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

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Where Are the Cereals?

The 2009 electoral promise of a right to food is likely to remain just that, an electoral promise.

Given that the United Progressive Alliance-I government had enacted the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Right to Information Act and the Forest Rights Act, there was reason to believe its 2009 election manifesto that if re-elected it would pass a National Food Security Act (NFSA). While there have been many proposals about the NFSA at different levels and by different arms of the government, 18 months after the 2009 elections the effort seems to be only to dilute the promise.

The National Advisory Council (NAC) – after it was reconstituted in mid-2010 – took up the right to food proposal and gave serious consideration to drafting a comprehensive Food Security Act, that would cover a universal public distribution system (PDS), and a universal Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme with extensive provisions for children, maternity entitlements, social security pensions, community kitchens, etc. However, the NAC recommendations finalised in October 2010 were a lame version of that initial plan. Non-PDS entitlements were either removed (e g, pensions) or diluted severely. On PDS, the NAC proposal was rather convoluted: it created three categories in the PDS – “general” households (entitled to 20 kg per household at “at most half of the Minimum Support Price”), “priority” households (entitled to 35 kg per household at Rs 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and millets respectively) and excluded households.

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