National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) - UPSC Indian Polity Notes

The National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013, which was passed on July 5, 2013, represents a paradigm shift in the aspect of food security, moving away from a welfare-based approach to one based on rights. Up to 75% of the rural population, as well as 50% of the urban population, are legally entitled to receive subsidised foodgrains through the Targeted Public Distribution System, according to the Act. Therefore, the Act covers almost two-thirds of the population in order to provide them with heavily subsidised foodgrains. The National Food Security Act of 2013 (NFSA) is being implemented throughout all of India’s States and UTs. The topic is of significance under the GS-II of the IAS Exam.

Learn what is Public Distribution System (PDS) and Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) in the linked article.

To complement your preparation for UPSC 2023, check the following links:

About National Food Security Act

Beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act fall into two categories: Priority Households (PHH) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, each of which is entitled to 35 kg of food grains each month (5 kg per person per month). Wheat costs Rs. 2 per kg, rice costs Rs. 3 per kg and coarse grains cost Rs. 1 per kg.

There has been no revision in the prices of the foodgrains in the Union Budget 2022. The PDS Issue prices of rice, wheat and coarse grains will continue to be sold at Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Re. 1 per kg, respectively.

  1. The Act was signed into law on 12th September 2013 retroactive to 5th July 2013.
  2. The Act is in line with Goal Two of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly.
    • Goal 2 seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security.
    • The aim is to ensure that everyone everywhere has enough good-quality food to lead a healthy life.
  3. Schemes such as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), the Public Distribution System (PDS), and the  Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) are included under the Act.
  4. The Act is being implemented by all the States and the Union Territories.

Also, download notes on Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) from the linked article.

The substantial data facts about NFSA [Latest – 21st February 2021]:

Number of Beneficiaries under NFSA 81.35 crores (As of 13th July 2022)
Central Allocation under NFSA 43.94 Lakh Metric Tonnes
State Allocation under NFSA 32.99 Lakh Metric Tonnes
Total Distribution 25.31 Lakh Metric Tonnes

Objectives of the National Food Security Act

The Act provides for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to an adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Salient Features of the NFSA

The major features of the Act are described below:

  • Coverage: The state-wise coverage was determined by the NITI Aayog based on the 2011-12 Household Consumption Expenditure survey of NSSO. 
  • The Act legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • About two-thirds of the population, therefore, is covered under the Act to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
  • Entitlements: 
    • The food grains would be provided at highly subsidized prices under the Public Distribution System.
    • The Act ensures nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant and lactating women would be entitled to nutritious meals, free of charge under the MDM and ICDS schemes.
    • Children in the age group of 6-14 years would also be entitled to free nutritious meals under the MDM and ICDS schemes.
    • Maternity benefit of not less than Rs.6000 is also provided to pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • The Act also empowers women by identifying the eldest woman of the household as the head of the household to issue ration cards.
  • The Central Government aids the States to meet the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State and also handles the Fair Price Shop (FPS) dealers’ margins according to the norms.
  • There is a provision of a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in the event of non-supply of food grains.
  • Transparency: Provisions have been made to disclose the records related to the PDS to ensure transparency.

Who are the beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act?

The Act covers two-thirds of the entire population under two categories of beneficiaries:

    • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households
    • Priority Households (PHH)
  • AAY households encompass the households headed by widows or disabled persons or persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support.
    • It usually takes into account the households of those below the poverty line too.
    • It also includes support for women and children.
  • NFSA gives the right to receive food grains at subsidized prices to people belonging to eligible households, i.e., the PHH. A major section of the ration cardholders in the priority sector comes under this category. This is an effort to alleviate poverty.
  • The work of identification of eligible households within the coverage under TPDS determined for each state is to be done by the states and the UTs.

State Ranking Index for National Food Security Act

About State Ranking Index for NFSA

After consulting with states, the State Ranking Index for NFSA was created to track the implementation of the NFSA and other reform measures across the country. The Index emphasises the initiatives made by States and UTs, fosters cross-learning, and scales up reform initiatives by all States and UTs. The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) Distribution and procurement will be covered by the Index in the future. The current Index focuses on NFSA Distribution. The amount of hunger, if any, malnutrition, or both, in a certain state or union territory is not, however, reflected by this statistic. Three major pillars that span the full NFSA implementation through TPDS are the foundation of the Index.

  1. The NFSA, which assesses coverage, targeting, and Act provisions, forms the first pillar.
  2. The second pillar analyses the delivery system while considering the distribution, transportation, and last-mile delivery of foodgrains to Fair Price Shops (FPS).
  3. The department’s nutrition activities are the subject of the third and final pillar.

NFSA’s State Ranking Index for 2022 in the General Category

State/Union Territory Index Score out of 1 Ranking
Odisha 0.836 1
Uttar Pradesh 0.897 2
Andhra Pradesh 0.894 3
Gujarat 0.790 4
Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu 0.787 5
Madhya Pradesh 0.786 6
Bihar 0.783 7
Karnataka 0.779 8
Tamil Nadu 0.778 9
Jharkhand 0.754 10
Kerala 0.750 11
Telangana 0.743 12
Maharashtra 0.708 13
West Bengal 0.704 14
Rajasthan 0.694 15
Punjab 0.665 16
Haryana 0.661 17
Delhi 0.658 18
Chhatisgarh 0.654 19
Goa 0.631 20

NFSA’s State Ranking Index for 2022 in the Special Category (North-Eastern states, Himalayan states and the Island Regions)

