Author: Aditi Avashia, Student, at G.L.S. Law College, Ahmedabad.
Due to drastic changes in climate and increase in population, the need for achieving Food Security globally has emerged as a prime concern. Eradication of hunger and poverty, and achieving Zero Hunger globally, have been one of the objectives of Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, respectively.
India stands far behind its counterparts when it comes to being a food secured state, thus it is significant for India to achieve the goal of Food Security.
This paper examines the crux of Food Security and where India stands in achieving it. It does so by analyzing the steps taken by the Government of India through the years by the way of policies and laws. The paper focuses on the analysis of available literature on the National Food Security Act, 2013. The analysis is an attempt to offer the features, effectiveness, efficiency and problem areas in the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013. The paper also aims to provide relevant solutions to the obstacles in the way for an efficient implication of the said Act.
Besides this, the paper also incorporates the situation of Food Security in Chhattisgarh and the analysis of the state policy related to Food Security.
Every individual has a basic necessity of having a nutritious meal in order to sustain himself. Food is the basic physiological need which every individual strives to attain. Even Maslow’s hierarchy states the same. Physiological needs of food, water, shelter and rest are intrinsic to sustain life, without attaining them, an individual won’t be motivated to attain higher needs.
Food Security as a concept emerged in the mid-70s when there was a global food crisis. The focus was primarily to ensure the availability of food crops, which then widened in the eighties’ and entailed the demand and consumption patterns of food. In the 90s’, issues such as food safety, preferences, food safety, nutrition and dietary needs were also included in the concept of Food Security. Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.1
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in its Article 25 provides the individual with a right to an adequate standard of living, to secure their health and well-being by including clothing, housing, food and medical care. Even The Constitution of India in its Article 21 (Fundamental Rights) ensures an individual protection of life, and in Article 47 (Directive Principles of State Policy) provides the State with a primary duty to raise the level of nutrition, standard of living and improve public health. Thus, the concept of Food Security can’t be ignored.
FOOD SECURITY IN INDIA
With India’s rank in the Global Hunger Index, from 97th in the year 2016, 100th in the year 2017, 103rd in the year 2018 and finally 102nd in the year 2019, India deals with serious evils of hunger and malnourishment which further makes us question the effectiveness of a number of measures implemented by the State.
Attaining Food Security is a prime task for the Government of India, as it deals with individual’s Fundamental Rights. India still to a major extent possesses a rural character and agriculture is the backbone of it. Agricultural and rural development have always been a priority for the State in policy formulations as both further guarantee a stable food supply and distribution chain which help the State attain the goal of Food Security at household level.
Poverty, undernourishment, hunger and unemployment, both, at the rural and urban level, have always stood as obstacles in the welfare of the people and attaining food security. With the introduction of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, India saw a considerable change in the state of food security. It increased the agricultural production and output levels manifold and reduced the levels of food insecurity and poverty in the nation. It also paved way for various programmes and policies to help sustain and improve the level of food security like Targeted Public Distribution Schemes, Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services and Schemes, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Annapurna Schemes, Antyodaya Anna Yojana and National Food Security Act.
THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013
The National Food Security Act, 2013 was enacted in August 2013 with the aim to provide nutritional and dietary protection to people and to make available the right quality and quantity of food at cheaper prices, primarily to the suppressed classes through the method of Public Distribution System.
Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, both the Centre and State have their own responsibilities. While the Centre is responsible for allocation of required food grains to States and Union Territories, transportation of food grains up to designated depots in each State and UT and providing central assistance to States and UTs for delivery of food grains from designated Food Corporation of India go-downs to the doorstep of the Fair Price Shops, the States and UTs are responsible for effective implementation of the Act, which inter-alia includes identification of eligible households, issuing ration cards to them, distribution of food grain entitlements to eligible households through fair price shops, issuance of licenses to Fair Price Shop dealers and their monitoring, setting up effective grievance redressal mechanism and necessary strengthening of Targeted Public Distribution System.2
- National Food Security Act, 2013 covers up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households. While Antyodaya Anna Yojana households, which constitute the poorest of the poor are entitled to 35 kg of food grains per family per month, priority households are entitled to 5 kg per person per month.3
- Pregnant and lactating women (upto 6 months) are entitled free meals and also maternity relief of Rs. 6000.
- Children between the age group 6 months to 6 years are provided free meals and care through Anganwadi ( a Government organization) and for children aged between 6-14 years, Mid- Day Meal Scheme provides them with mid-day meals and education too.
- The Act also provides a two level grievance redressal mechanism at District and State level respectively, that is, District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO) and State Food Commission.
- Either the eldest woman of the household, or woman of 18 years or above shall be considered the head of the household, and would be issued with the ration card. This step aims at empowering women.
- Provision for penalty on an authority or public servant, to be imposed by the State Food Commission, in case of failure of compliance with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer.
FOOD SECURITY IN CHHATTISGARH
The state of Chhattisgarh was carved out from the state of Madhya Pradesh and was formed a separate state in the year 2000. The state’s work in combating food insecurity, makes it an exceptional study in itself.
