We cannot imagine our life without a pinch of food in a day as it is the most essential element for human beings to survive. In an overpopulated country like India, there is more demand for basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter, out of which, food serves as the most important component for a healthy living. The country is home to 25 percent of starving poor people of the world.
Recently, the Central government with the main aim to combat poverty and hunger of its ever increasing population had introduced ‘Food Security Bill’ which is considered as the world’s largest welfare scheme. The bill guarantees highly subsidized food grains to two-thirds of the population. Here are some of the facts worth knowing about this food legislation as listed by rediff.com
Initial Stage of Food Bill
Food Security Bill- the most ambitious project of the UPA government was first drafted by its Chairperson Sonia Gandhi way back in the year 2010. Initially, the bill aimed to supply food to around 75 percent of the country’s population. C Rangarajan, an Indian Economist led a panel which urged the government to reduce entitlements and also to reform the Public Distribution System (PDS).
.A year later, the draft report was circulated by the ministry of food for public opinion. In July 2013, the government approved an ordinance that covers 67 percent of the country’s population.
In this scheme, the government rolled out 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse grain at Rs 3, 2 and 1 per kg respectively to an estimated 800 million people i.e. 75 percent of rural and 50 percent of urban population every month. The rest will be designated as general ones.
Under the welfare scheme Antyodaya Anna Yajna, families below the poverty line (BPL)will be entitled with 35 kg food grains per household every month and general households will get 3 kg. But, the scheme does not provide pulses and edible oils, due to the lack of supply in the country.
Empowering Women and Children
The food bill is not only confined to the general masses but also gives equal importance to women and children . The bill seeks to empower women by entitling meals and maternity benefits of not less than 6000. Besides these benefits, pregnant women and lactating mothers will also receive maternity benefit of at least 6000. Woman should be at least 18 years old to avail ration card. As per prescribed nutritional norms, Children between the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be allowed to take home ration or hot cooked food under ICDS and Mid-Day Meal Schemes.
Food grains required and the cost involved
It is estimated that the total food grains required for this welfare scheme is around 62 million tons a year. This means subsidy bill of over 12.4 million will be required to successfully implement this food bill all over the country.
Procedures involved in choosing the Beneficiaries
Beneficiaries for the bill will be chosen on the basis of the 2011 population census. The states and union territories are allowed to include their own criteria or can employ census data based on social, economic and caste, where the government is meant to identify households within its jurisdictions. But in the original Food Bill, the central government is responsible for identifying it.
Misconception about the bill
Many people have raised the question whether India can afford such an expensive scheme, where the country’s annual food subsidy bill will witness more than double of 1.3 trillion rupees. It is also claimed that this bill will only fill the pockets of those corrupt and inefficient state-owned cheap food ration shopkeepers. It is said that, the food bill is an extensively regarded key method of the union government to entice people to vote for them in the upcoming 2014 election.