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

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Evaluation of Household Awareness and Utilisation of Jammu and Kashmir Food Entitlement Scheme

The Jammu and Kashmir Food Entitlement Scheme, launched to cover the scanty food entitlement under the National Food Security Act, has some serious flaws besides having the upper cap on household entitlement. The foodgrains provided under the scheme are sold at higher prices than those provided under the NFSA, which would not be affordable to most households living below the poverty line. Additionally, households are unaware of the implementation of JKFES and many do not purchase foodgrains under the scheme due to higher prices and poor quality.

The author would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their useful and constructive comments on the manuscript’s previous version, which substantially helped improve the paper’s quality.

As per the Census 2011, the total population of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is 1.254 crore, with a decadal growth rate of 23.71%—rural 19.77% and urban 35.66% (Wani and Mir 2019). To address the rising foodgrain demand, the agriculture department, agricultural institutions, and other organisations in J&K must collectively accept the challenge by implementing various interventions/new production techniques. It is a matter of concern that the poverty ratio of J&K increased from 9.4% to 10.4% between 2009 and 2013 (Planning Commission 2014). Also, the multidimensional poverty index report revealed that 12.58% of the population in J&K is multidimensionally poor (NITI Aayog 2023), which indicates that more people are now food insecure and covered under welfare schemes like the public distribution system (PDS) in the state. The department of consumer affairs and public distribution is one of the oldest in J&K and is entrusted with providing food security for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable sections of society. The PDS envisages the management system of the food economy and the distribution of foodgrains at affordable prices. It aims to ensure that food­grains are available to beneficiaries regularly at reasonable rates.

Previously, PDS in J&K provided 35 kilograms (kg) of subsidised foodgrains to each ration cardholder irrespective of the number of members registered on it. However, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was passed by Parliament in 2013 and implemented in J&K on 1 February 2016. It covers around 95% of the population under PDS. Implementing the NFSA (2016) in the state brought tremendous changes in the coverage of the population, prices, and entitlement of foodgrains. The categories of ration cards have also changed. Before the NFSA, there were Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), below the poverty line (BPL), and above the poverty line (APL) ration cards, whereas, at the time of the survey (2019), five types of beneficiaries were in each district (AAY, BPL, priority households [PHH], non-priority household [NPHH], EX1 [exclusion category]). However, in 2023, there are AAY ration cards, PHH ration cards, NPHH ration cards, and EX-ration cards. The eligible beneficiaries under PHH are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person, per month at the highly subsidised price of `3/`2 per kg for rice/wheat, respectively. Also, beneficiaries under the NPHH category are provided 5 kg per person, per month foodgrains at subsidised prices of `15/`13/`12 for rice/atta/wheat, respectively, as against the pre-NFSA entitlement criteria of 35 kg for each eligible ration card. The NFSA entitlement caused outrage across J&K in 2015 and 2016. There were civil protests across the state against the monthly entitlement criteria covered by various newspapers in the country (“In Protest against NFSA, People Set Ablaze Their Ration Cards” [Ramzan 2016]; “Why the Food Security Act Has Kashmir in Rage” [Masood and Ehsan 2016]; “Protests in Kashmir over Food Security Act, Parties Demand Rollback” [Masoodi 2016]; “Food Security Act to Benefit 60% of J&K Population” [Hindu 2015]).

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