February 21, 2011
National Advisory Council,
Government of India
Sub : NAPM’s response to the note by NAC on the Draft National Food Security Bill
We from NAPM would like to bring to you our following concerns on the proposed National Food Security Bill which has been put forwardby you in the public domain for comments.
National Food Security Bill, is an important legislation and attempts to draw the principles, procedures and framework ensuring nutritional security of its citizens and with that the security of farmers who produce these grains. We believe this legislation is closely linked to the overall development of the country and a contributor to developing a healthy human development index. It is not an act of welfare from the government but a larger part of the social security system in which every citizen must take part. In line with Art 243 and 73rd and 74th Amendment the Gram Sabha and Basti Sabha must be involved in the procurement, distribution and every processes of the legislation. As part of the enbling process the legilsation must ensure conduitions which will provide the conditions for favourable agriculture and with that immediate stopping of diversion of agriculture land for any non-agricultural purposes. A decentralised system of production, procurement, distribution and monitoring has to be put in place. The ills of the PDS system can only be removed by local people’s participation and giving adequate powers of monitoring and planning to the Gram Sabha in rural areas and Basti Sabha in urban areas, and not by introduction of UID or any other technological systems.
Here are further detailed comments on the proposed legilsation :
The bill falls short of addressing the issue of food security.
The bill delinks the issue of food security from food production which will further perpetuate the hunger crisis. We strongly believe that food security can only be ensured through sustainable and viable livelihood security and production process where by producers have complete access and control over their productive resources.
Hence there should be no diversion of agriculture land for non-agricultural purposes and this must be mandatory provision.
Food security has been reduced to food entitlements to various age groups and social groups. Though inclusion of vulnerable categories is a welcome step this compartmentalisation of the issue completely bypasses the causes of hunger and food crisis and at the same time leave people on the mercy of bureaucracy to secure these minimalistic entitlements.
There is no provision of oil, fuel, lentils and sugar and is only talking about cereals and hence fails to address the issue of nutritional security.
The system of targeting and not universalising will have huge exclusion and inclusion errors leaving the real poor out of safety net and marred with corruption and siphoning of food grains continues under the present draft and now has more complicated three categories of excluded, priority and general.
The bill aims to cover only 46 % of rural population and 28 % of urban population as priority group and will pay Rs 3/2/1 for rice/wheat and millet respectively but rest of 44 % of rural and 22 % of urban population are forced to buy at half the MSP. With exclusion and inclusion errors this will leave large number of poor out of food security.
There is no logic for giving 35kg for priority and only 20kg for general category instead of campaign’s demand of 14kg per head plus oil and pulses. The government which is talking about growth in production is denying people food grain by not accepting the demand of universal PDS which will increase agriculture production.
Thought the draft puts down that significant expansion in production and decentralised procurement are needed but legal commitments to do so are not made. Decentralised procurement is essential and hence the term “wherever feasible” should be removed.
The draft does not give legal commitment also on assured and remunerative support price (MSP) for rice and wheat which will hamper production. This is essential for both producers and consumers and will boost production.
There should be explicit provisions against import of food grains. The farmers with guarantee of secured remunerative prices and incentives for food production and ban on turning agriculture land for non- agricultural purposes are capable of meeting production needs of the country.
The role of gram sabha in PDS needs to be made mandatory and not preferential. The community management and control is a safeguard for good PDS.
Maternal and child support
The section is well documented and covers well both mothers and children.
But absence of adolescent girls from this section is serious and is also violation of Supreme Court orders.
Maternity benefit of Rs 1000 for six months is welcome step but most often women loose work during pregnancy and they need food security. Rs 1000/ in this case is not sufficient and hence maternity leave with assurance of minimum wages on line of women workers from government and private firms will also give due rest to women plus ensure the food security.
Protection from starvation
This needs to be strengthened and need to bring central government also under its ambit.
No reduction of entitlements
The limit of guarantee on entitlements is only up to end of 12th five year plan. It is questionable why such limit is put in the bill and there should be no reduction on entitlements.
Also cash value of food and non-food assistance should be pegged to consumer price index and not only to inflation.
The food grain should not be allowed to rot in any case and it should be treated as criminal offense.
This should be part of legal category with clear cut time frame other wise they will remain as wish list.
Systems of enforcement and transparency
Though elaborate provisions have been made for grievance redressal, monitoring and compensation they will remain toothless without power to enforce and financial provisions to ensure their independence.
We do hope members of NAC will take these observations and improve upon the existing draft Bill.
Medha Patkar, Arundhati Dhuru, Sandeep Pandey, Anand Mazgaonkar, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendra Singh Rawat, Simpreet Singh, Mukta Srivastava, Madhuresh Kumar
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