Chhattisgarh began implementing in early 2001, a series of reforms to distribute food grains.
But the reforms implemented by the State in late 2004 have been credited for the improvement of the PDS in the state which is why they’ve received more attention. These reforms came in two major folds. In December 2004, the management of shops selling PDS goods and delivery of food grains to these respective shops was altered and later in the year 2007, the state of Chhattisgarh expanded the list of households eligible for food grains at subsidized rates and also reduced the prices of food grains available at fair price shops. Further, the State also introduced a system of audit and various transparency mechanisms for receipt and delivery of the food grains.
Based on the efficient performance of the State, various government officials and scholars have suggested various other states to follow and implement the post-2004 reforms instituted in Chhattisgarh.
Prior to the well institutionalized reforms that brought a change in PDS of Chhattisgarh, there was a hike in the quantity of Fair Price Shops, as in the year 2001, the State Government initiated issuing licenses to private merchants. Also, in 2002, the State initiated implementing the Decentralized Procurement Scheme by direct procurement of food grains from farmers. The food grains purchased were mainly rice and wheat and were purchased at Minimum Support Prices. From the year 2002 to 2010, rice procurement rose from 1.5 million metric tons to 5.1 million metric tons, an increase of 340%. 5
In the year 2004, a committee investigated food security issues, particularly in vulnerable and tribal areas of the State which led to cancellation of licenses of private fair price shops in various areas. The Government subsequently introduced measures of interest free loans and increased commissions on items sold.
The State also increased the amount of coverage of the Public Distribution System. The Mukhyamantri Khadyann Sahayata Yojana, launched in April 2007, provided ration cards to below poverty line (BPL) households included in either 1991 or 1997 surveys but in 2002 surveys. This increased the individuals eligible to receive ration cards by approximately 2 million people.
After the year 2004, various small reforms were introduced, which included computerizing records, sending SMS alerts to report movement of food grains to individuals at household level, using electronic weighing machines at fair price shops, marking households to indicate rations received by them and public display at fair price shops of households with ration cards.
Various other initiatives taken by the State which has further helped in achieving food security are:
- Since January 2008, manual granting of allotment has been stopped and automated allotment calculations for PDS schemes has been started.
- Fair Price Shops are required to give a declaration which states their sales of the previous month. It allows checking the surplus stock at the shops which prevents spoilage.
- A web-based software takes consideration of tasks done at the Distribution Centre to receive PDS commodities from various sources and distribute it to Fair Price Shops. Fair Price Shops are required to submit declaration of their stocks and sales in the previous month prior issue of food grains. The actual quantity of commodities to be issued to the Fair Price Shops is calculated, and a delivery order is issued on the web application. After the issue of the delivery order a truck challan is issued indicating the truck number, driver’s name, quantity dispatched etc. The truck challan is also generated using the web application. Receipt and movement of commodities between distribution centres is also done through this application. Thus stock position at any given point is available on the web.7
- With the use of technology, the gate pass is given by including a truck photograph with longitude and latitude of the location of photograph being taken and the information is sent to the server by application using GPRS service. To ensure that the truck is in the premises of the warehouse, the server also compares the location of the truck with that of the warehouse.
- When a truck is dispatched from a warehouse, SMSs are sent to the District Managers providing the transport details. If the truck is not received within three days of dispatch, an alert SMS is sent to General Managers of Civil Supplies Corporation for further action.
- A citizen website has also been created which provides them access to all the information regarding monitoring of the PDS.
- A call center with a toll free number has also been established wherein citizens can register their complaints.
- Transparency is maintained by hosting the majority of the reports in the public
- Performances of District Collectors and District Food Controllers and District Officers’ performances are ranked and also displayed on the web.
- On a pre-decided day, a rice festival is held, wherein majority of distribution of PDS commodities takes place and also benefits like old age pension are extended to Below Poverty Line households on this day.
- The State has strengthened its PDS infrastructure by construction of shops and godowns to increase storage capacity.
- The State Government has taken steps to ensure the economic viability of Fair Price Shops in order to abstain them from indulging into corruption.
- The transport trucks are colored yellow to reduce any form of ambiguity.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 suffers from varied issues.
The Act fundamentally talks about hunger and its eradication, but fails to take into account the evils of under nutrition and eradication of the same. Though the Act’s primary focus is to resolve hunger through the Public Distribution System, individual’s nutritional well-being form a corollary to it. Malnutrition is a major problem faced in India which can’t be solved merely through establishing a PDS system, besides ensuring supply of food, measures related to sanitation, healthcare and water form an important aspect of the spectrum. Thus the Act should strive to include both, Right to Food as well as Right to Nutrition.
The provision of sufficient nutrition should not only entail children but also pregnant and lactating women, as nutrition conditions available to mothers affect the nutritional condition in children. Thus, nutritional security should’ve been incorporated in the said Act. Also, the Act should prioritize mothers and children to provide benefits to reduce the chances of malnutrition at early stages. The benefits of Anganwadis are not yet reaching many areas, and their coverage in many areas are poor. It is a challenge to see how the benefits of the Act would be reaped without sufficient means.
