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Is Food Security Law necessary for India?

By Ashish Pandey

As a large section of India still lies below poverty line, unable to have nutritious and sufficient food, twice a day, it becomes a bigger question to the existing policies of our country at an inner as well as a global level. But before that what is really needed is to find the root cause, as to why be this happening? And what can be the major solutions to this problem. So beginning with, the major reasons that come out to be the cause can be considered as unemployment which forces them to live a life of misery, unmonitored government policies by which the poor farmers don't get proper value to their crops, the agriculture lands being converted to industrial areas and many more. Surely, we have many schemes by the government to take care of all this stuff, but between the clash of the poor and the corrupt, for the time being, corrupts seems to be on the winning side. Obviously, the priority of the government should be to take care, that nobody dies of hunger at least.

And here comes the food security bill being discussed widely these days. But before it is passed, it should be made sure, that does it really serve the purpose? The person unable to afford food should be made the food available for sure, but not on the cost of nothing. The habit of getting something on the cost of giving nothing will make a person dependent on it. And at a later stage even if he gets some work, he will prefer not to, as he gets the basic things for free. Also this will make them a dependent on the existing government and the right to elect the efficient representative will be misused. This will decrease the self-dependency of the mass of the country, which is below poverty line, which will lead to high moral depletion at a later stage. And who knows even again, as it always happens; it may not actually reach the needy. Who is going to ensure the proper implementations of this? Spoken much about the problems, what can be the solutions now? It is not very difficult but worth thinking. The amount that is going to be spent in implementing these schemes is a huge amount. Let it be spent in creating opportunities. And, it is not that we don't have jobs or we can't create them. Let them work for better of themselves and in turn give them the food. Let them make ponds in their villages, so that they don't face water problems if rain is not there. Make them plant trees on the roadsides and let them take care of it, until it grows up.

Send government representatives (honest to their work) to villages and make them aware of techniques by which they can maximize their field outputs. Take measures that they are not forced to sell it at lower prices by the market mafias. Talking about poor in the cities, make them a man-force in cleaning the cities, and in turn give them food. Take care of the education of their children for free. And the most important thing is make sure their children don't go to schools only for the mid-day meals, but are learning well to compete the world when they grow up.

These are not things that need very much of the effort or very much of the budget, because this can be done with the existing resources only. The only thing needed is the honest implementation, honest supervision and noble hearts, showing that we do care.

---Ashish Pandey

Is food security law necessary for India?

Food is essential for living as air is for breathing.

According to the definition of UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) food security exists "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life." Food security is built on three pillars:

  1. Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis.
  2. Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.
  3. Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

Necessity of Food Security Law in India:

The National Food Security Bill 2013 has been introduced in the current Lok Sabha session which seeks to enact The National Food Security Act 2013. It aims to provide food and nutritional security to whole of India; access to adequate quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matter connected therewith and incidental there to; and provide assistance to state government. This Bill provides major relief to the common man who falls under the 'eligible households' as covered under the 'Priority Household' category. This in turn is defined under Section 15 of the proposed Act, as well as the Antyodaya Anna Yojana referred to in sub section (1) of Sec 3 of the said Act.

Under this Act a provision has been made to provide 5 kg of food grains per month per person to those identified under this scheme. This will be given at highly subsidized rates (Rs 3/2/1 for Rice/ wheat/ coarse grains respectively). as prescribed under Schedule I of the State Govt under the TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System). Besides, the provision also says that all households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana shall, as specified by the Central Govt in relation to each State, be entitled to 35 kg of food grains per household per month at the subsidized prices specified in the said Schedule.

The subsidized price in relation to these food grains could extend to as high as 75 percent for the rural population and up to 50 percent for the urban population. Moreover, every pregnant or lactating mother would be entitled to a meal free of charge during pregnancy and 6 months after the child birth, through the local Anganwadi so as to meet the nutritional standards as set up in Schedule II of the said Act. For children up to the age of 14 years this proposed Act provides: In the case of a child between six months to six years, a meal free of charge through the local Anganwadi. For children between the ages of six to fourteen years one midday meal to be provided free of charge in all schools aided by Govt as well as those run by local bodies. All these meals would be in conformity with Schedule II of the nutritional standards as prescribed by the Govt in this Act. Every school and Anganwadis shall have provision for cooking meals, drinking water and sanitation.

