National Food Security Bill, a historic initiative

National Food Security Bill, a historic initiative by central government Puducherry, February 11, 2012 Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Prof. K.V. Thomas, has said that the National Food Security Bill is a historic initiative by the government of India and marks a paradigm shift in food security – from welfare to a rights-based approach. This Bill is perhaps the only legislation of its kind in the world, says the Minister.

Prof. K.V. Thomas was addressing the All-India Editors’ Conference on Social Sector Issues (ECSSI) in Puducherry today. According to Food Minister, the NFSB seeks to address the issue of food security in a comprehensive manner by adopting a life cycle approach. Prof. Thomas clarified that the additional financial implication of the NFSB is not going to be large. With the current coverage and entitlement and also taking into account estimated allocations under other welfare schemes, the food subsidy for 2012-13 is expected to be about Rs. 88997 crore. However, if we were to just update the coverage under TPDS (Targetted Public Distribution System) using 2011 census, the subsidy will be Rs. 109795 crore. In comparison, the estimated subsidy requirement under NFSB is estimated to be Rs. 1,12,205 crore, i.e., an additional amount of Rs. 2410 crore.

Prof. Thomas said that the perception of some states about the coverage under TPDS provide in the bill being restrictive and which will come in the way of universal PDS for a much higher coverage being implemented by them is misplaced. The Bill only specifies the minimum entitlement under TPDS and places obligations on central and state governments to fulfill them once the Act comes into force. He said that the apprehensions in some States about their food grain allocations under NFSB getting reduced is premature. The issue of state-wise coverage, corresponding the all-India coverage specified in the Bill, is yet to be decided.

Ministry of Rural Development and Planning Commission will consult the states to arrive at a consensus on the methodology that will seek to ensure that no poor or deprived household is excluded from coverage under different government programmes and schemes. The Minister clarified that the major impact of NFSB will be in terms of food subsidy which is estimated to be additional Rs. 23228 crore more in 2012-13,compared to the estimated requirement under existing TPDS and other welfare schemes.

On computerization of TPDS, Prof. Thomas said steps have been initiated for the computerization of the PDS in the country. States have been asked for the digitalization of ration card, computerized allocation of fair price shops to make the PDS more effective. Computerisation of TPDS has been taken under Mission Mode Project under national e-governance plan. The Standing Committee on Food & Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution is to hold consultations with the stake-holders in various states and modifications will be made in NFSB based on the consultations by the committee.

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