- The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) provides for food and nutritional security in the country, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity.
- The Act is in line with Goal Two of the Sustainable Development Goals (which seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security) set by the United Nations General Assembly.
- Schemes such as the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDM), the Public Distribution System (PDS), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) are included under the Act.
- The implementation of the scheme comes under the ambit of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
- The Act legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
- The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains. The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
- About two-thirds of the population, therefore, is covered under the Act to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
- The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to meals and maternity benefits of not less than Rs 6000.
- Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
- The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels
- The eldest women of the household of age 18 years or above will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
- It is operated under the joint responsibility of the Central and the State/Union Territory (UT) Governments.
- The Central Government is responsible for procurement, allocation and transportation of food grains up to the designated depots of the Food Corporation of India.
- States/UTs hold the operational responsibilities for allocation and distribution of food grains.
- The NFSA currently covers 81 crore people which was determined on the basis of the 2011 census, and has not been revised since the law was passed in 2013.
Why in News?
- The Government of India has launched a new scheme – Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) – under which 5 kg of free food grains per month will be provided for the beneficiaries of the NFSA, rather than charging them a subsidised amount of ₹3 a kg of rice, ₹2 a kg of wheat and ₹1 a kg of coarse cereal as is currently done.
- The NFSA covers about 81.35 crore people and the Centre will bear the cost of Rs 2 lakh crore to provide them food security.
How is it different from the existing scheme?
- The name of the new scheme is similar to that of the free foodgrain scheme implemented as part of the Centre’s Covid-19 package announced in 2020 (which was also named PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana). The existing scheme is due to end in December.
- The difference between the two schemes is that under the existing scheme, NFSA beneficiaries were entitled to get free of cost 5 kg foodgrain per person in a month over and above their monthly entitlements.
- However, they were required to pay the subsidised rate of foodgrains (Rs 3 per kg rice, Rs 2 per kg wheat and Rs 1 per kg coarse grains) to purchase the quantity for which they were entitled–35 kg per Antyodaya Anna Yojana Household and 5kg per person to a Priority Household in a month.
- In the new scheme, the government has done away with the subsided prices and is providing foodgrains free of cost. But now the additional quantity, which was available during the Covid pandemic, will not be provided to these beneficiaries. They will receive as much quantity of foodgrains, for which they are entitled under the NFSA.