The Union government has informed the Supreme Court that the per capita income of the Indian population has increased in real terms by 33.4% in the 8 years after the enactment of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

 

Background

  • This response comes in response to a SC order for a comprehensive survey of migrant labourers who faced great hardship and job loss during the first lockdown in 2020.
  • The SC had asked the government to undertake a comprehensive exercise to re-determine the total number of beneficiaries in rural and urban areas.
    • To this the government replied that the Census 2021 and publishing final data of the census will take time.
    • Also, the new National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) survey has been started in July 2022 and the field work will be completed by June 2023.

 

Response of the government

  • Under the NFSA, around 4.7 crore ration cards, equivalent to approximately 18-19 crore individuals, have been introduced in the last eight years (2013-2021).
  • As of August 31, the overall national ceiling under the NFSA is 81.4 crore, while actual national coverage is about 8 crore.
    • Under the NFSA ceiling, there is still room for an extra 1.6 crore beneficiaries in the AAY and PHH categories.
  • The rise in per capita income is likely to have moved a substantial number of households into a higher income bracket, and they may no longer be as vulnerable as they were in 2013-14.
  • Due to this, the top limit of 75% for rural and 50% for urban populations classified vulnerable in 2013-14 would have been significantly reduced.
  • The inclusion of non-eligible households in the NFSA raises the Union government’s subsidy burden.

 

About the ‘National Food Security Act, 2013’

  • The NFSA, 2013 was notified to provide for food and nutritional security, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • Salient features —
    • It provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive food grains at subsidised price/central issue prices under the under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
    • The percentage of population covered under TPDS in rural and urban areas shall be calculated on the basis of Census of India.
    • State governments are tasked with identifying Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY – poorest of the poor) and priority households (PHH) beneficiaries within the TPDS-covered population.
    • Every person in the PHH category receives 5 kg of food grains per month at – rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Re 1/kg. Each AAY household gets Rs 35 kg of food grains per month.
    • The Act covers up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidised food grains (overall 67% of the total population).
    • Special focus on the nutritional support to women and children —
      • Women — It provides meals to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth.
        • Such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefits of not less than 6,000.
      • Children — Up to 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.
    • Food security allowance — In case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
    • Grievance redressal mechanism — The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms at the District and State levels.