Print Friendly, PDF & Email

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Expand the food safety net without any more delay


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national and national and international importance(NFSA, PDS, NITI Ayog etc)
  • Mains GS Paper III: Issues related to poverty and hunger, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection of vulnerable sections of society etc



  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, through the Public Distribution System (PDS), provides a crucial safety net for roughly 800 million people.




National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013:


  • Objective:
    • To provide for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach
    • Ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • Coverage: 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • Eligibility:
    • Priority Households to be covered under TPDS, according to guidelines by the State government.
    • Households covered under existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana.


  • 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing AAY household will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • Meal and maternity benefit of not less than 6,000 to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth.
  • Meals for children upto 14 years of age.
  • Food security allowance to beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
  • Setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms at the district and state level.


Issues involved:

  • Exclusion of citizens: COVID-19 lockdown made it apparent that too many were still excluded from the PDS.
    • Exclusion problem is because the NFSA coverage ratios were too low to start with.
  • Between the last Census in 2011 and today: Population increase has not been accounted for in determining the number of ration cards.

How is PDS coverage determined?

  • Section 3(2) of the NFSA 2013: It states that the entitlements of eligible households shall extend up to 75 percent of the rural population and up to 50 percent of the urban population.
  • Section 9 of NFSA: It required that the total number of persons to be covered “shall be calculated on the basis of the population estimates as per the census.

Judicial response to food security:

  • Problems and Miseries of Migrant Laborers case (2020):
    • It directed the government that the benefits under NFSA shouldn’t be restricted as per the census of 2011 and more and more needy persons/citizens get the benefit under the National Food Security Act”.
    • The Court said that the Government could consider “projection of population increase” to resolve this issue.


How did the government respond?

  • On the basis of NITI Aayog’s view: the Government response stated:
    • Prime concerns while fixing the ceiling at the time of enactment of the NFSA was that “as the standard of living of people would improve over a period of time, the coverage may be reduced.


Issue with the government response:

  • Increase in the average does not necessarily imply an increase for everyone: There have been several independent reports warning about the rising economic inequality in India.
  • Government repeatedly attempts to shift the blame to State governments: But States are responsible for identifying people for PDS ration cards only.


Other Steps taken by Government for food security:

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana(which promotes organic farming)
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana(which focuses on more crops per drop for improved water use)
  • Soil Health Management(fosters Integrated Nutrient Management under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKY
  • Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN Scheme)
  • Take-home rations
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
  • Digitisation and measures such as rice fortification, better health, and sanitation.


Steps India need to take:

  • Sustainable support to increasing population: Agri-food systems will need to provide for and sustainably support an increasing population.
  • There is a need to move away from conventional input-intensive agriculture: towards more inclusive, effective, and sustainable agri-food systems that would facilitate better production.


Way Forward

  • Coverage of population increase: Any sensible policy should have an in-built mechanism for updating coverage annually to account for population increase.
  • Section 9 of the NFSA: It requires that coverage be determined on the basis of the “latest census published.
    • Due to Unavailability of latest census: Any change or revision in the number of beneficiaries would necessitate an amendment in the Act”.
  • Several State governments have used their own resources: Includes poor States such as Chhattisgarh and Odisha, to expand coverage beyond the centrally determined quotas.
  • Robust procurement trends and a comfortable food stocks position will make an expansion affordable.
  • Adjusting for population increase: As directed by the Supreme Court, it will increase coverage by roughly 10%.
  • The extension of “double rations: It doubled the central food subsidy, it helped the Government control the storage problem arising from its ballooning buffer stocks.
  • The Supreme Court should be firm: directing the Government to get on with apportioning the additional coverage of roughly 100 million across States, so that the States can start identifying new ration card beneficiaries.



Q. How has the emphasis on certain crops brought about changes in cropping patterns in the recent past? Elaborate the emphasis on millets production and consumption.(UPSC 2018) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)