National Food Security Act 2013 – How well is it being implemented?

December 3, 2016

‘Laws favouring the poor are show pieces not meant to be implemented’ National Report on Implementation of ‘National Food Security Act’ (NFSA), 2013
 By Stan Swamy

Lok Manch (People’s Forum) is envisioned as a movement of and by the dalits, adivasis, women, minorities, urban poor and other marginalized communities.

About 100 organizations from 12 states have formed ‘Lok Manch’ together with like minded partners, to strengthen the dignity and expand the rights of the priority communities, by capacitating them to become informed citizens, using access to entitlements as a tool.

A massive baseline survey was initiated under the auspice of Indian Social Institutes New Delhi and Bangalore to bring out a status report on various entitlements. From June to August 2016, 96 local organisations were involved in collecting household data and village data pertaining to household and community entitlements in approximately 1840 villages across 12 states: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

This report brings out the realities of various marginalised communities with special focus on Scheduled Castes (SC / Dalits), Scheduled Tribes (ST / Adivasis) and Other Backward Classes (OBC), carried out in 113 blocks / taluks in 46 districts.

Of the total 2,68,087 responses to social category / caste, 71,467 (26.7%) households belong to Scheduled Caste (SC/dalit); 44.3 % are Scheduled Tribes (ST); 20.6 % belong to the Most Backward Classes (MBC) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) and about 8.4 % belong to the General Castes.

Identity cards:

It is seen that of the 268,087 responses to caste, 62% do not possess a caste or tribal certificate. Number of households in possession of a caste / tribal certificate is low in Darjeeling (West Bengal), Gujarat and Bihar.

In many instances, no permanent certification is provided by the government. People are asked to apply for caste / tribal certificates as needed. Many expressed that they go through procedural harassments and at times, abandon the effort to get certificates, out of frustration. In the absence of a caste / tribal certificate, there is a high clikelihood of households being deprived of basic entitlements.

Aadhaar Cards:

From the sample households, 30 % of family members do not possess Aadhaar card. Whereas 47% in Bihar do not have it, a state like Kerala has only 10% who do not have it. Gaps and variations in programme implementation are huge across states.

While initiating issuance of new ration cards under NFSA, the families were told, to first get an Aadhaar card and then apply for a ration card. In many cases, new ration cards under NFSA were not issued as the head of the households did not possess an Aadhaar card. To deny food entitlements to the poor on the basis of an identity card, despite having a ration card under the old system, is unjustifiable. Right to food of the poor is being denied on a technicality.
Voter ID:

About 10 % of eligible voters still do not have a Voter ID. Households in rural areas are more deprived of issuance of Aadhaar cards and Voter IDs than those living in small towns and urban areas.

Pension:

Nearly 54 % of the elderly and 44 % of widows are deprived of pension benefits. Thus care of some of the most vulnerable in society, like the aged and widows, still remains a distant dream.

It is sad to note that the so-called developed states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu deprive more than 70% of their elderly citizens from old-age pension. In Chhattisgarh and Bengal, elderly persons not accessing Old Age pension is also very high. The worst sufferers are from the dalit and adivasi communities.
Maternity financial assistance to pregnant and lactating mothers:

The law says a sum of Rs.6000 should be handed over to every pregnant woman to take care of herself and her baby with sufficient nutrient food.

At the all-India level, a shocking 66% of the poor are not receiving this much needed help from the govt. Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bengal where Adivasis and Dalits form a significant section of the population are denying this benefit to over 70% of the the poorest of the poor. On the other hand, states like Kerala, Tamilnadu, Delhi where the general population is more aware of their rights are the best performing states.

Care of children:

NFSA provides one free meal for children aged 6 months to 5 years through Anganwadis and one free meal for school going children through the Midday Meal (MDM) scheme. Nearly 40 % of children below 5 years and 25% of school going students are deprived of the single free meal.

Anganwadis do not seem to function in Chhattisgarh where 76% of children are do not receive this single free meal. Anganwadis require more attention. Deprivation of food in early childhood has deep implications on later life. It is also observed that a large number of students studying in private schools are deprived of MDM.
Possession of Ration Cards:

It is shocking to note that of the 255,495 sample households about 20 % do not possess ration cards either new or old. Across states, more than 35 % households of Jharkhand and Maharashtra where tribal households are very high do not have ration cards.

As per Planning Commission’s report in 2013, one fourth (26%) of the population in rural areas, 14% in urban areas and 30% for the country as a whole live in abject poverty. They are basically unemployed or under-employed and therefore with no steady income.

Hence they are dependent on the govt to keep going. Sadly the govt is leaving one-fifth of its rural population hungry and starving.

Drinking water and Toilet facility at home:

Drinking water facility is available in 44% of households and toilet facility is available only in 26% of households. It is difficult to understand as to why both more developed as well as less developed states (Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamilnadu, Bengal) where more than 70% of rural households do not have toilet facility at home.

Nearly in 80 per cent of villages drainage system and public toilet facility is not available, which is the main cause of the spread of preventable diseases. In the absence of toilets at home and no public toilet facility many households still continue with the age-old shameful practice of open defecation.

To conclude . . .

Laws are show pieces not meant to be implemented. Three years have passed since the NSFA became a law but only about one-fourth of its assurances has been met. It is not that govt cannot carry out its assurances.

It is rather the govt has decided not to fulfill its promises made to the people of our country. The truth of the matter is it is important for the capitalist ruling class to keep the masses at the receiving end. ‘Keep the people hungry but don’t let them starve’ because if they starve they will revolt against the system.

So the laws favouring the poor are show pieces not meant to be implemented.

[above is a popular version of the all-India survey on the implementation of NFSA-2013 titled ‘Lok Manch: Development and access to entitlements of the marginalized – National Report Card’ prepared by Dr. Joseph Xavier]