The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Centre to increase coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) so that “more and more needy persons and citizens get the benefit” under the 2013 law which entitles rural and urban poor to subsidised foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.



  • The coverage under the NFSA is still decided by the population figures of the 2011 census.
  • The SC ordered the Union government to re-determine the NFSA coverage in the States and Union Territories after considering the population increase between 2011 and 2021 so that benefits were not restricted to beneficiaries identified back in 2011.
  • “The right to food is a fundamental right available under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the Supreme Court noted.


Proposal of NITI Aayog

  • In its discussion paper, the NITI Aayog has suggested that the national rural and urban coverage ratio be reduced from the existing 75-50 to 60-40, respectively.
  • If this reduction happens, the number of beneficiaries under the NFSA will drop to 71.62 crore (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).
  • If the national coverage ratio is revised downward, the Central government can save up to Rs 47,229 crore (as estimated by the NITI Aayog paper).


About the ‘National Food Security Act’ of 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.
  • Legal right —
      • It provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive food grains at subsidised price – rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Re 1/kg, under the under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
      • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).
      • 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.