bank statistics, around half of India’s children are underweight and 75 percent are anemic. The problem is also serious in pregnant women, with 75 percent of expectant and new mothers suffering from anemia. Malnourishment can have detrimental effects on the development and growth of a healthy population, hindering productivity and economic growth.
In this context of chronic hunger and malnutrition comes the National Food Security Bill (NFSB), proposed by the Congress Party of India. Under the provisions of the bill, subsidized food grains will become a legal right for two-thirds of the population. Moving food security from welfare-based plans to a rights-based approach, the NFSB has been lauded by many, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. However, the bill continues to be debated and has not yet passed in the lower house of the Indian parliament, the Lok Sabha, as the opposition has criticized many provisions of the bill, namely the populist face of it.
The opposition claims that the Congress Party is merely trying to appeal to the masses, in an attempt to regain their trust after allegations of corruption and scandals have rocked the government. General elections are to be held next year, and many believe the NFSB to be a ruse through which the Congress Party attempts to secure its position in the next government.
There have also been concerns on the financial strain such a bill would cause on the budget. Under the current provisions of the bill, the total estimated annual food grains requirement is 61.23 million tons and will cost about Rs.1,247.24 billion ($23.13 billion). Critics are unsure of where such funds will come from, and the bill has not provided any concrete plans for the procurement of said funds.
Other concerns have revolved around the failure of the current, welfare-based food security system, the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The failure of the PDS has largely been a result of leakages, mismanagement, and infrastructural underdevelopment. Leakages in the system provided ample opportunities for corruption to fester, while mismanagement of resources combined with infrastructural underdevelopment led to an urban bias in the system, as food grains were unable to reach the more insecure and undernourished residents in rural areas of the country. Other issues also surfaced, including the low quality of food grain provided through the PDS. Critics point that these have not been addressed by the NFSB, and are concerned that the unchanged conditions will remain a reality even under the new plan.
What is the right set of instruments that can be used to counter hunger and malnourishment? This question arises from the debates surrounding the NFSB. Subsidizing food grains will only subdue a symptom, but will fail in curing the disease itself. Hunger and nutrition are multi-dimensional issues, and the problem is not simply solved by granting access to subsidized foods. While around 30 percent of the Indian population lives in poverty, many more are malnourished – a fact highlighted by the NFSB’s proposition to provide subsidized food to 67 percent of the population. It is clear that hunger and malnourishment are not the problems of poverty alone - other aspects of it are not being recognized and addressed. Countering the issue of hunger requires more than just providing access to subsidized grain. To even use grain, one needs fuel, shelter and access to safe drinking water. Improving lives of the citizenry is the bigger problem, and the NFSB fails to address the issue of livelihood development.
The impact of the NFSB can be predicted by comparing the NFSB to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), the job guarantee scheme which passed in 2005 in India. The intention was noble - everyone has a right to work. Those adult rural residents that wanted to work but could not find a job would be, if willing, enrolled in unskilled labour for a maximum of 100 days of the year. While this plan provides temporary relief to the unemployed, there is no permanent job creation happening - there is a fault with the development scheme, which focuses on short-term employment rather than long-term job creation. A recent report by the Planning Commission of India recognizes that the past few years of development in India have been marked by a phenomenon of jobless growth. Throughout the years, funding for the scheme has increased, highlighting that more people are relying on the scheme for employment opportunities, rather than developing skills to provide for long-term livelihood security.
The outcomes of the NFSB will be similar if the provisions are merely to provide the poor with handouts. The poor and insecure need to be empowered with access to land, water, education and skills, so that they can develop their own livelihoods, rather than rely on the government for food or job security.
The issue being contested is not whether there is a prevalence of hunger and malnutrition in India, but whether the policies underlying the NFSB are viable ways of countering the food insecurity. What the government has to realize is that the target issue is hunger eradication, which cannot be solved by mere subsidies. Development policies formulating livelihood options that eliminate hunger and malnutrition need to be encouraged.
