- This Act ensures that everyone, at any particular time, has the access to quality and nutritional food.
- It lays down special guidelines for pregnant women, children and lactating mothers.
- This Act provides the step wise identification and monitoring of target groups, Grievance Redressal Mechanism, penalty and allowance to ensure the smooth implementation of the Act.
- There are various schemes like Mid-day meal and the Integrated Child Development Services etc, which are implemented under this Act.
The National Food Security Act is an Act which is enacted to provide food and nutritional security to every citizen, at all times, and to ensure that they have access to basic food requirements to live a life with dignity. This Act was enacted on 5 July, 2013 making a paradigm shift in the approach towards the food security from welfare to rights based approach. This Act legally entitles subsidized food grains to at least 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population under the Targeted Public Distribution System. Therefore, this Act covers almost two-third of the entire population.
Why This Act Came Into Being
Article 47 of the Constitution of India provides that the State must look after the raising nutritional level and the standard of living of its citizen and shall improve the public health as one of its primary duties. Even the international conventions, of which India is a signatory, cast responsibilities upon all the parties to provide adequate and healthy food to its people. As India did not explicitly have any provision regarding to Right to food, therefore, food security had been on Government’s plan and policy.
Adequate food quantities at an affordable price made available to everyone at individual level, is what constitutes food security. One of the major achievements for the country has been the attainment of self-sufficiency in food grain production. Ensuring food security to everyone had always been a challenge. Also meeting the nutritional status of the population, especially of the women and children, was a milestone to achieve.
Thus, this Act came into existence.
Salient Features Of NFSA
- Provides coverage under Targeted Public Distribution System: 75% of rural population and 50% of urban population are entitled to receive highly subsidised food grains under two categories of beneficiaries – Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households and Priority Households (PHH) respectively.
- Highly subsidised price of the food grains: Food grains provided under this Act are closely linked with Minimum Support Price, like Re.1, Rs.2 and Rs.3 for Coarse-grains, Wheat and Rice respectively.
- Identification of households: Within the coverage under this Act, each State and UTs work for the identification of eligible households and beneficiaries by their own criteria.
- Nutritional support for women and children: Pregnant women, lactating mothers and children in the age group between 6 months to 14 years are entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under the different schemes available.
- Women empowerment: Eldest woman of the beneficiary household of age 18 years or above is considered as the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
- Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Grievance Redressal Mechanism at the District and State levels is set up to look into the non-functioning of the said Act.
- Food security allowance: Beneficiaries are entitled to provision for food security allowance in case of non-supply of alleged food grains or meals.
- Penalty: In case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the Grievance Redressal Officer, provision for penalty on public servant or authority will be imposed by the State Food Commission.
The Identified Target Groups Under NFSA
The Central and State Government have the joint responsibility of looking after the successful implementation of NFSA. The Centre is responsible for allocation of required foodgrains to all the States/UTs, transportation of foodgrains up to designated depots in each State/UT and providing central assistance to States/UTs for delivery of foodgrains from designated FCI godowns. The States/UTs looks after the effective implementation of the Act, including identification of eligible households, issuing ration cards, distribution of foodgrain entitlements to eligible households through fair price shops (FPS), issuance of licenses to Fair Price Shop dealers and their monitoring, setting up effective Grievance Redressal Mechanism and necessary strengthening of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
The rural population benefits through schemes such as Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households and the Priority Households (PHH) schemes are for the urban population. This also targets the pregnant women and lactating mothers with free of charge meals, meeting their nutritional standards and maternity benefit of not less than 6000 Rupees. It also looks after the nutritional benefits of children and the ones suffering from malnutrition. The Government, through local Anganwadi, looks after their appropriate nutritional meals.
Grievance Redressal Mechanism and Monitoring
1. Internal Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Section 14 of the NFSA provides that every State Government must put in place an Internal Grievance Redressal Mechanism to look into the queries and problems of its citizen. This includes call centres, help lines, designation of Nodal Officers, etc.
2. District Grievance Redressal Officer: Section 15 provides that each district must have a District Grievance Redressal Officer to look into the expeditious and effective redressal of grievances of the aggrieved persons in matters relating to distribution of entitled foodgrains or meals and to enforce the entitlements under this Act.
3. State Food Commission: Sections 16 provides that every State Government must constitute a State Food Commission for the sole purpose of monitoring and review of implementation of the NFSA. It shall look and evaluate the implementation of this Act, in accordance to the State.
4. Social Audits: Section 28 provides that every local authority must be authorized by the State Government to conduct periodic social audits on the functioning of fair price shops, Targeted Public Distribution System and other welfare schemes to check the process.
5. Vigilance Committees: Section 29 provides that a Vigilance Committee must be set up by the State Government to regularly supervise the implementation of all the schemes mentioned under this Act and update the District Grievance Redressal Officer about the same.
