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Centre To Expand Its Food Security Coverage

Context

The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to expand coverage under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) so that more and more needy people and citizens can benefit from the Act. • Coverage under the NFSA is based on population figures from the 2011 census.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: Issues relating to poverty and hunger

Mains Question

Despite being self-sufficient in food production, India faces food insecurity and hunger as a result of widespread economic distress, high unemployment, and high levels of inequality. Comment. (250 words)


Food Safety

  • The basic concept of global food security is to ensure that all people, at all times, have access to basic food for an active and healthy life.
  • There is no explicit provision in the Indian Constitution regarding the right to food.
  • The right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, on the other hand, may be interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities.

2013 National Food Security Act:

  • The government has long addressed the issue of ‘food security’ in the home through the Public Distribution System and the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • However, the July 5, 2013 enactment of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) marks a paradigm shift in the approach to food security from welfare to rights-based.
  • Under the Targeted Public Distribution System, the Act legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to subsidised foodgrains.
    • As a result, the Act covers roughly two-thirds of the population in terms of receiving heavily subsidised foodgrains.
  • As a step toward women’s empowerment, the Act requires the eldest woman in the household to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
  • In the event that the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals are not supplied to the entitled persons under the NFSA, such persons shall be entitled to receive such food security allowance from the concerned State Government, which shall be paid to each person.

Responsibility under the NFSA –

  • The NFSA defines the Centre’s and State/UT Government’s joint responsibility.
  • While the Centre is in charge of allocating required foodgrains to states/UTs, it is up to the states/UTs to ensure that the Act is effectively implemented.
  • States/UTs will be in charge of identifying eligible households.

NFSA Central Issue Price:

  • Under the Targeted Public Distribution System, persons belonging to “eligible households” have a legal right to receive foodgrains at subsidised prices (rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg) under the NFSA (TPDS).
  • The term “eligible households” refers to two types of households: Priority Households and families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
    • Priority households receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, whereas AAY households receive 35 kg per month at the same prices.
  • According to Schedule-I of the Act, these subsidised prices were set for “three years from the date of commencement of the Act.”
  • The government, however, has yet to revise the subsidised prices.
  • The Supreme Court has directed the Indian government to expand coverage under the National Food Security Act of 2013.
  • The court insisted that the government consider population growth projections for the decade 2011-2021 so that benefits are not limited to coverage based on the 2011 census.
  • According to the Central Government, the Act requires coverage to be updated based on the most recent published census figures.
    • However, because the census for 2021 has been postponed indefinitely and no date for publication has been announced, the coverage cannot be re-determined.
  • The court insisted that the right to food is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The Proposal of NITI Aayog:

  • In its discussion paper, the NITI Aayog proposed that the national rural-urban coverage ratio be reduced from 75-50 to 60-40, respectively.
    • If this reduction occurs, the number of NFSA beneficiaries will fall to 71.62 crore (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).
  • The Central Government can save up to Rs 47,229 crore if the national coverage ratio is reduced (as estimated by the NITI Aayog paper).

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October 2022
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