Rather than plainly rejecting the proposed bill, the opposition should encourage the development of an alternate policy. The development policy should focus on eradicating hunger altogether. Policies that encourage social and economic inclusion, and create long-term sustainable employment should be developed. The government needs to come together to develop a cohesive and effective development policy to address all of these issues.
|National Food Security Act, 2013|
Food security and insecurity in India
|Enacted by||Parliament of India|
|Date signed||12 September 2013|
|Status: In force|
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India's 1.2 billion people. It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India. It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements. The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
Under the provisions of the bill, beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (or, PDS) are entitled to 5 kilograms (11 lb) per person per month of cereals at the following prices:
- Rice at ₹3 (4.6¢ US) per kg
- Wheat at ₹2 (3.1¢ US) per kg
- Coarse grains (millet) at ₹1 (1.5¢ US) per kg.
Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.
The bill has been highly controversial. It was introduced into India's parliament on 22 December 2011, promulgated as a presidential ordinance on 5 July 2013, and enacted into law on 12 September 2013.
Odisha government implemented food security bill in 14 district from 17 November 2015
Assam government implemented Act on 24 December 2015.
Coverage and entitlement under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) : Up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.
State-wise coverage : Corresponding to the all India coverage of 75% and 50% in the rural and urban areas, State-wise coverage will be determined by the Central Government. Planning Commission has determined the State-wise coverage by using the NSS Household Consumption Survey data for 2011-12.
Subsidised prices under TPDS and their revision : Foodgrains under TPDS will be made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. Thereafter prices will be suitably linked to Minimum Support Price (MSP). In case, any State’s allocation under the Act is lower than their current allocation, it will be protected up to the level of average offtake under normal TPDS during last three years, at prices to be determined by the Central Government. Existing prices for APL households i.e. Rs. 6.10 per kg for wheat and Rs 8.30 per kg for rice has been determined as issue prices for the additional allocation to protect the average offtake during last three years.
Identification of Households : Within the coverage under TPDS determined for each State, the work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTs.
Nutritional Support to women and children : Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children up to 6 years of age.
Maternity Benefit : Pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
Women Empowerment : Eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism : Grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. States will have the flexibility to use the existing machinery or set up separate mechanism.
Cost of intra-State transportation & handling of foodgrains and FPS Dealers' margin : Central Government will provide assistance to States in meeting the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State, its handling and FPS dealers’ margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
Transparency and Accountability : Provisions have been made for disclosure of records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Committees in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
Food Security Allowance : Provision for food security allowance to entitled beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
Penalty : Provision for penalty on public servant or authority, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.
The intent of the National Food Security Bill is spelled out in the Lok Sabha committee report, The National Food Security Bill, 2011, Twenty Seventh Report, which states, "Food security means availability of sufficient foodgrains to meet the domestic demand as well as access, at the individual level, to adequate quantities of food at affordable prices." The report adds, "The proposed legislation marks a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security – from the current welfare approach to a right based approach. About two thirds(approx 67%) of the population will be entitled to receive subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System. In a country where almost 40% of children are undernourished the importance of the scheme increases significantly."
The Indian Ministry of Agriculture's Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) has referred to the Bill as the "biggest ever experiment in the world for distributing highly subsidized food by any government through a ‘rights based’ approach." The Bill extends coverage of the Targeted Public Distribution System, India's principal domestic food aid program, to two thirds of the population, or approximately 820 million people. Initially, the Lok Sabha Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution estimated a "total requirement of foodgrains, as per the Bill would be 61.55 million [metric] tons in 2012-13." The CACP calculated in May 2013, "...the requirement for average monthly PDS offtake is calculated as 2.3 mt for wheat (27.6 mt annually) and 2.8 mt for rice (33.6 mt annually)..." When volumes needed for the Public Distribution System and "Other Welfare Schemes" were aggregated, the CACP estimated rice and wheat requirements to total an "annual requirement of 61.2" million metric tons. However, the final version of the Bill signed into law includes on page 18 an annex, "Schedule IV", which estimates the total food grain allocation as 54.926 million metric tons.
