Sunday, May 12, 2013

The National Food Security Bill, 2011

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Bill proposes foodgrain entitlements for up to 75 percent of the rural and up to 50 percent of the urban population.  Of these, at least 46 percent of the rural and 28 percent of the urban population will be designated as priority households.  The rest will be designated as general households.
    Priority households will be entitled to 7 kg of subsidised foodgrains per person per month.  General households will be entitled to at least 3 kg
  • The central government will determine the percentage of people in each state that will belong to the priority and general groups.  State governments will identify households that belong to these groups.  
  • The Bill proposes meal entitlements to specific groups.  These include: pregnant women and lactating mothers, children between the ages of six months and 14 years, malnourished children, disaster affected persons, and destitute, homeless and starving persons. 
  • Grievance redressal mechanisms will be set up at the district, state, and central levels of government.
  • The Bill proposes reforms to the Targeted Public Distribution System.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • The Bill classifies beneficiaries into three groups. The process of identifying beneficiaries and placing them into these groups may lead to large inclusion and exclusion errors.
  • Several entitlements and the grievance redressal structure would require state legislatures to make adequate budgetary allocations.  Implementation of the Bill may be affected if states do not pass requisite allocations in their budgets or do not possess adequate funds.
  • The Bill does not provide a rationale for the cut-off numbers prescribed for entitlements to priority and general households.
  • The grievance redressal framework may overlap with that provided in the Citizens’ Charter Bill that is pending in Parliament.
  • Schedule III of the Bill specifies goals which may not be directly related to food security.  It is unclear why these have been included in the Bill.
  • The Bill provides similar definitions for starving and destitute persons.  However, entitlements to the two groups differ.

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