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Food security in India
The recent Supreme Court directive should lead to better access under the Food Security Act for Indian population
ActIT Jammu, Projects, Java,, C# Training Jammu
The recent Supreme Court direction to the central government to ensure that all the states in the country implement some of the key aspects of the Food Security Act of 2013 so that people have access to better food stuffs and nutrition. The directive has come in the wake of reports and complaints from Non-Government Organisations (NGO) and some social activists that majority of the states have failed to implement the provisions of the progressive law. In fact, some of the states have not been able to ensure that people have access to subsidised food and have also failed to ensure security for the people under the Public Distribution System (PDS) network. It is a depressing reality that several state governments have not met the key requirements in the legislation which empower the common masses in securing subsidised food on the basis of the Ration Cards of other forms of registration with the concerned departments. Many states are yet to complete the enumeration of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) category people besides those falling in middle income group or otherwise so that they could be provided subsidised food through the PDS network. Sections 14, 15 and 16, which require the setting up of a grievance redress mechanism and a State Food Commission with responsibility to monitor the implementation of the law, have been heeded only in name, as in Haryana, or not at all. The central Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's claim last November that the Act covers the entire country is, therefore, not consistent with the facts. As the court has pointed out, Article 256, which casts a responsibility on the states and the centre to ensure compliance with laws made by Parliament, also provides the remedy, as it can be invoked by the centre to set things right. Unfortunately, the NFSA, which is vital for social security through the PDS network and child welfare schemes, has suffered due to a lack of political will. It is also unfortunate aspect that this scheme has met with political indifference for too long and actual deliverance to majority of the beneficiaries has not achieved the targeted goals during the past more than four years.

With an eye on realistic goals, the NFSA should have set the ground for food security through the principle of universal access, though not all citizens in the country would need it. There is great merit in providing subsidised foodgrains to targeted households chosen by the state governments, with a ceiling of 75 percent of the population in rural areas and almost 50 percent in urban areas. But the system should have in-built methods and mechanisms to allow for the entry of new households that suddenly find themselves in financial distress, while others can exit it based on changed circumstances. Arrangements of this nature can be made only when there is full-fledged, independent machinery in the form of a Food Commission, and district-level grievance redress, besides social audits with members on such bodies chosen from among the local people. All these provisions are there under the NFSA, but have been ignored for too long. Modernisation of the PDS network, with the use of information technology, could incorporate such dynamic features to the supply of subsidised food to those who need it, and eliminate deficiencies and fraud. This has been pointed out time and again that political interference in providing subsidised food on selective basis has been the main cause of defeating the scheme. Now that the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has been given specific directives by the court to complete the unfinished tasks this year, it should make up for lost time. As is widely acknowledged, some states are better at running the PDS network than others, and the food security law is the best tool to raise standards uniformly. Central Food Ministry's data presented in Parliament shows that the current system does not reflect the actual scale of public grievances, with only 1,106 complaints received from beneficiaries across the country in the year 2016, including those reported in the media. The Supreme Court's intervention is welcome to make the NFSA meaningful and set realistic goals that can be achieved by the end of this year.

News Updated at : Saturday, August 12, 2017
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