Over 110 million households consisting of 530 million beneficiaries are being allocated highly subsidised foodgrains under National Food Security Act (NFSA)- wheat at Rs2 per kg and rice at Rs3 a kg. Now that 25 states and union territories have started implementing the NFSA, the government said it is making all efforts to ensure that remaining states/ UTs also start implementing the scheme at the earliest.
The Government accords highest priority to the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to ensure access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable price to people to live life with dignity. The endeavour of the Government is to transparently and efficiently implement the NFSA to better target the beneficiaries.
The NFSA came into force in July 2013. In the first ten months 11 states/UT had started implementation of NFSA covering about 70 million households. Implementation in some of the states was started without completing all the requisite preparations. Consequently problems were faced. Uttarakhand had to roll back the implementation and Bihar also faced initial problems in distribution.
The government laid emphasis and started reviewing the status of preparations for implementation of NFSA with a focused approach. Since July 2014, the centre has been sorting out problems through regular video conferences with state governments on digitization of data of beneficiaries, online allocation of foodgrains, online grievance redressal system, automation of fair price shops, etc.
As a result, 14 more states have started implementation of NFSA in the last six months and at present, highly subsidised foodgrains under NFSA are being allocated to about 530 million beneficiaries (approx 110 million households).
Under the erstwhile Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), only about 25 million AAY households were entitled to receive wheat and rice at Rs2 and Rs3 per kg, respectively, while households under below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL) categories received foodgrains at higher rates. Compared to this, under the NFSA, 813.4 million persons, or about 166 million households, are entitled for subsidised foodgrains.
The estimated foodgains requirement for implementation of the NFSA Act is about 61.4 million tonnes per annum, compared to annual requirement of about 56 million tonnes under erstwhile TPDS.
The NFSA offers the benefit of highly subsidised prices to a much larger population besides making available larger quantity of foodgrains, compared to erstwhile TPDS.
The Act also focuses on nutritional requirements of pregnant women and children up to 14 years of age by entitling them to receive nutritious meals, free of cost. Nutritional standards of the meals have been prescribed in the Act itself. Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to receive maternity benefit of Rs6,000 per pregnancy.
For successful implementation of the Act, stress is being laid on end-to-end computerisation for which states/UTs are being technically and financially assisted. This is a significant initiative for bringing in transparency in the functioning of the PDS system, a vital feature of NFSA, in order to check leakages and diversion of foodgrains.
The beneficiary data base has been digitised in 33 states/UTs, wherein, information is available right up to beneficiary level and is in the public domain. Online allocation of foodgrains in being done in 17 states/UTs, and the entire foodgrain supply chain has been computerized in 9 states/UTs. All states have set up grievance redressal systems including online facilities and toll free numbers.
Two different modes have been adopted towards better targeting and leakage-free distribution of foodgrains. In the first mode (DBT), food subsidy is being transferred in cash into the bank account of beneficiaries, who then have the choice to buy foodgrains from the open market. This has been started in two UTs of Chandigarh and Puducherry.
The second mode, involves FPS automation, for distribution of foodgrains through a point of sale (PoS) device which authenticates beneficiaries at the time of distribution and also electronically captures the quantum of foodgrains distributed to the family. At present PoS devices are operational in about 59,500 shops. This number is targeted to go up to 1.5 lakh FPS by March 2016 and 5.42 lakh by March 2017.