Food security: some food for thought
The right to food and food security have been widely discussed in the media. The National Food Security Bill, 2011, which makes the right to food a legal right, is currently pending in Parliament. The Bill seeks to deliver food security by providing specific entitlements to certain groups of individuals through the Targeted Public Distribution System, a large-scale subsidised foodgrain distribution system. The Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution presented its report on the Food Security Bill on January 17, 2013. It made recommendations on key issues such as the categorisation of beneficiaries, cash transfers and cost sharing between the centre and states.
A comparison of the Bill and Committee’s recommendations are given below.
Food Security Bill
Standing Committee’s Recommendations
|Who will get food security?||75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population (to be divided into priority and general categories). Of these, at least 46% of the rural and 28% of urban populations will be priority (the rest will be general).||Uniform category: Priority, general and other categories shall be collapsed into ‘included’ and ‘excluded’ categories.Included category shall extend to 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population.|
|How will they be identified?||The centre shall prescribe guidelines for identifying households; states shall identify the specific households.||The centre should clearly define criteria for exclusion and consult with states to create inclusion criteria.|
|What will they get?||Priority:7 kg foodgrains/person/month (at Rs 3/kg for wheat, Rs 2/kg for rice, Rs 1/kg for coarse grains).General: 3 kg foodgrains/person/ month (at 50% of MSP).||Included: 5 kg foodgrains/person/month (at subsidised prices). Pulses, sugar, etc., should be provided in addition to foodgrains.|
|Reforms to TPDS||Doorstep delivery of foodgrains to ration shops, use of information technology, etc.||Implement specific IT reforms, for e.g. CCTV cameras in godowns, use of internet, and GPS tracking of vehicles carrying foodgrains. Evaluate implementation of TPDS every 5 yrs.|
|Cost-sharing between centre and states||Costs will be shared between centre and states. Mechanism for cost-sharing will be determined by the centre.||Finance Commission and states should be consulted regarding additional expenditure to be borne by states to implement the Bill.|
|Cash Transfers||Schemes such as cash transfer and food coupons shall be introduced in lieu of foodgrains.||Cash transfers should not be introduced at this time. Adequate banking infrastructure needs to be set up before introduction.|
|Time limit for implementation||The Act shall come into force on a date specified by the centre.||States to be provided reasonable time limit i.e., 1 year, after which Act will come into force.|