The National Food Security Act, 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-third of the country’s population. The enactment of this landmark legislation, brought a paradigm shift in approach to food security, from welfare to rights-based approach. The salient features of the act are as:
- Coverage and entitlement: Up to 75% of rural and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5kg/person/month ration.
- Identification of households: The work of identification of eligible households is to be done by States/UTS.
- Maternity benefit: Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PWLM) are entitled to receive maternity benefits of not less than 6000 rupees.
- Nutritional support: PWLM and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under ICDS, MDM (PM-Poshan).
- Women empowerment: Eldest women of the household of age 18 years or above to be deemed as head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
- Grievance Redressal: Act calls for dedicated mechanism for grievance redressal at district and state level.
- Transparency/Accountability: Provisions regarding social audits, setting up of vigilance committees, disclosure of PDS records etc.
- Food security allowance: It is entitled to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals.
Role of NFSA in eliminating hunger and malnutrition:
- According to a UN report number of undernourished people in India has declined by 60 million between 2006 to 2019.
- Improved access to food grains have improved the hunger outcomes amongst the poor and underprivileged.
- Wide coverage of the 2/3rd population have increased resilience in the poor against income shocks.
- Stunting in children under 5 years of age, according to the UN report have decreased from 47.8% in 2012 to 34.7% in 2019.
- Monetary compensation has compensated against wage loss during pregnancy. PWLM can now access to healthier food options like fruits, vegetables etc.
- The awareness generated by the Asha workers have increased the number of infants who were exclusively breastfed from 11.2 million in 2012 to 13.9 million in 2019.
However, there is still a long way for India to reach nutritional sufficiency as:
- Number of women in reproductive age suffering from anaemia grew from 165.6million in 2012 to 175.6 million in 2019.
- The CNNS have highlighted prevalence of hunger/malnutrition in India children.
- The number of obese adults in India grew from 25.2 million in 2012 to 34.3 million in 2016.
- Institutional infrastructure for delivering the provisions of the food bill is poor.
- Widespread corruption has siphoned off the benefits to ghost beneficiaries and middlemen.
The food bill has revolutionized the access to food grains; however, the need is to move towards nutritional security and not just food security. Further the structural bottlenecks in the implementation food bill should be corrected by leverage of technology.