Allowance in case of non-supply of foodgrains
Al the end of every month, the Nodal Officer has the responsibility to check the supply of foodgrains to the entitled people, which is covered under each Fair Price Shop. And in case of non-supply of food grains, the Nodal Officer must note down the reasons for the same. In such cases, where the entitled people are not provided with the foodgrains at the Fair Price Shops, the Nodal officer has to ensure that the payment for the food security allowance to the entitled person must take place. Thus, people would get their share of foodgrains as promised by the Government or they would get allowance for the same. Then, the Nodal Officer must register a complaint with the District Grievance Redressal Officer.
Some schemes under the NFSA
The Midday Meal Scheme is specifically for the school going children, designed to better the nutritional standing of those children nationwide. This programme supplies free lunches on working days to the children in primary and upper primary classes in Government, Government aided and local body schools. It is one of the largest of its kind in the world, serving 120,000,000 children in over 1,265,000 schools and Education Guarantee Scheme centres. It is provided to every child between the age group of six to fourteen years who are studying in classes 1 to 8, enrolled and attending school. It is prepared in accordance with the mid-day meal guidelines that are issued by the Central Government and revised from time to time. Children are entitled to get nutritional and adequate food under this Act.
2. The Integrated Child Development Services Scheme
This is a self-selecting scheme for the children between the age group 0 to 6 years. This scheme is one of the largest flagship programmes of the Indian Government for the early childhood care and development. It is available for those who voluntarily enrol themselves and visit their nearest Anganwadi centre during their working hours. This had to be notified by the State Government or the Union Territory Administration regularly. The beneficiaries under this Scheme include the children within the age group of 0 to 6 years, pregnant women and the lactating mothers. This is done to enhance the nutritional health of the child, reduce the chances of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition. This was primarily designed to cover the gap between the Recommended Dietary Allowance and the Average Daily Intake.
Case Laws Related To National Food Security Act
1. The New Grain Dealers Service vs The State of Maharashtra and Ors, 28 June, 2021
In this case, Shri Kumbhakoni, the learned Advocate General, emphasised on the fact that it is the duty of the State Government to look after the proper distribution of the services. He relied upon Section 3 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 and alleged that the Public Distribution System Order 2015 puts the responsibility upon the State Government to make an arrangement for taking delivery of food-grains from the base depots of FCI. He also stated that the State Government must ensure that the same foodgrains reach the fair price shops within 1st week of the month for further distribution. He pointed out that it is the State Government’s responsibility to appoint an experienced and eligible transport contractor to supervise and look after the efficient, quick and quality service for transportation of food-grains. Learned Advocate General also pointed out that the State Government is required to deal with issues like black marketing of food-grains, misappropriation/ leakage of food-grains and delay in delivery of food-grains.
2. In Re Problems And Miseries Of Migrant Labourers vs Union Of India & Others, 29 June, 2021
Here the Supreme Court states whether a migrant labourer can be a beneficiary. It observes that those who have been identified as beneficiary under National Food Security Act, 2013 are provided with dry rations as per the Centre and States’ Schemes. In case, a migrant labour is covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013 and had been issued a ration card under this Act, he is entitled to access the dry ration wherever he is, at his hometown and work place also, as per the scheme of the Central Government namely “One Nation One Ration Card”. This scheme is considered one of the important welfare measures to extend food security to migrants who are covered under the National Food Security Act Scheme. As migrant workers are spread throughout the country, each State has to implement this scheme, as it becomes a necessary welfare measure towards food security to this class of people. The States are thus, duty bound to implement this Scheme, which is a welfare scheme in the interest of poor and marginal sections of the society. A migrant labourer cannot be denied of his rights merely because of the fact that he is not in his native State from where he was issued the ration card under National Food Security Act scheme.
3. Ambujakshi Amma and Co. Vs State of Kerala
In this case, the distribution rights are discussed. The petitioners were Authorized Wholesale Distributors engaged in the business of public distribution and had the licenses given by the District Collector. The petition was filed as the petitioners can be abruptly revoked under the guise of purported implementation of the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013. The Supreme Court made it clear that only the licensed public distribution under National Food security Act will have the right for distribution of foodgrains. It is also submitted that Sub-Sections (1), (2) and (3) of Section 24 of the Act obligate the State Government for implementation and monitoring of the schemes under the Act, and ensuring duty of the State Government to take delivery of food grains from the designated depots of the Central Government in the State FCI Godown at the prices prescribed in Schedule I. Every State Government must create and maintain scientific ways to accommodate food at State, District and Block level, in accordance with the Targeted Public Distribution System (Control) Order, 2001. Thus, it becomes absolutely clear that for taking delivery of the food grains under the National Food Security Act, 2013, the State Government has to provide an authorized agency as defined under Rule 2(g) of 'Order 2015'.
Therefore, after the implementation of the Act in 2013, no other person, except for an authorized agency, as defined under the Act, 2013 can take delivery of the food grains from godowns of FCI, and that is abundantly clear from the wholesale ration distributors’ license under the Kerala Rationing Order, 1966.
This Act is a step forward to increase the healthcare sector of India. Children will grow into healthy adults only if healthy meals are provided to them. This Act increases the standard of living. As a developing country, India is still trying to fulfil its objective of providing nutritional security in human life.