The National Food Security Ordinance might not exactly be the panacea as it is made out to be. It turns out what UPA managers call a “game-changer” would not provide food security to the most marginalised and deprived sections.
Even though the original draft of the food security bill that was tabled in Parliament had a chapter targeting food deprived sections of people and detailed provisions on ensuring food for them, the Ordinance notified by President Pranab Mukherjee last week, surprisingly, has none.
No more will the food security law ensure that people encountering natural disasters, such as the June 16 flash floods in Uttarakhand, get food support from the government in time. And neither will it be mandatory for the government to provide cooked meals through community kitchens to the people on street.
The draft bill had provisioned for kitchens in urban areas and additional foodgrain for the destitute.
But, the Ordinance, which talks of tackling child malnutrition by giving them an additional take-home ration accounting for 800 calories of energy, is silent on feeding scores of children living on the streets.
Delhi alone accounts for around five lakh homeless children.
“It is disappointing to find that the provisions for the most marginalised people have been knocked off by the government,” said Biraj Patnaik, special adviser in the office of Supreme Court-appointed food commissioners.
“This, despite the provisions being there in the bill presented before Parliament.”
Furthermore, if someone thought that those covered under the public distribution system will get food at new rates of R1-3, they were mistaken.
The law provides for identifying such beneficiaries afresh in six months, or more if needed. “The law could have been immediately implemented if the government had agreed to provide foodgrain at reduced prices to the existing BPL and Antyodaya beneficiaries. Postponing delivery till such time that the identification of poor is conducted could lead to the food security law getting off the ground only post-2014,” Patnaik said.