Thursday, October 28, 2010

35 kilograms of Food Security

India is ranked 67th among 84 vulnerable countries in the Global Hunger Index by the International Food Policy Research institute.Our National advisory council (NAC) recommended the food security act to 75% of Indians through public distribution systems (PDS) on 23rd Oct, 2010. The proposed food security bill has to be approved in the legislature which is going to be started in next financial year and completely covered by 2014 in all over India. NAC suggested the two broad categories of beneficiaries’ i.e. Priority and General instead of Below Poverty Line (BPL) norms and both these categories will have to be defined by the government.

The 75% of Indians will get the food grains on the subsidized prices who are 90% of rural and 50% of urban.
The Priority category is defined as 46% of rural poor and 28% of urban poor.
The General category is defined as 44% of rural below middle class and 22% of below middle class.
The Priority category household will get 35 kgs of food grains (Rice, wheat, millet) per month with subsidized prices of Rs.3, Rs.2 and Re.1 sequentially.
The General category household will get 20 kgs of food grains (Rice, wheat, millet) per month with the price which is not exceeding half the current minimum support price for the grains.
The scheme would cost the government an additional Rs 15,000 crores in the first phase and it’s going to be Rs 23,231 crore additional cost after the implementation of the final phase. The country would be requiring 58 million tones food grain annually to fulfill this legal commitment.

I believe that some amendments are required in the proposed Food security act. Food security means that not only providing of 35 kilograms of subsidized food grains but that should ensure the nutrition security and health also. Is 35 kgs are enough to feed the family? As per some research norms, the average consumption of food grains in India is 178 kgs/ year/ person (15 kgs /month/person) and the average Indian family size is 4.8 members. So each family must requires the minimum quantity of 65 kgs of food grains. Edible oil and pulses are the good sources for nutritional values and calories. The per capita consumption of edible oils is 13 kgs per year (1.08kgs per month) but it is still less than what nutritionists recommend and lower than world average of 16 kgs. Each household needs 5kgs of edible oil for the nutritional values. The per capita availability of pulses is around 15 kg a year (1.25kgs per month), far below the nutritionists' recommendation of 20 kg per capita. So each family requires 6 kgs of pulses.

The Government is implementing several food schemes to provide the supplementary nutrition values among the people i.e. Mid day meals in schools, anganwadi, Nutrition programme for adolescent girls. All these schemes are meant for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating women. But, the working class poor people are still in calorie deficient and they definitely need the nutrients to get strength, endurance and productivity at their workplace. As I fell, the comprehensive food security means nutritional security. The edible oil and pulses are essential for human beings to sustain proteins, vitamins and minerals. Inclusion of the both of them with food grains list under PDS is good for unconditional food security or else the hunger will be perennial.

The public distribution systems is not functioning efficiently, it’s all corrupted and controlled by the politicians. The PDS food ration is going to the black markets instead of welfare of poor. Ration cards are the main documents to avail the PDS ration, there is a lot of corruption in issuing ration cards. Take this serious example of Andhra Pradesh… as per Chief Minister’s statement, 2.04 crores of white ration cards were issued to the BPL families. The average family size in Andhra Pradesh is 3.9 per sons. So… the Andhra Pradesh has (2.04 crore families * 3.9 per sons) 7.96 crores of people who are in below poverty line out of 8.0 crores of total population. Is it Andhra Pradesh completely in below Poverty line??????? That’s how the corruption in issuing ration cards to ineligible people.

Simply distributing the food grains with subsidized prices is not going to be end of the hunger. The Government has to focus on production, procuring, preserving and proper distribution of food grains. As everybody knows that the Supreme Court intervention on millions of tonnes food grain wastage due to insufficient storage facilities, the judicial body recommended the government to distribute the starving people instead of letting rotten. The government has to concentrate on food grains storage facilities, infrastructure and supply chain. Food security act will not only serving the poor but also encourages the production of food grains which is direct benefit to the farmers since the consumption pattern is going to be more. India needs to be self sufficient in food grain production to meet this new demand by utilizing the science and technology.However, we welcome the food security bill and wish this legislation is going to fill the empty stomachs of starved poor.
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