GS 2: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.

 

 What is the issue?

  • Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan lays down the future roadmap for Food Corporation of India (FCI).
  • B He stated that primacy will be given to ensuring that the functioning of FCI is streamlined and fast paced as per recommendations of the Shanta Kumar Committee.

 BACKGROUND: 

  • The government, in 2014, had constituted a high level committee chaired by Shanta Kumar, who had given several recommendations as how to make the entire food grain management system more efficient.
  • The committee suggested the reorienting of the role of FCI in MSP operations, procurement, storage and distribution of grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • The HLC had wide consultations with various stakeholders in its several meetings in different parts of the country. It also invited comments through advertisements in newspapers and electronic media.
  • HLC would like to gratefully acknowledge that it has benefitted immensely from this consultative process, and many of its recommendations are based on very intensive discussions with stakeholders.
  • Article 47 of the Constitution of India states that it is the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health Per capita food availability.
  • As of 2017, the per capita net availability of food grains is 190.5 grams/ day Per capita calorie intake: according to a OECD Report, the per capita calorie intake in India is 2445kcal (2011-12) – one of the lowest in the world Poverty:
  • 7 and 13.7 percent of the population were poor in rural and urban India, respectively, in 2011-12.
  • Poverty-line: 972 INR (Rs 32 per day) in rural areas and 1407 INR (Rs 47 per day) in urban areas- based on monthly minimum consumption expenditure(food and non-food) per person or per household.
  • According to Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, 2016, nearly 54% of the Indian population is multi-dimensionally poor -indicating extent of deprivation in terms of living standards, health, and education.

DISCUSSION

  • Leakages in PDS: Leakages refer to food grains not reaching intended beneficiaries.  According to 2011 data, leakages in PDS were estimated to be 46.7%.
  • Quality of food grains: A survey conducted in 2011 had noted that people complained about receiving poor quality food grain which had to be mixed with other grains to be edible.

Need for the revamp in Food management in India

  • To stop the leakages in the PDS system: Leakage and diversion of food grains during transportation.
  • Open-ended Procurement: All incoming grains accepted even if buffer stock is filled creating a shortage in the open market. The recent implementation of Nation food security act would only increase the quantum of procurement resulting in higher prices for grains.
  • Identification of poor people- The onus is on the state Government to identify the eligible households in each state. It is still a murky issue.
  • Inaccurate identification of beneficiaries.
  • Illicit Fair Price shops: The shop owners have created a large number of bogus cards or ghost cards(cards for nonexistent people) to sell food grains in the open market.
  • In order to augment the human resources, food security is inevitable in India.
  • Inadequate storage capacity with FCI. Food grains rotting or damaging on the CAP or Cover & Plinth storage.

Measures taken for food security

  • Traditionally, India’s approach to food security was based on the ‘availability’ dimension of food security- looking at only the quantitative aspect
  • The Green revolution which was launched after two consecutive droughts in mid 1960s increased the production of food grains (mostly rice and wheat) by providing farmers an improved technology package consisting of high yielding seed varieties, modern farm inputs and credit, and assurance of a remunerative and fixed price.
  • Since 1980’s there was an increasing acknowledgement that physical and financial access to food had a determining role in achieving food security in the country.
  • In spite of enough food being available in the country people suffered from hunger and starvation because they were physically or financially unable to reach to food.
  • The approach shifted from food production to access to food and from charity to a rights-based approach.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013 Objective: To provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices.
  • National nutrition mission, 2018 aims to acieve nutritional status of children from 0-6 years, Adolosecnt girls , pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • Mid Day meal scheme aims to the food accsibility of students from class 1 to 8

Challenges with food security in India

  • The NSFA does not guarantee universal right to food: Targeted –Restricts the right to food to only 755 of rural and 50% of urban population in India
  • Act would not apply in times of “war, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake”. This a highly problematic clause given that food is becomes utmost necessary during these circumstances
  • The Act focuses primarily on distribution of rice and wheat and fails to address the ‘utilization’ dimension of food security. Given that a major reason for micronutrient deficiency in India is because of a cereal-based diet; the NSFA does not address the issue of malnutrition and nutrional deficiency adequately
  • The Act mentions that Central and State governments should realize certain objectives ‘progressively’- agrarian reforms, public health, sanitation etc. It fails to provide a comprehensive framework which undermines food security efforts.
  • The Act does not address the ‘stability’ dimension of food security- excludes the impact of climate change on Indian agriculture and measures to overcome it.
  • Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution mechanism, food adulterations in distributed food
  • Unmonitored, improper implementation of nutritional programmes
  • Lack of inter sectoral coordination; lack of comprehensive policy
  • Agrarian crisis, especially in rain fed agriculture areas of the country.
  • Environmental issues: degradation of soil, water stress and drought- affecting agricultural produce

