Reducing food entitlement to poorest of the poor cannot be the objective of any food security legislation. In fact, it is a cruel joke with the poor of this country. They have been promised food security and assured supply of 35 kg of food grain has been reduced to 25 kg. Gujarat Chief Minister objected very strongly to this reduction in the entitlement of those who have been identified as being below the poverty line.
The NSFO’s proposed pricing structure for the food grain adds financial burden on BPL families who now have to buy the additional food requirements from the open market. The BPL family will now have to incur Rs. 85 more per month in Gujarat to avail 35 Kg food grain.
The proposed entitlement also affects the required calorie intake of an individual. As per the Ordinance, the distribution of 5 kg food grains per month per person implies the supply of only 165 gm per person per day. Individuals involved in labour intensive activities require at least 2,500 calories per day. The entitled 165 gm grains would provide only 500 calories per day which is hardly 20% of one’s daily calorie requirements. Even in the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme, school going children are entitled to about 180 gm of food grain. As against this, an ‘adult food insecure person’ is proposed to be given only 165 gm for 2 meals per day. This does not address even the ‘calorific security’, not to talk about ‘nutritional security’, which is the main objective of food security.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi has expressed serious concern with the National Food Security Ordinance (NFSO) promulgated by the Central Government. He said the Ordinance does not fulfill the basic objectives of food security. In fact, this Antodaya card holders, who come under ‘poorest of the poor category’, this National Food Security Ordinance has no additional provisions to ensure food security.
Strangely, Central Government has come out with this Ordinance but in case, there is a shortage of food grain supply, it has refused to take any responsibility to ensure supply of the required quantity of food grains. Instead, this responsibility has been cast upon the respective state Governments to fulfill the shortage of food grains.
If there is drought and/ or States which are food grain deficit, State Governments will find itself in a very difficult situation to manage/ procure the food grains. Central Government with huge wherewithal could have taken this responsibility to make available the food grain during drought/ scarcity.
It seems that the Central Government is trying to take away the bare minimum from the BPL families. On one hand, the Planning Commission has been claiming reduction in the numbers of BPL families by redefining the parameters of a BPL family. On the other, those who still qualify as a BPL family will now suffer because of the NFSO. Strangely, number of beneficiaries has been fixed in the ordinance without specifying eligibility criteria and fix individual entitlements. Between different States, there could be wide regional disparities.
It is also surprising that the Central government chose not to consult any of the state Governments on the issue of NFSO. In a federal democracy, it is vital that the centre and the state Governments work in tandem with each other. In his letter, Shri Modi has pointed out that in the Ordinance, unworkable statutory responsibilities have been given to Central and State governments.
Gujarat Chief Minister has requested the Prime Minister to call a meeting of Chief Ministers as it concerns both Centre and State Governments with huge implications. The Chief Minister has also written to all the State Chief Ministers for a meeting on the same.
The insensitivity of the UPA Government has left very little for the states to decide. While some states have successfully provided food security to their people, the central Government fails to consult even these states for an effective food security ordinance.
Effect of proposed National Food Security Ordinance (NFSO) on a BPL Family (monthly)
Before NFSO (Quantity : 35 Kg)
As Per NFSO (Expenditure for 35 Kg for a family of 5 persons)
As Per NFSO : 25 kg
Open Market : 10 kg
Additional Expanses Rs. 85 per month
Click Here to see the presentation on how the National Food Security Ordinance will have a negative impact on the poor.