Increasing the coverage under the National Food Security Act

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to increase coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

    More about the news

    • Supreme Court’s direction:
      • The apex court directed the Centre to re-determine coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) so that “more and more needy persons and citizens get the benefit”.
      • Supreme Court also noted that “Right to Food is a fundamental right available under Article 21 of the Constitution”.
      • eShram portal:
        • In the order, the court also directed States which were not able to register unorganised workers, including migrant labourers, in the eShram portal to do so within six weeks.
    • Government’s response:
      • The central government submitted that it has enabled the facility of ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ in all the States/Union Territories covering about 80-crore NFSA beneficiaries.

    Government’s recent efforts to increase coverage under National Food Security Act (NFSA):

    • One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC):
      • It was rolled out by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in 2019.
      • Aim: 
        • To ensure hassle-free delivery of subsidised food grains to all migratory beneficiaries anywhere in the country through nation-wide portability under National Food Security Act (NFSA).
      • About:
        • It empowers all National Food Security Act (NFSA) migrant beneficiaries to access foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice anywhere in the country by using their same/existing ration card with biometric authentication.
        • A card bearing 10 digit number will be issued to the complaint state’s BPL card holders which will be linked to the Aadhar database.
        • Electronic point of sale:
          • Beneficiaries can get their entitled foodgrains from any electronic point of sale (ePoS) enabled FPS in the country through portability.
      • MERA RATION mobile application: 
        • Another dimension under the ONORC plan is the ‘MERA RATION’ mobile application which has been rolled out to take maximum advantage of the ONORC plan.
        • The mobile app is providing a host of useful real time information to the beneficiaries and is available in 13 languages.
    • e-Shram Portal:
      • About: 
        • The portal was launched on August 26, 2021 under the Ministry of Labour & Employment
        • This portal will be a single-point reference to help authorities reach out to and track workers in the informal sector, and offer welfare in times of crisis. 
      • Aim: 
        • with the aim of creating a national database of unorganised workers (NDUW)
      • e-Shram Card: 
        • Workers will be provided with an e-SHRAM card which will have a 12 digit unique number
        • The details of workers will also be shared by the state government and departments.

    Issues:

    • Population figures and census:
      • The coverage under the NFSA is still as per the population figures of 2011 census.
      • The Union, in its affidavit, had stated in court that the Act required coverage to be updated as per the latest published census figures
        • However, the NFSA coverage cannot be determined as the 2021 census has been postponed indefinitely and no date has been notified.
      • Due to the absence of the latest population figures, over 10 crore people were left outside the food security law’s protective umbrella without even ration cards.
    • Under-registration of existing portals:
      • The Union Labour Ministry has developed a National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal and the eShram portal for registration of labourers spread over 400 occupations including in constructions, agriculture, fishing, dairy, self-employed and even ASHA and anganwadi workers. 
      • However, many States have achieved less than 50% registration. 
        • The court noted that Maharashtra has achieved only 36.97% of its workers, Tamil Nadu only 34.84%, Telangana only 34.90%, Gujarat merely 48.40% and Karnataka barely above 36%.

     

    What is Food security?

    • It is access to enough food by all people at all times for an active and healthy life. 
    • Three Dimensions:  
      • Food availability,  
      • Food accessibility &  
      • Food affordability.

    National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013

    • About:
      • It was enacted in July 2013
      • It 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.
    • Ministry:
      • The Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution is the nodal ministry for implementing this Act.
    • 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: 
      • The Act is currently being implemented in all 36 States/UTs and covers about 81.35 crore persons.

    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.

    Source: TH