In addition the children suffering from any malnutrition would be identified and provided all meals absolutely free of charge to meet the nutritional standards as prescribed under the said Act. In case of non-supply of these food grains for any reason whatsoever the food security allowance would be paid to the identified people by the respective State Govts. Apart from the above, the Act also provides obligations for the Central Govt as regards Food Security. The Central Govt would release from the central pool the required quantity of food grains to the respective State Govts under the TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System) so that the allocated level of supply of food grains to meet these schemes is always maintained.

The food grains would be transported to the various depots as prescribed by the Central Govt. The monitoring and implementation of these schemes will however largely be left in the hands of the concerned State Govts. These Central Govt schemes could be run in tandem to any other schemes being run by the State Govts themselves. Further, the concept note seeks to take away the freedom enjoyed by the states until now to: (1) fix the numbers of those who are BPL in their respective states; (2) decide the amount of food grain to be given to them, and (3) fix the rate at which these shall be provided. (4) Universalisation of TPD In view of the above provisions it is amply clear that the provisions of the proposed Food Security Bill 2013 are in the nature of largely benevolent provisions and can eradicate hunger and poverty from the face of this Nation once and for all.

The only catch is that once it is passed, it should be implemented both by the Central and the respective State Govts with all the zeal and passion it deserves. The National Food Security Bill 2013 is therefore a well thought out carefully planned blueprint for the effective eradication of hunger and malnutrition from our Country. It requires careful and consistent application on the part of both the Central Govt as well as all the respective State Govts. It is after all a scheme spread out for the whole of India and for its successful implementation the effective participation of the State Govts is a must.

Although it's true that the food grains as well as the other items for distribution would be provided by the Central Govt yet all the distribution and monitoring has to be handled by the respective State Govts to the satisfaction of the Central Govts and as per guidelines which are laid down by them. The proposed National Food Security Act is being designed to ensure economic access to food through legal entitlement, while factors relating to production and absorption are proposed to be included as essential enabling provisions.

The bill is likely to cost the government Rs 1.25 lakh crore each year. But this entire amount is not new expenditure for the government. India is already spending close to Rs 1.16 lakh crore on schemes that are listed as "entitlements" under the FSB. For instance, food subsidy (Rs 85,000 crore), mid-day meal (Rs 13,215 crore), Integrated Child Development Scheme (Rs 17,700 crore) and maternity entitlements (Rs 450 crore). So, the additional expenditure is around Rs 8,635 crore, an increase of 0.09 percent of the GDP. But its impact on fiscal deficit is an old issue that had largely been overcome when the growth was good. It is therefore naive to suggest that this programme can be successful without the effective participation of the Central Govt, the State Govt and all its local bodies. The Center in its wisdom has brought about this phenomenal piece of legislation which seeks a sea change in the way we look at our poor.

So think rationally and force the negatives out of the system like maintaining the buffer stock perfectly without getting rotten; the government wants to provide 25 kilograms of rice and wheat at Rs.3/kg to BPL families. This is too narrow an approach for Right to Food etc. This is something which the poor cannot afford to do without and therefore the National Food Security Bill 2013 needs to be passed without any further delay.

Food security is not just a poverty issue; it is a much larger issue that involves the whole food system and affects every one of us in some way. Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade. Global and National Food Security must exist to meet the challenge of providing the world's growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of good quality food. Therefore to address shameful deficiencies in the country's food security situation there is need of food security Law in India:-

  1. To encourage economical development of a country.
  2. To reduce poverty.
  3. To encourage development of backward classes.
  4. To encourage P.D.S system.

Is food Security law necessary for India?

What is Food security?

Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food-secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. The World Health Organization defines three facets of food security: food availability, food access, and food use. Food availability is having available sufficient quantities of food on a consistent basis. Food access is having sufficient resources, both economic and physical, to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Food use is the appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation.

The FAO adds a fourth facet: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time. Food security at the national level refers mainly to availability in the country of sufficient stocks of food to meet domestic demand, either through domestic supply or through imports.

India became largely self-sufficient in food grain production at the macro level. There have hardly been any foodgrain imports after the mid-1970s. Foodgrain production in the country increased from about 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to around 233.9 million tonnes in 2008-09. The growth rate of foodgrains has been around 2.5 per cent per annum between 1951 and 2006-07. The production of oilseeds, cotton, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, and milk has also increased appreciably.

Current Scenario

According to the recent survey done by Food and Agricultural Organisation(FAO) following facts were found:

  1. Hunger remains the No.1 cause of death in the world. Aids, Cancer etc. follow.
  2. There are 820 million chronically hungry people in the world.
  3. 1/3rd of the world's hungry live in India.
  4. 836 million Indians survive on less than Rs. 20 (less than half-a-dollar) a day.
  5. Over 20 crore Indians will sleep hungry tonight.
  6. 10 million people die every year of chronic hunger and hunger-related diseases. Only eight percent are the victims of hunger caused by high-profile earthquakes, floods, droughts and wars.
  7. India has 212 million undernourished people – only marginally below the 215 million estimated for 1990–92.
  8. 99% of the 1000 Adivasi households from 40 villages in the two states, who comprised the total sample, experienced chronic hunger (unable to get two square meals, or at least one square meal and one poor/partial meal, on even one day in the week prior to the survey). Almost as many (24.1 per cent) had lived in conditions of semi-starvation during the previous month.
  9. Over 7000 Indians die of hunger every day.
  10. Over 25 lakh Indians die of hunger every year.
  11. Despite substantial improvement in health since independence and a growth rate of 8 percent in recent years, under-nutrition remains a silent emergency in India, with almost 50 percent of Indian children underweight and more than 70 percent of the women and children with serious nutritional deficiencies as anemia.
  12. The 1998 – 99 Indian survey shows 57 percent of the children aged 0 – 3 years to be either severely or moderately stunted and/or underweight.
  13. During 2006 – 2007, malnutrition contributed to seven million Indian children dying, nearly two million before the age of one.
  14. 30% of newborn are of low birth weight, 56% of married women are anaemic and 79% of children age 6-35 months are anaemic.
  15. The number of hungry people in India is always more than the number of people below official poverty line (while around 37% of rural households were below the poverty line in 1993-94, 80% of households suffered under nutrition).

Wastage of food in India

Loss/wastage of food in India is ironical given the fact that India is among the world's most hunger-ridden countries. With nearly one-fifth of total population and 43.5 per cent of under-five children malnourished, India ranks 15th from the bottom in the 2012 global hunger index. A reduction in food loss/waste can potentially mitigate hunger in the country. Plugging the supply leakage and simplified life-style inducing fewer expenses on food in social gatherings would reduce the overall food production requirement. It would reduce the demand for food from the rich and increase its supply for the poor. It would reflect in decline in food prices, which in turn would increase the affordability of poor for food items.

According to UN estimates, more than 850 million people in developing countries across the globe were undernourished in 2010-12. While people go on without food and remain undernourished, India remains one of the countries with a high rate of food wastage. The amount of food that goes waste in the country every year was more than 40% valued at 58,000 crore. India loses about 21 million tonnes of wheat annually due to inadequate storage and distribution. At the consumption end, though the per capita food wastage by consumers is low in India compared to developed economies.

Necessity of a law to ensure food security

A law has to be their in place to stop rotting of grains in granaries, to pluck out leakages in PDS, to ensure the targeted people get the benefit of the food security law, to uplift malnourished people ,to ensure proper enumeration to the farmers for their produce, to Ensure punishment to the guilty person ,to reduce criminal wastage of food grains, to ensure poor have the right to live by giving them right to food, to enhance food storage capacity, to effective regulate minimum support price for the produce.