The Standing Committee estimated that the value of additional food subsidies (i.e., on top of the existing Public Distribution System) "during 2012-13 works out to be...Rs.2409 crores," that is, 24.09 billion rupees, or about $446 million at the then-current exchange rate, for a total expenditure of 1.122 trillion rupees (or between $20 and $21 billion). However, the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) calculated, "Currently, the economic cost of FCI for acquiring, storing and distributing foodgrains is about 40 percent more than the procurement price." The Commission added,
- The stated expenditure of Rs 1,20,000 crore annually in NFSB is merely the tip of the iceberg. To support the system and the welfare schemes, additional expenditure is needed for the envisaged administrative set up, scaling up of operations, enhancement of production, investments for storage, movement, processing and market infrastructure etc. The existing Food Security Complex of Procurement, Stocking and Distribution- which NFSB perpetuates- would increase the operational expenditure of the Scheme given its creaking infrastructure, leakages & inefficient governance.
The Commission concluded that the total bill for implementation of the Bill "....may touch an expenditure of anywhere between Rs 125,000 to 150,000 crores," i.e., 1.25 to 1.5 trillion rupees. As of the implementation deadline of 4 October 2014, only 11 states had either implemented the Act or declared readiness to do so. On 28 November 2014, the Indian government announced, "Allocation of foodgrains to 11 States/Union Territories (UTs) namely, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan has started under the Act..." and that the "remaining 25 States/UTs have not completed the preparatory measures required for implementation of the Act." The Indian government extended the deadline for implementation of the Act "by another six months, i.e. till 04.04.2015."
Criticism of the National Food Security Bill includes accusations of both political motivation and fiscal irresponsibility. One senior opposition politician, Murli Manohar Joshi, went so far as to describe the bill as a measure for "vote security" (for the ruling government coalition) rather than food security. Another political figure, Mulayam Singh Yadav, declared, "It is clearly being brought for elections...Why didn’t you bring this bill earlier when poor people were dying because of hunger?...Every election, you bring up a measure. There is nothing for the poor."
The report of the 33rd meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee on Monetary Policy stated, "...Food prices are still elevated and the food security bill will aggravate food price inflation as it will tilt supply towards cereals and away from other farm produce (proteins), which will raise food prices further...Members desired that the Reserve Bank impress on the government the need to address supply side constraints which are causing inflationary pressure, especially on the food front." Dr. Surjit S. Bhalla warned, "The food security bill...if implemented honestly, will cost 3 per cent of the GDP in its very first year." The writer Vivek Kaul noted,
- The government’s estimated cost of food security comes at 11.10%...of the total receipts. The CACP’s estimated cost of food security comes at 21.5%...of the total receipts. Bhalla’s cost of food security comes at around 28% of the total receipts...Once we express the cost of food security as a percentage of the total estimated receipts of the government, during the current financial year, we see how huge the cost of food security really is.
The Indian Ministry of Agriculture's Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices warned that enactment of the Bill could be expected to "induce severe imbalance in the production of oilseeds and pulses," and "...will create demand pressures, which will inevitably spillover to market prices of food grains. Furthermore, the higher food subsidy burden on the budget will raise the fiscal deficit, exacerbating macro level inflationary pressures." The Commission argued further that the Bill would restrict private initiative in agriculture, reduce competition in the marketplace due to government domination of the grain market, shift money from investments in agriculture to subsidies, and continue focus on cereals production when shifts in consumer demand patterns indicate a need to focus more on protein, fruits and vegetables.
The bill was very widely viewed as a "pet project" of Indian National Congress(INC) President, Sonia Gandhi. Gandhi addressed Parliament the night of the August 2013 Lok Sabha vote on the bill, saying its passage would be a "chance to make history".
Former National Advisory Council member and development economist Professor Jean Drèze, reputedly one of the architects of the original, 2011 version of the bill, wrote, "...the Bill is a form of investment in human capital. It will bring some security in people’s lives and make it easier for them to meet their basic needs, protect their health, educate their children, and take risks." Professor Drèze dismissed opposition from business interests, saying, "Corporate hostility does not tell us anything except that the Food Bill does not serve corporate interests. Nobody is claiming that it does, nor is that the purpose of the Bill."
Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas stated in an interview,
- This is no mean task, a task being accomplished in the second most populated country in the world. All the while, it has been a satisfying journey. The responsibility is not just of the Central Government but equally of the States/[Union Territories]. I am sure together we can fulfill this dream. The day is not far off, when India will be known the world over for this important step towards eradication of hunger, malnutrition and resultant poverty...By providing food security to 75 percent of the rural and 50 percent of the urban population with focus on nutritional needs of children, pregnant and lactating women, the National Food Security Bill will revolutionize food distribution system.
In a rebuttal to Dr. Surjit S. Bhalla, three economists responded, "...the food subsidy bill should roughly double and come to around 1.35% of GDP, which is still way less than the numbers he put out."
Chhattisgarh Food Security Act
The Chhattisgarh Food Security Act, 2012 law was enacted by the Chhattisgarh government. It was passed on 21 December 2012, by the State Assembly unopposed to ensure "access to adequate quantity of food and other requirements of good nutrition to the people of the State, at affordable prices, at all times to live a life of dignity.’’.
The Act divides households into four groups — Antodaya, Priority, General and Excluded households.
The priority households will have monthly public distribution system (PDS) entitlement of 35 kg rice, wheat flour, pulses, gram and iodised salt at subsidised price. "The new act will make the acclaimed PDS more comprehensive. Nearly 90% of the provisions incorporated in the Act were already covered under the PDS", the chief minister Raman Singh said.The new initiative will put a burden of Rs. 2311 crore on the state exchequer. The act will not cover those who are income tax payees, own over 4 hectares of irrigated or 8 hectares of non-irrigated land in non-scheduled areas and who are liable to pay property tax in urban areas.
The Act benefits 42 lakh families living here. It will also cover families headed by a destitute, a widow or a differently abled person. It will also take care of poor, children living in hostels/ashrams, pregnant women as well as those hit by disaster.
- ^"Govt defers promulgation of ordinance on Food Security Bill". Times of India. 13 June 2013.
- ^"The National Food Security Bill, 2013 Receives the Assent of the President, Published in the Gazette of India as Act No. 20 of 2013" (Press release). Press Information Bureau.
- ^"Food Security Act To Be Implemented From July 5". Bloomberg TV India.
- ^ abU.S. Department of Agriculture, New Delhi, India, Indian Cabinet Approves National Food Security Bill 2013, GAIN Report IN3037, 11 April 2013
- ^National Food Security Ordinance, No. 7 of 2013, 5 July 2013
- ^ abAshok Gulati & Surbhi Jain (May 2013). "Buffer Stocking Policy in the wake of NFSB: Concepts, Empirics, and Policy Implications"(PDF). Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Archived from the original(PDF) on 6 August 2013.
- ^ abStanding Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (2012-13), Fifteenth Lok Sabha, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (Department Of Food and Public Distribution) (January 2013). "The National Food Security Bill, 2011, Twenty Seventh Report"(PDF).
- ^"National Food Security Bill, Registered No. DL-(N)04/0007/2003-13, as published by the Ministry of Law and Justice, September 10, 2013"(PDF).
- ^ abcdeAshok Gulati; et al. (December 2012). "National Food Security Bill, Challenges and Options, Discussion Paper No. 2"(PDF). Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
- ^Dipak K Dash (8 Oct 2014). "Food security deadline for states expires without extension". Times of India. The eleven states as of 4 October 2014, were reportedly Assam, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka.
- ^"States gets another six months for implementation of national food security act". Press Information Bureau, Government of India. 28 November 2014.
- ^ abShekhar Iyer (26 August 2013). "This isn't food security, it's vote security, says BJP". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 31 August 2013.
- ^Shweta Punj (29 September 2013). "Digestion pangs". Business Today.
- ^"Food bill: Experts seek proper selection, revamped PDS". Times of India, 8 September 2013.
- ^Praful Bidwai (9 September 2013). "Food Bill is a first step". The Daily Star.
- ^"Food Security Bill passed in Lok Sabha after nine-hour debate". FirstPost. 27 August 2013.
- ^RBI Committee meeting cautions the government against Food Security Bill
- ^RBI releases Minutes of 24 July 2013 Meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee on Monetary Policy
- ^"Manmonia's FSB: 3% of GDP". Indian Express. 6 July 2013.
