Implications On National Food Security Act, 2013 Due To COVID-19 Pandemic
This Blog is written by Wafiya Tunnisa from Middlesex University, Dubai. Edited by Ritika Sharma.
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013:
The National Food Security Act was enacted on the 5th of July 2013. It was bought for a change of view to the country’s food security. The food security approaches from a welfare basis to a rights-based approach. The Act mainly focuses on 75% of the rural population, and when it comes to the urban population, it ranges to 50%, which receives subsidized food grains bought under the targeted public distribution system. The department of food and public distribution reported that the Act covers two-third of the population to receive highly subsidized food products. Two-third amount of the population means around 81.35 crores have been covered under the NFSA 2013.
According to the ministry of consumer affairs, food, and public distribution, the NFSA determines the collective responsibility of the Centre and the Member States. While the Centre is responsible for the allocation of appropriate food grains to the States, the transport of food grains to the designated depots in each State, and the provision of central assistance to the States for the distribution of food grains from the designated FCI depots to the doorstep of the FPS, the States are responsible for the effective implementation of the Act.
The Member States are responsible for the effective enforcement of the Act, which is a good technique to establish the working of the Act all over the country, which includes registration of eligible households, issuing ration cards to eligible households, delivery of food grain entitlements to eligible households through fair price shops (FPS), licensing and supervision of fair price dealers, the establishment of an effective grievance resolution mechanism and the required strictness.
SOME FEATURES OF THE ACT:
Exposure and entitlement together under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS): TDPS includes 50% of the urban population and 75% of the local population, with a standard entitlement of 5 kg per individual per month. However, under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), the poorest of the low-income households will begin to accrue 35 kg per household per month.
The selection of beneficiaries/households under the NFSA shall be carried out by the respective State / UT Government, which is expected to carry out its own requirements.
Extremely subsidized Central Issue Rates of Re.1, Rs.2, and Rs.3 for Coarse Grains, Wheat, and Rice, respectively, remained unchanged until June 2019.
No reduction in the distribution of food grains to any State / UT under the NFSA. Allocation holes, if any, are filled by the Tide-Over allocation.
The eldest woman of the beneficiary family (18 years or older) is assumed to be the head of the household for the purpose of receiving ration cards. This is a point that discovers and uplifts women in society and strives towards the idea of women’s empowerment.
A grievance resolution system, through State Food Commissions, DGROs, Vigilance Committees at different stages, is given for Women Empowerment.
Provisions for publication of information pertaining to PDS activities, naming of recipients in public domains/portals, for increased accountability.
DEVELOPMENTS OF THE ACT ALL THROUGHOUT-PROGRESS:
Implementation of this Act has increased procurement in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Assam of Eastern India where there is concern about the sale of paddy in distress. It is beneficial to the growth of these regions.
Abolition of the levy scheme: Paddy is immediately bought from farmers by abolishing the levy system. This is of great value to farmers. And is bought into action in the majority of states.
Strengthening Staple Nutritional: The Nutritional Strengthening Policy has been implemented to counter acute hunger in the population. Standards have been set for basics such as wheat flour, sugar, milk, salt and edible oil to help people tackle malnutrition.
Food grain Stocking Requirements, formerly referred to as the Buffer Requirements, was updated to meet the specified minimum food safety stocking standards, to ensure the monthly release of food grain for supply through the National Food Security Act / Other Welfare Schemes, to resolve emergency situations resulting from sudden crop failures, natural disasters, etc.
Depot Online System: The system was introduced to put all FCI Godowns operations online and to check leakage and simplify depot-level operations. this implementation has bought a lot of difference.
However, these were just some of the progress that is mentioned above, All the above paragraphs are just to know how the national food security act has been so far and what exactly was the main idea for forming it and bringing it into action. Nevertheless, there is a lot of progress that has been slowed down because of the pandemic in the world, COVID-19. In the coming up paragraphs, we will see how The food security in India is keeping up and what are the downfalls that are faced by the citizens of India.
COVID-19 and FOOD SECURITY IN INDIA:
The novel coronavirus has caused havoc in all sectors of the world—furthermore, the one sector which has hugely been impacted with a drastic change in the healthcare area. Millions of people have lost their lives already, and a million are still fighting against this dangerous virus. Statistics show that there have been 26.3 million cases worldwide, around which 6 million are still active cases, and the number keeps growing every hour. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an immediate catastrophe for both the environment and the Indian economy on many levels. it has affected all individuals in many aspects. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that India’s GDP will rise at a rate of 1.9%. However, one of the most critical facets of the pandemic is maintaining food availability for everyone as we know India has been. It is also feared that the prolonged lockdown in the country could adversely affect the supply of labor and inputs for agricultural machinery.
When it comes to analyzing food security as the four main systems or in other words can be called pillars, we can see that it is availability, access, stability, and utilization. This has been even saying and told by the FAO of India which is the food and agriculture organization. On further deeply when analyzed, we know that right now, in the current situation, availability and access have become essential and will thus be one of the most important aspects as this will furthermore be difficult to stay organized and efficient. Alongside, when it comes to supplying of food and grains, as most part of the world deals with this problems, it is obvious that will happen here in India as well, that is incomes of farmers of poultry and crops has dropped down drastically, there are storage problems, as the rents have had a downfall, along with this, there are crop damages with transport network issues. The travel bans have also led to many parts of rural areas starve.
