Food Security: Different Faces


Author: Parveen Kaswan (Follow)

The right to food is considered as a basic human right.  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 asserts in article 25(1) that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food . . . .” . According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (which came into force in 1976), article 11 says that “The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing . . .”.


To provide such right  Government of India introduced The National Food Security Bill, 2011 in the Lok Sabha on December 22, 2011 . The objective of the bill is to provide food and nutritional security to the people of certain groups. According to  the bill more than  75 percent of the rural population and more than  50 percent of the urban population shall be entitled to food grains. A special provision of target groups are also there which include  at least 46  percent and 28 percent, respectively in rural and urban areas. It is the duty of Central Government to prescribe guidelines for identification of priority households and identification will be done by State Governments. At each district there will be a District Grievance Redressal Officers appointed by state governments.

According to the bill it shall be the responsibility of every state government to (a) create and maintain scientific storage sites; (b) suitably strengthen capacities of their Food and Civil Supplies Corporations; and (c)  establish institutionalised licensing for FPS (fair price shops).

According to data, in India, on average, a person spent as much as 53% of total expenditure on food requirements. With relentless food inflation this percentage would be far higher now. In comparison with other countries, Americans, on average, spend 9.3% of their income on food, in Italy a family on average spends 25.7%, in Japan 19.1%, in France 16.3%, in the United Kingdom 11.5%. This type of legislation will definitely help the people of country. Currently according to plan proposal the population is going to be divided  into three groups (“priority”, “general” and excluded) but still there is no clarity as to how these groups are to be identified.

If we go by the criteria set up Planning Commission, the basis on which to exclude people is Rs 26 a day for an adult in rural India and Rs 32 for an adult in urban India (at 2010-11 prices).  There was a national outrage after they presented this data but these figures still continue as the basis for the access to the PDS (Public distribution system). The food-policy of our government is not right at the moment. Million tons of food- grain had rotten in go downs but poor suffer from hunger and judgement was also given by Supreme Court in this regard (It is different that people called it Judicial Activism) . The government-policy regarding BPL/APL is also incorrect and wrongful. It is not correct that we have all PDS system inefficient, we do have examples of efficient system, universal or near-universal public distribution systems as in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Chhattisgarh are functioning better with fewer leakages and benefits reaching the poor.

There are both type of people in country who are with this type of legislation and who are against this legislation. According to other extreme people, nobody has the “right” to eat!! According to them one should work to eat.  The government already provides 100 rupees a day for people to just lay about 4-5 hours a day doing nothing under its “rural employment” scheme – which consequently has destroyed the agricultural work-base because most of these guys make 100 rupees for doing nothing and have tremendously jacked up their wages for doing “real” work causing huge inflation.  Now they want to go a step further and stop all pretense of getting any work done and hand out food for free with money they get from people who work 10 hours or more a day and are fleeced with taxes merely because they have the audacity to be productive members of society instead of living on the street standing in line at the Government free food line.

But truth is that we need such legislation to provide food for needy. Provided we want to deliver results than working on agendas for upcoming election process in parts of the country. And we hope this artificial division  of the population will also lead in efficient implementation of this noble Idea.

National Food Security Bill,2011


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