The Act also faced opposition by the Farmer’s Union, contending that the Act would nationalize agriculture, making the Government buy, sell and hoard the majority of agricultural production. Further, it would reduce famers’ bargaining capacity and minimize the support extended to marginal and small farmers. The infrastructural, environmental, credit and other needs of marginal farmers is overlooked and the Act doesn’t have a provision for the same.
The Act allows private entities in the supply chain, which allows a room for profit making and unfair trade practices. The leakages and corrupt practices in the PDS and supply chain also stand as an obstacle for efficient functioning of the Act. Thus, PDS should be decentralized to avoid longer supply chains and increase the efficiency.
Due to the provisions of subsidies, the fiscal burdens tend to increase.
The Act states, that right to food can’t be availed during the times of natural calamities like droughts, floods, earthquakes, etc. and during the time of war. States which are highly prone to such natural disasters would not be provided with the right to food when required the most. Also, there is no provision of crop insurance in cases of damages due to natural disasters, which leads farmers to reduce their harvest in the next cycle due to lack of earnings. This again in turn reduces the crop production which would be further distributed to achieve food security.
The implementation of the Act is divided in phases, which means, it would take longer to achieve the desired objectives.
Though globalization has brought several desirable changes like technology development and rapid communication which has increased the growth in service sectors, it has also led to challenges like increased volatility of the financial markets and cut-throat competition among the entities. The opening of trade has led to entrepreneurial ventures where local occupations have been looked upon. This has impacted Indian agriculture and in turn the state of food security.
While the Indian Council for Medical Research recommends that an adult requires 14kg of food grains per month and children 7kg; the bill provides entitlements to 5kg per person per month, thus ensuring only 166g of cereal per person per day. Also, the bill provides only for cereals with no entitlements to basic food necessities such as pulses and edible oil required to combat malnutrition. 8
The National Food Security Act, 2013 has been quite effective in its functioning to achieve the goal of food security but there is still a long way to go. If the Act had been perfect in its functioning, India wouldn’t be standing with Sub- Saharan African countries in the Global Hunger Index. The various aspects and changes the Act could incorporate for its betterment are as follows:
- Educate farmers and increase their awareness regarding the agricultural and allied activities. It is of no question that for the citizens to be living without hunger the prime task of farmers and their farming activities come into picture. New scientific techniques shall be made available to them at cheaper prices, so that their production increases.
- New and adequate means of soil testing shall be applied, supply of efficient fertilizers shall be made available so that the nutrient content of the crop increases, which would further help in achieving not only food security but also nutrition security.
- Support for crop failure and risk management services shall be extended to farmers. The above aspects to an extent would reduce the expenditure on subsidies and the burden on the budget.
- The aspect of food storage and go-downs created by Food Corporation of India and State Food Corporations shall be examined. The storage capacity shall be expanded and done in a way to ensure there is no pilferage, fungus, infestation from insects and also means to avoid generation buffer stock which would go wasted shall be incorporated.
- Food grains shall be transported by using means of railways as well as roadways and waterways in order to increase efficiency and on time delivery of commodities. This would also ensure that the food grains aren’t damaged.
- Women and child undernourishment is a bigger evil than hunger itself. Child malnutrition and provision of adequate nutrition to pregnant and lactating women is already being monitored through Anganwadi centers. But their functioning shall also be monitored through committees since these centers aren’t fully efficient in their functioning and don’t cater to all the areas equally.
- To strengthen the PDS, decentralization of it should be done in order to avoid slowing the delivery through longer supply chains. Also, a greater involvement of Panchayats could improve the working of PDS.
- Punishments for defaulters shall be increased.
- A review committee shall be established in every state to monitor the performances of various stakeholders, Fair Price Shops, Mid-day meal centers, Anganwadi centers etc.
- The number of fair price shops which are economically viable and well equipped shall be increased by each state rather than providing licenses to distributors on a locational access basis.
The paper has attempted to analyze the state of food security in India, by analyzing the available literature on the National Food Security Act, 2013. It attempts to showcase the features and loopholes of the said Act and has suggested ways to combat them. Also, the paper showcases the state of Chhattisgarh and its measures to attain food security.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 is an important measure to tackle the problem of food insecurity and hunger in the country but should not be the only measure. It needs restructuring and incorporation of new changes at various areas for attainment of its goal. Effective implementation of the Act depends upon the activities of the States primarily and then the Centre.
Ensuring food quantity should not be the only goal, the quality of food also matters as it leads to satisfaction of nutritional needs of an individual. Food and nutrition security is attained, would further ensure economic progress of the country as it would lead to human resource capital formation.
Food security cannot be achieved merely by Acts and policies of hunger eradication. It can be achieved only if it works in harmony with the policies of agriculture, poverty, unemployment, women and child empowerment and social security.
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