When thoroughly evaluating the effects of COVID-19, the Global Food Crisis Study 2020 released by the World Food Program predicts that more than 265 million people will suffer from acute food emergencies and discrepancies, an improvement of 100 percent in the number of people fighting acute hunger shortages. As the effect of COVID-19 becomes apparent, this figure will certainly increase. Moreover, following the sudden economic disruption and joblessness, the world economy will still take a long time to get back to normal with a lot of difficulties faced by all human beings.
The Indian government has taken different initiatives to combat the above-mentioned issues that are faced by the citizens. However, these initiatives would take a major amount of capital and time to implement 100% and to bring an evident change. The Government has given food grain supplies through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (‘PMGKAY’) to all those who come under the Act. This initiative is very successful as long as the delivery stores keep receiving the necessary food products on time and in an accurate quantity. Albeit, there are some criticisms that the amount supplied is smaller, which makes it difficult to handle such a large population. With respect to the accessibility of food grains, India is self-sufficient in a variety of food grains, such as rice and wheat.
The government has designed a varied number of strategies to concentrate on different areas. One of the procurement strategies is supplying farmers with a minimum support price which in short is MSP, they made making food grains available to the poorest parts of the society through the TPDS. Plus, In fact, the Food Corporation of India is to procure a buffer stock of 5 kg of food grain for all those protected by the Act, 2013, which is estimated at approximately 800 million people.
MIGRANT WORKERS IN THE PANDEMIC:
The Government of the Union, along with the aid of State governments, took timely plans and determine a healthcare model to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been many critiques of the (PMGKAY) relief package, that it can only be used at Ration Shops, and that only for local residents. There was no package that was entirely unique to migrant workers. which is quite unfair to them when looked at from a normal human’s point of view. The govt. however was working through one nation, one ration card scheme. This scheme was designed in order to be regarded as helpful to workers who work in other states being away from families. However, the implementation had begun long ago in some states, in the current situation, this scheme was bought into effect in all states, but the central government failed to provide food grains and crops to such migrant workers. The pandemic has been proven to be an eye-opener for everyone regarding how the government is tackling issues and providing to the citizens of the country. We see that the migrants have suffered through this as the government has failed to provide the basis of the basic amenities to the poor as well as the migrant which defiantly is a topic that needs to be discussed and pondered upon and come up with solutions as soon as possible.
INCREASE IN MALNUTRITION AMIDST COVID19:
The secondary of covid 19 is mainly the fact that there is a loss in jobs and employment rate has gone down, due to which the income has reduced and an increase in malnutrition can be expected.
According to UNICEF, Due to the insecurity of food will lead to an increase in malnutrition., the Lancet study presented figures and facts that tell that around 10.4 lakh under-5 deaths in India in 2017, as many as 7,06,000 deaths could be attributed to malnutrition. The pandemic has invested a lot of bad time and health which will lead to an increase in the cases of malnutrition.
When looking at the impact of covid19 on the nutritional services, we know that in March and April, many services were affected, but some ideas such as delivery system did take place, which was whole because of the national food security, 2013. However, the door to door delivery was not able to be accessed by the people who were moving from place to place. The accuracy may not be uptight and right all throughout, but it can be seen that there has been an improvement in May and June, however, it still needs has a lot of scope of improvement with the aspect of coverage. The government needs to look upon the coverage of areas with the distribution of food grains without spreading the virus.
The nutrition rehabilitation centers were bought into use for covid 19 patients, while in many states, the centers have been reopened which are concentrating on the kids that have tested positive to covid 19 and have severe acute malnutrition. However it was found, that there was a decline in the number of children admitted to the NRCs due to a number of reasons — either parent were hesitant to send their children to these centers because of concerns that they would become contaminated and be considered dangerous for the children, or that these facilities were poorly designed, or because of community screening, to detect malnourished children in need of management who did not develop and who were impacted by uptake.
The government needs to keep a track of all children who are not been sent by the parents due to whatever the reason may be and the country needs to make it possible and easy procedure to let their children go to the NRC’s.
CASES- REGARDING FOOD SECURITY:
In the case of Swaraj Abhiyan v. Union of India, a division of the Supreme Court ruled that the “Universal Food Protection Act 2013, which is the social equality and social welfare law, is not being enforced as it should be.” Justice N.V. Ramana said that it is not acceptable on the part of the States to neglect the condition of the average citizen in the implementation of such essential law, particularly when such law in welfare legislation. The Act points out the essence of federalism as a practical structure for joint operation, and a combined effort must be made by both the Center and the States to ensure the successful execution of the Act. This case is a precedent which just deals with the loopholes of the national food security act 2017.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the condition of a variety of segments of society. There is no question that migrant workers are among the most marginalized and vulnerable According to available figures, there are about 1,36 crore (~13 million) seasonal migrants in India. While the government makes adequate efforts to improve their living standards, an additional payment of Rs. 2000/-can be made to this section. The total expense will be Rs. 70, 060 crores. This could be a kick-start to the country’s economy and health. Furthermore, the government should make sure that kids of age to 18 get appropriate food and open job vacancies to individuals to keep a check on the progress.
There should be a line drawn between covid 29 and malnutrition, there are two different but connected aspects of the country. Malnutrition has been a part of this country for ages, but covid 19 is a newly found arrangement, the government needs to balance both and make sure to give importance to both the worlds. Furthermore, in the battle against hunger, international society needs to recognize country-specific food security measures rather than reduce them to unfeasible limitations under WTO laws.