An effective law when implemented properly will ensure that the food produced is not wasted .Also ensuring the improvement in the health index.

We all know that the food security bill (a long pending bill) is under consideration of Parliament of India since 2000 ,when it was introduced. Since then many debates ,discussions have been done over its provisions of entitlement for the poor, The issue could be controversial leading to verbal duels between the stakeholders but its a high time it should get passed. The current NAC has highlighted the need of this law for the country, due to which a fresh impetus has been given to it. From being a country of billions, having malnourished people in millions we must go forward to become a self sufficient country of healthy Indians.

Is Food Security Law necessary for India?

There exists a linear relationship between economic growth and health and a better economic growth leads to a better health status. When this nation is considered important, food security becomes a sheer necessity. The economic growth of our country has been considerably good in the past decade; however, there has not been any significant reflectance of economic growth on the health status of people in the country. Records show stunning figures with 22 per cent of the population undernourished. The National Family Health Survey (2015-06) recorded almost 40.4% of the children below the age of three as underweight and malnutritioned. The report also shows the shameful figures of women and children with nutritional deficiencies. It is imperative that these kinds of figures should be brought down to achieve better status and overall growth. Food and nutrition should therefore be considered as "economic engine". An improved health is not a mere necessity, but an essential organ to achieve economic growth.

The economic role of food and nutrition is something which can be looked down upon and this in turn, becomes a rationale for formulating a public policy. A proper food policy hence becomes the need of the hour. A well targeted nutrition policy can create wonders and also provides a way analogous compared to other policies. In this scenario, the National Food Security Bill can turn into something revolutionary and can leave a huge impact in the economy of the country. The Bill can transform and restructure the lives of people if carefully crafted and implemented.

The recent Food Security Bill proposed by the expert committee, headed by Dr. C. Rangarajan, outlines some of the salient features such as providing food grains at subsidized prices at least to 75% of the people in the country, priority households getting 35 kg of food grains at a price of Re. 1, 2 and 3 for millets, wheat and rice respectively. The Bill also assures a constant price and coverage until the end of the twelfth plan period. The bill also highlights the need to rebuild the public distribution system in the country.

Government of India has introduced several welfare schemes like the mid day meals scheme and the food grains needed for it is also taken into the current estimate of the total food grain requirements. A buffer stock maintenance becomes mandatory keeping in view some unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances such as flood, draught and other natural calamities. The recent procurement trend shows a heavy rise in the wheat and rice procurement and this need to be kept in check to ensure a better food security.

One of the best ways to ensure distribution of food grains in the country is through Public Distribution System which runs about 1k Fair Price Shops in the country. However, the distribution system must be competent enough to deliver as the basic objective of the bill is to curb hunger and malnutrition. Identification of beneficiaries should be done precisely and the machinery should be programmed perfectly to assure that the schemes reach the needy.

Unfortunately, the entire system in our country is abetted by corruption and this comes as a major threat to the developmental policies. Political and bureaucratic problems in the country need to be addressed first and it is high time for us to realize that the real-time problems cannot be solved by the stroke of a pen. The darker side of the proposed bill is that it may turn out to be little beneficial and create new avenues for political and bureaucratic corruption. Moreover, the proposed bill may not prove effective in identifying the problems relating to malnutrition, hunger and poverty. Improving environmental sanitation is one of the most preferred tools to reduced malnutrition and that is one measure the central government should adopt.

One of the better solutions for this would be identifying the beneficiaries and the needy geographically. When this is done in a perfect way the rest becomes easier. "Public Health Campaigns" no doubt have a bigger role to play when it comes to enhancing the nutritional levels of children and women.

Hence, drafting a Food Security Bill and passing it in the parliament with absolute majority will alone not solve the purpose of food and malnutrition, but implementation of proper measures to ensure that the schemes reach the beneficiaries properly will only provide a better solution to solve the food crisis.