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All you wanted to know about the food security bill

By Sakshi Balani
August 29, 2013 18:40 IST
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Sakshi Balani presents an FAQ on the Food Security Bill that was passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

The National Food Security Bill follows from the National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 that was promulgated by the government on July 5. The bill seeks to make the right to food and nutritional security a legal right by providing specific entitlements to certain groups. Some key provisions of the bill are summarised below:

Who is entitled to food security?

The bill categorises the population into an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) group, a priority group and an excluded category. The excluded category is retained at 25 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population. The AAY category will be as per existing norms (about 10 per cent of all households).

As compared to earlier versions, the bill does not include entitlements for starving, destitute and homeless persons although pregnant women and children continue to be included as beneficiaries.

How much foodgrain will beneficiaries be entitled to?

The bill provides different entitlements to groups. The poorest of the poor (the AAY group) will receive 35 kg of  foodgrain/family/month while others (the priority group) will receive 5 kg of foodgrain/person/month.

How much will beneficiaries have to pay for the foodgrains?

All beneficiaries will have to pay Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat, Re 1/kg for coarse grains. These prices can be revised after the first three years, up to the level of the minimum support price (assured price paid by the Centre to farmers at the time it buys grains from them).

How will beneficiaries be identified?

The central government will be responsible for determining the total number of persons to receive food security in each state. Each state government will be responsible for specifying criteria for identifying households. States will also be responsible for identifying exact households according to these criteria. AAY households will be identified according to the scheme guidelines.

What will the central allocations to states be?

The centre will allocate foodgrain to states based on the number of persons to be covered in each state. However, if the annual allocation to a state is less than the quantity of foodgrain it lifts from the central stocks for the last three years under the existing TPDS, the same shall be protected at prices determined by the Centre. The bill specifies the quantity of allocation to states.

When is the government not liable for ensuring food security?

The bill specifies that the Centre and states shall not be liable for failure to supply foodgrains in conditions such as war, flood, drought, earthquake, etc. It allows the Centre to consult with the Planning Commission to declare the onset of any of the above conditions.

How will the Centre and states split responsibilities?

The Centre will be responsible for transporting foodgrain to the central depots in each state. The state will be responsible for the last mile delivery -- transporting foodgrain from the state depots to each ration shop. In case of short supply of foodgrain, the Centre will provide cash to the states, which will be passed on to the beneficiaries.

What financial assistance will states receive from the Centre?

The bill specifies that the Centre will provide states with funds in case of short supply of foodgrains. The Centre shall also provide assistance to state governments for meeting their expenditure on intra-state movement, handling of foodgrains, and margins paid to fair price shop dealers.

What are some of the reforms to the public distribution system?

The bill allows for reforms to TPDS that include using technology and introducing cash transfers and food coupons to ensure foodgrain entitlements for beneficiaries. It also allows for the use of Aadhaar to identify beneficiaries and for the delivery of foodgrains to the doorstep of each ration shop.

What is the grievance redressal mechanism?

A grievance redressal mechanism has been set up at the district and state levels. Vigilance committees have also been established at the state, district, block and ration shop levels. The bill also contains provisions for social audits.

The author is an analyst at PRS Legislative Research

Image: A woman labourer sweeps in front of sacks filled with wheat and rice at a godown in Ahmedabad

Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

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