Best practices by other country

  • Brazil- Fome Zero (Zero hunger) strategy: Brazil had started the Zero Hunger strategy in 2003
  • Under this strategy various initiatives have been taken: food banks, cash transfer to poor families, national school feeding programme
  • The strategy has helped to achieve significant reductions in child mortality, levels of malnutrition, and poverty since its inception

Important recommendations made by the committee:

  • Reduce the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security Act—from the current 67 per cent to 40 per cent.
  • Allow private players to procure and store food grains.
  • Stop bonuses on minimum support price (MSP) paid by states to farmers, and adopt cash transfer system so that MSP and food subsidy amounts can be directly transferred to the accounts of farmers.
  • FCI should involve itself in full-fledged grains procurement only in those states which are poor in procurement.
  • In the case of those states which are performing well, like Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, the states should do the procurement.
  • Abolishing levy rice: Under levy rice policy, government buys certain percentage of rice (varies from 25 to 75 per cent in states) from the mills compulsorily, which is called levy rice.
  • Mills are allowed to sell only the remainder in the open market.
  • Deregulate fertiliser sector and provide cash fertiliser subsidy of Rs 7,000 per hectare to farmers.
  • Outsource of stocking of grains: The committee calls for setting up of negotiable warehouse receipt (NWR) system.
  • In the new system, farmers can deposit their produce in these registered warehouses and get 80 per cent of the advance from bank against their produce on the basis of MSP.
  • Clear and transparent liquidation policy for buffer stock: FCI should be given greater flexibility in doing business; it should offload surplus stock in open market or export, as per need.
  • FCI needs to be pro-active, mobilizing state and other agencies to provide benefits of MSP and procurement to larger number of farmers, especially small and marginal ones,” the committee had recommended

Loop holes in the report

  • Committee recommends FCI to hire contractual staff, close regional offices and give VRS to employees. Trade union leaders don’t like it.
  • Report says only 6% farmers benefited from MSP procurement regime and nearly 50% of the foodgrains are siphoned off from PDS system (NSSO, 2011).
  • It is true that large numbers of farmers are not benefited from public procurement, but FCI has not opened branches outside selected regions. So, instead of privatizing the operations, FCI should open more offices at sub district level.
  • Committee wants to reduce the coverage of food security act from 67% population to only 40% population. He prescribes that priority households should not be given cheap grains at 1/2/3 rupees.
  • It seems Shanta Kumar has tailored his numbers to pacify the food-subsidy quota requirements under WTO’s agreement on Agriculture (AoA).
  • Report recommends central government not to do “open ended procurement” from such states, above buffer stock limits. This will catalyze distress sells and farmer suicides

Way forward 

  • Adhaar Linked and digitized ration cards: This allows online entry and verification of beneficiary data. It also enables online tracking of monthly entitlements and off-take of foodgrains by beneficiaries.
  • Computerized Fair Price Shops: FPS automated by installing ‘Point of Sale’device to swap the ration card. It authenticates the beneficiaries and records the quantity of subsidized grains given to a family.
  • DBT: Under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, cash is transferred to the beneficiaries’ account in lieu of foodgrains subsidy component. They will be free to buy food grains from anywhere in the market.
  • Use of GPS technology: Use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track the movement of trucks carrying foodgrains from state depots to FPS which can help to prevent diversion.
  • SMS-based monitoring: Allows monitoring by citizens so they can register their mobile numbers and send/receive SMS alerts during dispatch and arrival of TPDS commodities
  • Use of web-based citizen’s portal: Public Grievance Redressal Machineries, such as a toll-free number for call centers to register complaints or suggestions.

# Practice Question

  1. Explain need for reforms in FCI. Analyse these recommendations of Santa kumar committee in this regard. (250 words)
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