‘The day is
not far off when India will be known the world over for this important step
towards eradication of hunger, malnutrition and resultant poverty,’ asserted
Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Professor KV Thomas with regard
to the National Food Security Bill. Expressing hope that the National Food
Security bill would be passed by parliament in the second half of the budget session,
Thomas said that it would revolutionize the food distribution system in the
country.

The minister was addressing the special
session on ‘India’s food security and the second green revolution’ at CII’s
annual general meeting and national conference in New Delhi. He made it clear
that the ‘responsibility is not just of the central government but equally of
the states/UTs.’ He said, ‘I am sure together we can fulfil this dream. By
providing food security to 75 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the
urban population with focus on nutritional needs of children, pregnant and
lactating women, the National Food Security Bill will revolutionize food
distribution system.’

‘It will lead to massive PDS reforms
including doorstep delivery of food grains, end-to-end computerisation,
leveraging aadhaar, etc. PDS will become more transparent and subject to
grievance redressal at appropriate levels with provisions for penalties and
compensation,’ Thomas added.

As per National Food Security Bill 2013
(revised version, as tabled in Parliament on 22 March 2013), priority households
are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, and Antyodaya (‘poorest
of poor’) households to 35 kg per household per month. The combined coverage of
priority and Antyodaya households (called ‘eligible households’) shall extend ‘up
to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population.’

For children
in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, the bill guarantees an age-appropriate
meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadi. For children aged 6–14
years, one free midday meal shall be provided every day (except on school
holidays) in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided
schools, up to Class VIII. For children below six months, ‘exclusive breastfeeding
shall be promoted.’ Children who suffer from malnutrition will be identified
through the local anganwadi and meals will be provided to them free of charge
through the local anganwadi.

Every
pregnant and lactating mother is entitled to a free meal at the local anganwadi
(during pregnancy and six months after childbirth) as well as maternity
benefits of Rs 6,000, in instalments.