For the many poor people in the country, getting food grains at cheap prices that they can afford will now no longer be a problem. The Government of India is planning to bring out the Food Security Bill which will provide food grains at the prices that they can pay. With this bill over 80 crore people in our country will benefit, which means more than 75% of the people in the rural areas and 50% in the urban will now get food grains at such cheap rates. What is important is that the poor people will now get food grains a matter of right. An important aim of this Bill is to reduce the malnutrition among many poor people, especially the pregnant and feeding mothers and small children up to the age of 6 years of age. Through the Anganwadis and many other schemes of the Government of India, they will now have adequate quantity of food. This also covers the mid day meal programme where children in the age group of 6-14 years get free hot meals every day in their schools.
‘Food security’ means that people get sufficient food grains for all members of the family, at prices which they can afford. With this law, more than 2/3rd people of over 1.2 billion people of our country will get the right to get adequate quantities of food grains at prices which they can pay. This will benefit up to 75% of people in villages and up to 50% people in towns and cities.
Each person of the eligible household will get 5 kg of food grains per month from TPDS shop. They will get wheat at Rs 3 a kg, Rice at Rs 2 a kg and coarse food grains at just Rs.1 per kg.
Eligibility For The Benefits
The State governments and Union territories will identify eligible households. They will frame their own rules or use the Data of the Social Economic and Caste census for this purpose. The total number of beneficiaries in the states will be calculated on the basis of the Population Census of the Central Government.
The State government office will have to display the list of the identified households such that everyone knows about it.
For those beneficiary covered under the Antodaya Anna Yojana, who get 35 kgs of food grains per household irrespective of the number of members in a family, will continue to get their full amount of 35 kg at these highly subsidized rates. Their quota will not be reduced.
In case people do not get their quota of food grains because of non supply at fair price shop the beneficiaries will get Food security Allowance from the concerned State Government. The allowance will be such that your worries will be taken care of. The State Government will decide about these issues.
The Problem Of Malnutrition Among Women
To take care of this problem, the focus is on pregnant women who as you know need to eat nutritious food not only for their own health but also for the health of the child yet to be born. These women will receive meals free of charge during pregnancy and 6 months after the birth of the child through Anganwadis and rural health centers.
There are ASHAs in the village and they can help women get their take home rations from the anganwadis.
Also, under the Bill, they will receive maternity benefit of at least of Rs. 6000. They will get the money in instalments as decided by the State Government.
Under the Sabla programme, adolescent girls in 200 districts are already benefitting. The ‘out-of-school girls’ in the age group of 11 to 14 years and all the girls in the age group of 14 to 18 years are being given extra nutritional support.
Head Of Household
Under this Bill the eldest woman in the family, more than 18 years, will be the head of the household for the purpose of the issue of the ration card. Only in case there is no woman or she is under 18 years, that the eldest male member will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
Provisions For Children
There is need for all children to eat well for their growth; after all they are the future of our country. So every child up to 14 years of age will get food free of charge to meet their nutritional needs. From 6 months to 6 years, meals appropriate to their age will be provided free of charge by Anganwadis.
The scheme is open to all children in rural and urban areas.
Malnutrition Among Children
Special attention will be paid to children who are suffering from malnutrition. All such children between the age of 6 months and 6 years will be entitled for higher nutritional norms. They will be given take home ration which has more nutrition.
Children in the age group between 6-14 years or up to Class VIII will get mid-day meal free of charge every day except on holidays in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools. They are in fact already getting it under the midday meal scheme but now they will get as a matter of right. Under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, they also get free uniforms, books and regular health check-ups.
Fight Against Corruption
It is true that at times the food grains are taken away or diverted by corrupt people. But this problem will also be taken care of by the new bill. The fair-price shop records will now be open for inspection to the public so that nobody is able to divert anything that is meant for the beneficiaries. The local Panchayats will inspect these records regularly. Vigilance committees will also be set up at higher levels.
Complaints And Grievances
One could make the complaints through call centers, help lines or some specific officers with whom one can lodge the complaint. The District Grievance Redressal Officer will look into the complaint and take measures to solve the problem.
The guilty will be penalized. The person can be asked to pay the penalty of up to Rs. 5000.
Improvement In TPDS (Targetted Public Distribution System) Or PDS
With the New Bill, the Government has taken many steps such as computerization of records. Now women can manage these shops. Food grains will be delivered to TDPS Shops. Preference to be given to panchayats and self help groups as well as cooperatives in licensing of fair price shops.
Information About Various Schemes
Information on various schemes of the Central Government is available at the Public Information Campaigns which the Central Government holds in the districts from time to time. Information can also be got from the Panchayat Ghar and the District Collector’s office about the different schemes.