Draft Food Security Bill and Criticisms of the Draft Food Security Bill

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Draft Food Security Bill

  • Retains the identification of beneficiaries based on the BPL criteria

  • Divides the population into priority and general – under which 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be entitled to subsidised food grains and the rest will be excluded.

  • Reduced the monthly entitlement of the general households from 4 kg per person to 3 kg per person

  • The government (central) will determine the number of priority households in each state based on a state wise poverty ratio to be updated from time to time

  • The stated aim of the draft Bill is “to provide for food and nutritional security, in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices, for people to live a life with dignity.” To realise this, we must ensure that every child, woman and man has physical, economic and social (in gender terms) access to a balanced diet (that is, the needed calories and protein), micronutrients (iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and so on), as well as clean drinking water, sanitation and primary health care.

  • A life cycle approach to food security will imply attention to the nutritional needs of a human being from conception to cremation. The most vulnerable but neglected segment is the first 1,000 days in a child’s life — the period from conception to the age of two, when much of the brain development takes place.

  • To make food-for-all a legal right, it is necessary to adopt a Universal Public Distribution System (PDS) with common but differentiated entitlements with reference to the cost and quantity of food grain.

  • The widening of the food basket by including a range of nutria-cereals (normally referred to as “coarse cereals”), along with wheat and rice is an important feature of the Food Security Bill. Nutri-cereals such as bajra, ragi, jowar, maize, constitute “health foods,” and their inclusion in the PDS, along with wheat and rice, will encourage their production by farmers.

  • Nutri-cereals are usually cultivated in rainfed areas and are more climate-resilient. Hence, in an era of climate change, they will play an increasingly important role in human nutrition security.

  • Giving cash will reduce interest in procurement and safe storage. This in turn will affect production.

  • The government should consider adopting as a general policy the formula suggested by the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), that MSP should be C2 plus 50 per cent (total cost of production plus 50 per cent).

  • Finally, the Bill provides for the creation of Food Security Commissions at the State and Central levels. The two essential ingredients of implementing the legal right to food are political will and farmers’ skill. Hence, State-level Food Security Commissions should be chaired by farmers with an outstanding record of successful farming.

Criticisms of the Draft Food Security Bill

  • The government’s bill seems to be aimed not at improving access to food but at minimising its own obligations

  • Identification criteria is flawed

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