ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lip Service to Food Security

Lip Service to Food Security

The National Food Security Bill is an absurd text under which nobody will know who is entitled to what.

The Union Ministry of Food’s version of the National Food Security Bill that has been approved by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is a giant step backwards in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. While the National Advisory Council’s (NAC) version of the bill was seriously lacking in some important aspects, the government’s draft bill is a non-serious and reluctant attempt without any honourable intentions. In fact, the objective seems to be to use this bill to further weaken the public distribution system (PDS). If this bill is actually passed by Parliament, it would represent a failure to ensure food security for all.

The biggest problem with both the NAC and EGoM versions of the bill is that the proposed PDS entitlements are based on the faulty below the poverty line (BPL) census. The flaw of a BPL approach that is linked to poverty ratios is now well known. Studies have repeatedly shown that targeting errors in identifying BPL households are high, with most of the poor being left out of the BPL population. What was expected from the bill was a step towards ensuring food security for all in a rights’ framework, but the latest version of the bill has even given up the pretence of providing a “right” to food, by defining “food security” as “supply of entitled quantity of foodgrains and cooked meals”. The bill lays out the targeted approach providing legal sanction to the BPL list.

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