Food Security Bill gets Loksabha Nod

States Foodgrain Entitlements to be Protected Legally ; Definition of Meal Changed to Avoid Package Food ; States to get one year for Implementation of the Bill ; States to be Consulted for Making Rules to Carry out Provisions of Bill ;

The National Food Security Bill, a historic initiative for ensuring food and nutritional security to the people was passed by Loksabha yesterday. According to the amendments approved by the house State Governments™ existing foodgrain entitlements will be protected legally subject to it being restricted to average annual off take during last three years. Earlier it was proposed to be protected by an executive order.

The definitions of the ˜meal™ for mid day meal and ICDS programmes has also been amended. Now ˜meal™ means hot cooked or pre-cooked and heated food and not the packaged food. This amendment has been made to remove the apprehensions of misuse of the earlier provision for supply of packaged food in large quantity.

Another amendment now provides one year to states for implementation of the Food Bill instead of six months.

Removing all apprehensions of the States regarding their say in the implementation of the ambitious Bill, the other amendment says that the Central Government will make rules in consultation with the State Governments to carry out the provisions of Food Security Act.

Total ten amendments have been approved by the Lok Sabha in the National Food Security Bill which was introduced in the house on August 7, 2013 by Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister, Shri K.V.Thomas to replace the National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 promulgated on 5th July, 2013

The Bill proposes to provide wheat and rice at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg to about 81 crore people, while under the existing Targeted Public Distribution System only 2.5 crore Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families or about 32.5 crore persons (assuming 5 as the average household size) are getting foodgrains at these prices. Thus, population getting foodgrains at these highly subsidized prices as their legal right will increase to 67% from existing 27%.

Other features of the Bill are as follows.

Under the Food Security Bill each entitled person will receive 5 kg of food grains per month. The poorest of the poor who have been getting 35 kg of food grains, will continue to get 35 kg food grains per household per month under AAY. The Bill has special focus on nutritional needs of women and children. The Bill proves that the eldest woman of the household above 18 years is considered the head of the household for the purpose of issue of ration cards. Not only that pregnant women and lactating mother will get maternity benefit of Rs. 6000/- and pregnant women and children below 14 years of age will get nutritious meals, with higher nutritional norms for malnourished children. On the issue of redressing grievances that may arise in implementation of such a massive social justice programme, it has been planned to give an increased role for Panchayati Raj institutions and women™s self help group in programme-monitoring and social auditing. There will be provision for internal grievance redressal mechanism including call centres and help lines; and District Grievance Redressal Officers and State Food Commission for expeditious and effective.

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