Nagpur: “The National Food Security Bill, UPA Government’s ambitious social welfare programme, is, in fact, the Food Security Bill, the brainchild of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The Honourable Shrimati Soniaji Gandhi had promised in Congress Manifesto to bring Food Security Bill which aimed at providing legal right over subsidised foodgrain to the poorest of poor population. Keeping the promise, the UPA Government passed the Food Security Bill and the implementation of the Bill is being done across the country. Country’s 68 percent population, out of which 75 percent rural people and 50 percent urban people, are deriving benefit Food Security Bill and are receiving subsidized foodgrain. According to provisions of Food Security Bill, every citizen will get 5 kg of foodgrain with rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grain at Re 1 per kg. The Food Security Bill will ensure high standard of lifestyle and health status for poor people.
“India is the only country in the world to enact Food Security Bill. All credit of this ambitious social welfare programme goes to our National Leader Congress President Honourable Shrimati Soniaji Gandhi and Congress Party. Whatever promises the Congress gave to people the party has fulfilled and implementing as well. Hence, Congress Party has a place in people’s hearts.
“Maharashtra is the first state to implement the Food Security Bill and subsequently, over 7 crore people will benefit from the scheme. 76 percent people from rural areas and 45 percent people of urban areas will receive foodgrain at a very cheap rate. Congress workers should make efforts to reach his scheme to every household. It is humble request, said Dr Nitin Raut, former Employment Guarantee Scheme & Water Resources Minister in Maharashtra Government while highlighting the crucial points of the Food Security Bill. Following are some of the points:
Salient features of Food Security Bill:
What is Food Security Bill: India was facing severe shortage of foodgrain for many years after Independence. During drought like the one in 1972, nation was forced to import ‘milo,’ ‘red wheat’ and other inferior foodgrain from foreign countries. However, in the later years, our nation made rapid development in agriculture sector. The outcome of the same is that our country has become self-reliant. Sufficient foodgrain is being produced in the country per year for feeding entire population. However, even after such sufficient production, the proportion of malnutrition cannot be neglected. In the meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India had directed that the foodgrain stored in godowns be distributed among poor people.
Keeping in mind the situation, the Food Security Bill was enBilled to provide essential foodgrain to common people at reasonable rates. This Food Security Bill will provide legal right over subsidised foodgrain to the poorest of poor population. If the rights of people are violated, they can now seek answer from concerned authorities. The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of foodgrains.
Entitlements under Food Security Bill:
The Food Security Bill offers rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg and coarse cereals at Re 1 per kg to the intended beneficiaries. Up to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population will get 5 kg of foodgrain monthly. The poorest who fall under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana will continue with their present monthly entitlement of 35 kg of food grains. People Above Poverty Line who were getting wheat and rice at the rate of Rs 8.20 and Rs 9.25 respectively will now receive 5 kg of foodgrain at the rate of Rs 3, Rs 2, Re 1 per member of family.
Provisions for children:
Children aged six months to 14 years will get take-home rations or hot cooked food free of charge through Anganwadis. Children in the age group of 6-14 years till Class 8 will be provided free Mid-Day Meal in Local Self-Government Body/Government/Government-aided schools (except on holidays).
Children affected by malnutrition will be selected through Anganwadis and will be given supplementary nutritious food (free of charge).
Provisions for pregnant women and lactating mothers:
Pregnant women and lactating mothers would receive a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 in installments. The Central Government will give the amount from time to time in accordance with the rules.
Identification of Eligible Households:
The states are responsible for determining eligibility. The Bill does not specify criteria for the identification of households eligible for PDS entitlements. The Central Government is to determine the state-wise coverage of the PDS. Then numbers of eligible persons will be calculated from Census population figures. Family has been defined as group of members living together and having common kitchen.
The Bill provides for the creation of Food Commission. The main function of the Food Commission is to monitor the implementation of the Bill, give advice to the states governments and their agencies, and inquire into violations of entitlements. The Food Commission will have one Chairman, five members and one Member Secretary. The members must comprise two women, one each of SC/ST community member. Food Commission also have to hear appeals against orders of the District Grievance Redressal Officer and prepare annual reports.
Transparency and Grievance Redressal:
The Bill provides for a two-tier grievance redressal structure, involving the District Grievance Redressal Officer and State Food Commission. State governments must also put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism which may include call centres, help lines, etc.
Mandatory transparency provisions include:
1) Placing all PDS-related records in the public domain.
2) Conducting periodic social audits of the PDS and other welfare schemes.
3) Using information and communication technology to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels, setting up vigilance committees at all levels to supervise all schemes under the Bill.
District Grievance Redressal Officer:
District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO) shall be appointed by state government for each district to hear complaints and take necessary action according to norms to be prescribed by state government. If a complainant is not satisfied, he or she may file an appeal before the State Food Commission.
Penalties and Compensation:
The State Food Commission will have powers to impose penalties. If an order of the DGRO is not complied with, the concerned authority or officer can be fined up to Rs. 5,000. The Commission can authorise any of its members to act as an adjudicating officer for this purpose. In case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons, such persons will be entitled to a food security allowance from the state government, as prescribed by the central government.
The Bill states that central and state governments shall endeavour to progressively undertake various PDS reforms, including doorstep delivery of foodgrains; end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “Aadhar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in order to ensure their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government.
Responsibilities of Government and Local Authorities:
The main obligation of the Central Government is to provide foodgrains to state governments, at prices specified in Schedule I, to implement the main entitlements. The Central Government has wide-ranging powers to make Rules in consultation with the state government. The main obligation of state governments is to implement the relevant schemes, in accordance with the Central Government guidelines. State governments also have wide-ranging powers to make Rules. They are free to extend benefits and entitlements beyond what is prescribed in the Bill, from their own resources.
Local Authorities and Panchayati Raj Institutions are responsible for proper implementation of the Bill in their respective areas, and may be given additional responsibilities by notification.
Food Security Bill Schedules:
The Bill has three schedules. Schedule I prescribes issue prices for the PDS. Schedule II prescribes nutritional standards for midday meals, take-home rations and related entitlements. For example the food for children in the age group of 6 months-3 years must contain at least 500 calories and 12-15 grammes of proteins. Schedule III lists various provisions for advancing food security.