Suspect Beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act

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    Recently, the Union government has found that 70 lakh beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are suspect.

    Key Points

    • Very recently, a similar exercise has been done and around 70 lakh beneficiaries have been found to be suspected and now that data has been again pushed to respective states to do the ground verification.
    • 4.74 crore ration cards have been deleted or canceled by states between 2013 and 2021. 
      • This would translate to around 19 crore beneficiaries, have been deleted and new beneficiaries have been added in place of those.
    • A state-wise analysis of the data shows that of the 4.74 crore ration cards deleted/canceled:
      • The highest of 1.73 crore was in Uttar Pradesh. 
      • Followed by West Bengal (68.62 lakh deleted/canceled ration cards), 
      • Maharashtra (42.66 lakh), 
      • Karnataka (30.09 lakh) and 
      • Rajasthan (22.66 lakh).
    • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013, 81.35 crore people can be covered across the country. As per Food Ministry data, the current NFSA coverage stands at 79.74 crore.
      • About 1.58 crore people can still be covered under the NFSA.

    Image Courtesy: IE 

    About the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013

    • It was enacted in July, 2013 which gives legal entitlement to 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas) to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
    • Under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), foodgrain is sold at highly subsidized prices of Rs. 1/-, Rs. 2/- and Rs. 3/- per kg for nutri-cereals, wheat and rice respectively.
    • Eligibility 
      • Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories
        • Priority household category is entitled to 5 kg per person per month.
        • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families are entitled to 35 kg per family per month.
    • Coverage
      • Coverage under the Act is based on the population figures of Census, 2011. The Act is now being implemented in all 36 States/UTs and covers about 81.35 crore persons.
      • This overall figure has been divided among the states and Union Territories, based on the NSSO Household Consumer Expenditure Survey 2011-12.
    • The Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution is the nodal ministry for implementing this Act.

    What is a Ration Card?

    • A Ration Card is a document issued under an order or authority of the State Government, as per the Public Distribution System, for the purchase of essential commodities from fair price shops.
    • It depends on the number of members in a family and the financial status of the applicant.

    Challenges to Food Security in India

    • Overpopulation & Poverty: High per cent of people under BPL.
    • Lack of storage facilities: Improper storage facilities for grains & cold storage facilities.
    • Transportation infrastructure: Poor roads and inefficient transport systems & limited reach of Mandies.
    • Food Wastage: India being the 2nd largest vegetable producer, encounter a waste of close to 18% worth INR 44,000 crore ($7 billion) of produce
    • Policy & administration issues: Fragmented approach & improper implementation & lack of monitoring.
    • Climatic Change: Like unreliable rainfall, flash floods, cyclones etc
    • Lack of Awareness: about food security programmes.
    • Shift from cultivation of food crops to cultivation of fruits

    Government’s efforts 

    • The Union Budget 202223) has made a provision Rs 2.06 trillion under food subsidy in 2022-23. 
      • However, the government has to provide additional funds under the food subsidy head following the Union Cabinet decision to extend the free ration scheme – Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) announced in 2020 to deal with COVID19 pandemic, by six months to September-end 2022, at an additional cost of Rs 80,000 crore.
      • Under the extended PM-GKAY each beneficiary will get an additional 5 kg free ration per person per month in addition to his normal quota of food grains under NFSA.
    • Mid-Day Meal Scheme
      • The Mid-day Meal Scheme is a school meal programme in India designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children

    Way Ahead

    • There is a need for a standard framework to measure the efficiency and impact of food security initiatives through NFSA across all states and union territories.
    • Creation of space is an ongoing process and necessary for optimal utilization of resources.
    • There should be a process to monitor and evaluate programmes and address systemic and on the ground challenges. 

    Source: IE