State/Union Territory Index Score out of 1 Ranking
Tripura 0.788 1
Himachal Pradesh 0.758 2
Sikkim 0.710 3
Nagaland 0.648 4
Uttarakhand 0.637 5
Mizoram 0.609 6
Assam 0.604 7
Arunachal Pradesh 0.586 8
Lakshadweep 0.568 9
Jammu and Kashmir 0.564 10
Andaman and Nicobar Islands 0.562 11
Manipur 0.522 12
Meghalaya 0.512 13
Ladakh 0.412 14

Significance of Food Security

The concerns regarding food security in India can be traced back to the experience of the Bengal Famine in 1943 during the British Colonial Rule. Food security is of utmost importance to a nation as it will also have a positive influence on the other aspects determining the growth of a nation:

  • It boosts the agricultural sector.
  • It also aids the government to regulate food prices.
  • A boost in the agricultural sector would result in more job opportunities, as agriculture is a labour-intensive sector. This would enhance economic growth and result in the reduction of poverty.
  • Access to nutritious food would enhance the overall health of the public.
  • Food security is also important for the global security and stability of the nation.

Read comprehensively about Food Security in India in the linked article.

Significance of the National Food Security Act

The concept of food security at a global level indicates access to basic, nutritious food by all people, at all times. It is characterized by the availability, access, utilization, and stability of food.

  • There is no explicit provision in the Indian Constitution for the right to food.
  • Until the enactment of the NFSA,  the fundamental right to life under Article 21 was interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities.  

Obligations under NFSA

The NFSA states in detail the obligations of the Central government, the state government, and the local authorities. 

1. Obligations of the Central Government: 

  • The Central Government shall allocate the required food grains from the central pool to the State Governments under the TPDS.
  • The Government would have to allocate the resources keeping in mind the number of persons in the eligible households.
  • The Central Government would also provide for the transportation of food grains as per the allocation to the State Governments.
  • Assist the State Governments in meeting the expenditures incurred by the State Government towards intra-state movement, handling of the food grains, and the FPS margins.
  • Create and maintain storage facilities at various levels.

2. Obligations of the State Governments:

  • The State Government shall be responsible for the implementation and monitoring of the various schemes.
  • Organize intra-state allocations to deliver the allocated food grains to the beneficiaries.
  • Determine the eligible households and the beneficiaries and ensure that they can avail themselves of the benefits of the schemes.
  • Create and maintain scientific storage facilities at the district and block levels to store the allocated food grains.
  • Establish institutionalized licensing arrangements for the FPS under the  Public Distribution System (Control) Order, 2001. 

3. Obligations of the local authorities:

  • They shall be responsible for the effective implementation of the Act.
  • They may be assigned additional responsibilities by the State Government for the implementation of the TPDS.
  • The local authorities would be responsible for discharging the responsibilities allotted to them by the State Governments. 

Challenges to Food Security

There are a plethora of challenges to battle food security, a few of them are:

  • Climate Change: the increase in the global temperatures and the capricious rainfall makes farming difficult. A change in the temperatures not only impacts the crops but the other species which are reared for food such as fisheries, livestock, etc.
  • Lack of Access: there is a lack of access to remote areas. The tribals and other communities living in remote areas do not get the opportunity to avail of the benefits of the schemes implemented for food security due to lack of access.
  • Over-population: A substantial increase in the population when not accompanied by an increase in agricultural production results in a shortage of food.
  • Non-food crops: crops grown for commercial purposes such as biofuels and dyes have reduced the area under cultivation for crops.
  • Migration from Rural-Urban cities: This causes a problem as it leads to a lot of confusion as to which PDS shop to buy the subsidies from.

NFSA Criticisms

The effective implementation of the NFSA remains with the states/UTs and as governance differs from state to state, the effectiveness of the implementation would also differ in each state.

  • Lack of Transparency: According to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit conducted in 2016, the wrong people were benefiting from the NFSA.
  • It accuses many states of implementing the NFSA despite owning the information that their beneficiaries list is spurious. 
  • Leakages in PDS: a leakage indicates that the food grains do not reach the intended beneficiaries. The leakages may be of three types:
    • pilferage during transportation of food grains
    • diversion at fair price shops to non-beneficiaries
    • exclusion of entitled beneficiaries from the list.
  • Storage: According to the CAG audit, the available storage space was inadequate for the allocated quantity of food grains.
  • Quality of food grains: people often complain that the quality of the food grains is not up to the mark and that the grains sometimes have to be mixed with other grains to be edible. Complaints stating that the grains also consist of non-food particles such as pebbles have also been registered.

A critical point in the debate over NFSA is that it doesn’t guarantee a universal right to food.

Ways to increase the effectiveness of NFSA

The Government should provide strategies for better food storage, and adopt an integrated policy framework to facilitate agriculture productivity.

  1. The usage of Information Technology throughout the process from acquisition of the food grains to distribution will aid in enhancing the effectiveness of the process.
    • For example, in January 2021, the DigiLocker facility has been advocated for adoption in the PDS. This is to help make e-ration cards accessible for the beneficiaries anytime from anywhere under the One National One Ration Card Scheme.
  2. Information regarding the entire process from the quality of food grains to the storage facilities where the grains were stored, should be available to the beneficiaries.
  3. A one ration card system (for more on this, check PIB dated Aug 9, 2019) would be effective in eliminating the confusion, especially for the migrants, as this would provide the beneficiaries with the freedom to choose from the PDS shop of their choice.
  4. Expand the coverage of Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS) to all the states.

National Food Security Act, 2013 – Indian Polity:- Download PDF Here

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