Hon’ble President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee gave his assent to the National Food Security Ordinance on July 5, 2013, two days after the Union Cabinet approved a proposal for promulgating an ordinance on the politically crucial Bill. The much-hyped Bill seeks to legally entitle 67 percent of the country’s total population to subsidised food grains every month. The State Governments, which have been entrusted with the task of identifying the beneficiaries, will also implement the programme under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
The ordinance will entitle a beneficiary to 5 kg of rice or wheat or millet a month at a discounted rate of Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Re. 1, respectively. The 2.43 crore Antyodaya Anna Yojana beneficiaries (the poorest of the-poor) will continue to avail their legal entitlement of 35 kg of food grains per household per month. Seventy-five percent population in rural areas and 50 percent population in urban areas will be covered under the programme. The scheme will take at least six months to be rolled out across the country as the States are yet to be prepared for its implementation. Besides, the Bill provide for maternity benefits of Rs. 6,000 a month. Children in the age group between 6 months and 14 years will get home ration or hot cooked food. The notification says that the eldest woman in a home will be considered the head of the household for issuing ration card.
The current below poverty line (BPL) and above poverty line (APL) categories, as also the ‘priority’ and ‘general’ categories, will be done away with under the new rules. Instead, there will be ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’ criteria.
The implementation of the programme will result in an estimated annual food grain requirement of 612.3 lakh tonnes. The cost of it is budgeted at Rs. 1,24,724 crore for the 2013-14 financial year. Some estimates have shown that to implement the programme in a sustainable manner, it can cost Rs. 2,00,000 crore a year, because a host of other aspects will also have to be factored in. These include investment for stabilising production, creating infrastructure for storage and transportation, and upgrading of the public distribution system. Another significant factor is the expected increase in the minimum support price of food grains.