- ^Vivek Kaul (27 August 2013). "Food Bill is the biggest mistake India might have made till date". Firstpost.
- ^"Lok Sabha passes Sonia Gandhi's ambitious Food Bill". moneycontrol.com (CNBC). 27 August 2013.
- ^"Parliament clears Sonia's pet Food Security Bill, Cong eyes poll gain". CNN-IBN. 3 September 2013.
- ^Edited by Deepshikha Ghosh (27 August 2013). "Sonia Gandhi fine, 'relieved' that Food Bill was passed, Narendra Modi wishes her good health". NDTV.
- ^"Why The Food Bill Is Sound Economics". Tehelka. 13 April 2013.
- ^Revati Laul (7 September 2013). "'The Food Security Bill Can Help To Protect The People From Poverty And Insecurity',". Tehelka.
- ^Milind Murugkar; Ashok Kotwal; Bharat Ramaswami (28 August 2013). "Correct costs of the Food Security Bill". Ideas for India.
- ^"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-05.
- The National Food Security Bill, 2011; Bill No. 132 of 2011 (original bill as submitted in 2011)
- Report of the Expert Committee on National Food Security Bill, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, Government of India, January 2011
- Gulati, Ashok, et al, National Food Security Bill, Challenges and Options, Discussion Paper No. 2, Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, December 2012
- Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs And Public Distribution (2012-13), Fifteenth Lok Sabha, Ministry Of Consumer Affairs, Food And Public Distribution (Department Of Food And Public Distribution), The National Food Security Bill, 2011, Twenty Seventh Report, January 2013
- Joshi, Pramod K., "National Food Security Bill and need for a stronger implementation strategy," Government Knowledge Centre Think Pieces, 7 March 2013
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Delhi, India, Indian Cabinet Approves National Food Security Bill 2013, GAIN Report IN3037, 11 April 2013
- National Food Security Bill, 2013 (version of April 2013)
- Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Amendments in the National Food Security Bill Introduced in the Lok Sabha, 2 May 2013
- Gulati, Ashok, and Surbhi Jain, Buffer Stocking Policy in the wake of NFSB: Concepts, Empirics, and Policy Implications, Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, May 2013
- National Food Security Ordinance, No. 7 of 2013, 5 July 2013
- The National Food Security Bill, 2013, Bill No. 109 of 2013,as introduced in Lok Sabha
- The National Food Security Bill, 2013, Bill No. 109-C of 2013, as passed by Lok Sabha on 26 August 2013
- National Food Security Bill, Registered No. DL-(N)04/0007/2003-13, as published by the Ministry of Law and Justice, 10 September 2013
- CHHATTISGARH FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2012
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Delhi, India, National Food Security Bill Becomes Law, GAIN Report IN3105, 16 September 2013
- "State Food Ministers meet to discuss implementation of National Food Security Act," Press Information Bureau, Government of India, press release, 27 September 2013
- "A Novel Approach to Food Security", by Avinash Kishore, P. K. Joshi, and John Hoddinott, Chapter 3 of 2013 Global Food Policy Report, Washington: IFPRI, 2014
- "States gets another six months for implementation of national food security act," Press Information Bureau, Government of India, press release, 28 November 2014
Media coverage and comments
- Drèze, Jean, "Summary Of The National Food Security Bill 2013", Tehelka, 22 March 2013
- Sugden, Joanna, "Q&A: Pros and Cons of The Food Security Bill," Wall Street Journal, 8 May 2013 (interview with Dr. P.K. Joshi of the International Food Policy Research Institute office in New Delhi)
- "How much will food security bill cost exchequer?", moneycontrol.com (CNBC), 8 June 2013 ("Ashok Gulati chairman of the commission on agricultural costs and prices, T Nanda Kumar, former agriculture secretary and Sonal Varma chief economist at Nomura discuss the nuances of the Food Security Bill on Indianomics.")
- Drèze, Jean, "The Food Security Debate in India", New York Times blog, 9 July 2013
- Kumar, Ashok, "The Anatomy of the National Food Security Act 2013", NewsYaps, 14 March 2014
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