Poverty and Hunger (DAMP)
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- What are the salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013? How has the Food Security Bill helped in eliminating hunger and malnutrition in India?
- Discuss the key issues faced by India’s food management system. How war will the implementation of Shanta Kumar Committee recommendations resolve these issues.
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The NFSA, 2013 seeks to provide for food and nutritional security in human lifecycle approach, by ensuring adequate quantity and quality of food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
Salient Features of the Act are:
- It gives legal entitlement to 75% rural and 50% of the urban population (an estimated 80 crore people which come to 2/3rd of country’s population) for subsidized grains under TPDS.
- It moves from ‘household food entitlement’ to ‘individual food entitlement’. Every individual is entitled to 5 kg of rice, wheat, or coarse cereals a month at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 per kg. The beneficiary is identified by the state government based on the parameters decided by centre.
- The entitlement for Antyodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) will remain at Rs 35 kg per household.
- For pregnant and lactating mothers, the act provides for free meal at the local anganwadi (during pregnancy and upto six months after childbirth) as well as maternity benefits of Rs 6,000 in instalments.
- For Children:
- Below 6 months: ‘Exclusive breast feeding shall be promoted)
- Six months to six years: The age guarantees an age-appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadis.
- Six years to 14 years: One free mid-day meal, shall be provided everyday (except on school holidays) in all school run by local bodies, government, and government aided schools, upto Class VIII.
- The act also provides for the Creation of State Food Commissions which will monitor and evaluate the implementation of the act, give advice to state governments, and will enquire into violations of entitlement.
- Food Security Allowance in case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons under the act.
How has it contributed to reducing Hunger:
- The act has led to increases in food availability for the weaker section. It is visible in increased government food subsidy burden.
- By continuing with special provisions AAY, the act ensures that the most vulnerable household get special support.
- By taking a lifecycle approach, it has ensured the right from the time women get pregnant to the death of a person, if the person is vulnerable, she would get food security support.
- With improved use of technology, like Aadhar based authentication, leakage has been reduced.
- One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) will also ensure that migrants are able to enjoy the benefits of NFSA.
- Fiscal Burden: Since the introduction of PMGKAY, the subsidy burden on food for government has remained above Rs 2 lakh crores.
- Leakages and Siphoning: Leakages are still unacceptably high in states where PDS reforms are slow.
- Identification of Beneficiaries: This is a serious issue as many very vulnerable sections are not enjoying the benefits of NFSA.
- Infrastructural issues like lack of adequate storage, poor transportation infrastructure. This leads to delay, spoilage of food grains, and inefficient distribution.
- Aadhar Related Issues: Use of Aadhar-based authentication for targeting beneficiaries has its own set of challenges. This includes authentication failures, discrepancy in Aadhar data etc.
- Social and Cultural Factors: Factors like caste-based discrimination, low literacy rates etc can impact the implementation of NFSA.
- Reducing Fiscal Burden: TPDS targeting can be made more focused and only the most vulnerable ones should be provided with the NFSA benefits. Shanta Kumar committee had also recommended that the coverage should reduce from 67% of the population to 40%.
- Better Identification: Instead of trying to identify the poor, it would be better to adopt an ‘exclusion approach’ under which the rich are kept out and all the rest are covered.
- Chhattisgarh Food Security Act (CFSA) which proposes four criteria – excluding income tax payees, households owning a pucca house in urban areas that has a carpet area of more than 4 hectares of irrigated land or more than 8 hectares of non-irrigated land.
- Combating Leakages: Automate procedures; impose strict penalties for corrupt practices etc.
- Improving Infrastructure:
- Attract private investment in Agri-infrastructure, including storage facilities.
- Promote decentralized procurement.
- Encourage local farmers and cooperative.
- Address Aadhar Issues:
- Achieve universal Aadhar coverage by a focused approach on most vulnerable groups.
- For the time being establish alternative authentication mechanism.
- Ensure robust data security measures to protect personal information.
- Addressing Social and Cultural Factors: Run a sensitization campaign to raise awareness about
the rights and entitlements of marginalized communities.
The NFSA is an important step in meeting the problem of hunger and malnutrition. By implementing the above suggested improvements, and by fostering collaborative efforts among government agencies, Civil Society Organization, and local communities, it is possible to overcome the challenges and strengthen the implementation of NFSA.
The FCI is the nodal agency for food management under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. It was established in 1965 through an act of the Parliament. The Food Corporation Act, 1964 against the backdrop of major shortage of grains, especially wheat, in the country. Its main functions include procurement, storage, transport, distribution, and sale of food grains.
The objectives of the FCI are to:
- Safeguard the interest of farmers by providing them with the right price for their produce. (MSP)
- Maintain buffer stocks for food security and deal with price fluctuations and shortages. (NFSA)
- Make food grains available at affordable price for vulnerable sections through PDS.
Key Issues in India’s Food Management System
- MSP procurement Benefitting few large farmers only.
- Very High Buffers: FCI in recent years have stored more than double the buffer limit.
- High level of Corruption: 40-60% of crops siphoned off to black market (NSSO 2011)
- Poor Infrastructure is leading to a lot of wastage of food grains in storage and transportation.
- Poor human resource management by FCI is leading to excessive expenses on human resources and exploitation of contract laborers at the lowest levels.
- Very high Subsidy burden on government
- Countercyclical Procurement Policy -> Impacts market drastically.
- Drought year -> increased MSP to protect farmers -> reduce availability of crops in market -> inflation.
Suggestions for Improvement:
- Key Recommendations of Shanta Kumar Committee on FCI restructuring, Buffer Stock, PDS, Food Security and DBT
- Outsource Procurement to states with enough capacities and continue procurement only for states with Poor Capacities
- Procurement Reforms
- Popularize Negotiable Warehouse Receipt System (NWRs).
- No procurement after buffer stock is filled.
- Quality Check: FCI or third party must perform Quality check before accepting grains from state government agencies and farmers. Don’t accept substandard grains.
- Buffer Stock Reforms: Pro-active Liquidation Policy
- Storage Reforms: Outsource grain storage function to central warehousing Corporation (CWC), State Warehousing Corporation (SWC), and private sector players – under private Entrepreneur Guarantee (PEG) Scheme on competitive bidding – give them contract to store FCI grains for 20 years.
- Transport Reforms: As far as possible grains should be transported in containers, instead of gunny bags, it’ll reduce losses, get faster-turn-around time at railways and waterways. Should be packed at gunny bags only at District HQ level – from where it will be transported to retail outlets.
- Reforming Human Resource Management of FCI:
- Begin Mechanization – to reduce dependency on manual labour
- Reduce the number of zonal and regional offices -> increase coordination with state agencies through e-governance mechanism.
- VRS to FCI’s permanent staff
- Hire specialists/executives from private sector for top level -> instead of relying on generalist IAS on deputation.
Buffer stocks at FCI are meant to ensure food security for India, but several problems have crept in this food management. The government should fast track its efforts to reform FCI and the Public Distribution System. At the same time there should be initiatives to diversify.