Food Security Bill will Eradicate Hunger, Malnutrition –Prof Thomas
By providing food security to 75% of the rural and 50% 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. This was stated by Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution while addressing the special session on “India’s food security and the second green revolution” at CII’s annual general Meeting & National Conference here today. Expressing hope that the National Food Security Bill will be passed by Parliament in the coming second part of the Budget Session, Prof. Thomas said that 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.
Following is the full text of the Ministers’ address:
. “It gives me immense pleasure to be amongst you here at the Annual General Meeting and National Conference 2013 of the CII at this session to discuss India’s food security and the second green revolution. I thank the Confederation of Indian Industry for giving me this opportunity to address this august gathering. The topic here is “India’s food security and the second green revolution,” or someone has aptly put it “the need for ever-green revolution.” You all will agree that despite significant development, knowledge explosion and information exchange, modern technology, etc. ‘food security’ remains one the greatest challenges of the modern history.
A large part of the debate on Indian agriculture is also concentrated around food security concerns of the people of the country. It is estimated that our country’s population will touch 1.3 billion by 2018. Therefore, while on the one hand, we have to take care of the present food needs of the people, we also have to plan to ensure that the challenges that the population increase poses in terms of food needs over the years is also kept in mind. India’s agriculture history can be traced back to at least 10 thousand years. Now our country occupies the coveted second position in agricultural production in the world. The food grain production which was at 51 million tonnes in 1950-51 touched 245 million tonnes in 2010-11, an increase by five times within a period of six decades. The production of cereals has reached 257 million tonnes in 2011-12, which was an all time high. The full credit for this achievement must go to our farmers, as also leaders who took up the challenge of leading the country and its people to prosperity. A better part of this credit would in all fairness go to Pt. Nehru ji whose brainchild, the Five Year Plans, turned out to be grand success stories that led India from where it was in 40’s to where it is today. If it was ‘The Grow More Food Campaign’ in 40’s, it was the Integrated Production Program in the 50’s encompassing a whole lot of issues such as land reclamation and development, mechanization, electrification, etc. that led to massive agricultural development that the nation witnessed with its culmination in the Green Revolution of the 60’s. Now, we aim at ‘ever-green revolution,’ and it is only a matter of time before we achieve that, too.
I have some interesting statistics on the food front which I would like to share with you. The average annual combined procurement of wheat and rice has increased from 38.22 million tonnes i.e. 24.3% of the average production during 2000-01 to 2006-07 to 56.99 million tonnes during 2007-08 to 2010-11, i.e. 32.28% of production. As on 1.6.2012, stock level in the Central pool was 823.17 lakh tonnes (comprising rice and wheat), while about 382 lakh tonnes of wheat was procured during Rabi Marketing Season 20-12-13, the highest ever, and more than 100 lakh tonnes more than the previous year’s procurement. There was record food procurement and storage accompanied by efficient and wastage free handling. Food grain damage was reduced from 2.5% to 0.07%. Huge additional allocation of food grains for BPL and APL families was done; our well planned export policy ensured better returns for farmers which also assured balanced domestic prices of the produce; and 150 lakh MT modern storage facilities are being planned through the Public Private Partnership mode.
The comfortable position of central stocks of food grains and procurement increases help us deliver more towards the food security of the BPL families. Simultaneously, the figure on export touched a historical 10 million tonnes (7 million tonnes of wheat and 3 million tonnes of rice); this is in addition to export from the Central Pool, where it has been decided to export around 5 million tonnes of wheat.
In order to be able to ensure food security in a sustained manner, it is necessary that momentum in growth in food grains productions is maintained so that it keeps pace with increase in demand due to increase in population. The Government of India is taking necessary steps in that direction and one of the important elements of that strategy is the focus on eastern region of the country where there is good potential to harness ample natural resources. In order to reduce over-exploitation of the natural resources in North West Region and to harness the potential of Eastern Indian Plains for enhancing agricultural production, a programme namely “Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI)” under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) is under implementation. I am sure Secretary, Agriculture, Shri Bahuguna who is present here will be able to throw more light on the programme. The scheme is being implemented in Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The efforts under the scheme have resulted in substantial increase in estimated production of rice in implementing States.
Having attained self-sufficiency in food grains production, it is important that each individual or household has access to food grains/food at affordable prices. For this, Government of India is implementing various schemes in partnership with State Governments and UT Administrations. The Targeted Public Distribution System is one of the core programmes of the Government of India which plays a vital role in ensuring food security of the people. Under the TPDS, subsidized food grains is provided to about 18 crore households under Below Poverty Line (including Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Above Poverty Line categories, through a network of more than 5 lakh fair price shops in the country. Besides, Government is also implementing schemes to specifically address the nutrition related concerns, especially among women and children, through schemes like Integrated Child Development Services, Mid-Day Meals, etc. If the 60’s saw India as an importer of food aid, today, India is poised to commit over 60 million tonnes of home-grown, I repeat, home-grown wheat, rice and nutri-millets to fulfil the legal entitlements under the Food Security Act. You will be happy to know that the The National Food Security Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 16th December, 2011 and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food in January, 2012, was cleared by the Union Cabinet with amendments as suggested the Parliamentary Standing Committee in March, 2013. Now, we are waiting for it to be passed in Parliament in the coming second part of the Budget Session starting on 22nd April, 2013.
For the information of the learned audience here, I would like to briefly touch upon the salient features of the National Food Security Bill, 2013.
• Priority households are entitled to 5 kgs of food grains per per per month, and Antyodaya households to 35 kgs per household per month. The combined coverage shall extend up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population.
• The food to be provided will be age-appropriate, with care on nutritious value of the food offered. The main beneficiaries will be children, pregnant and lactating women of eligible households.
• This massive programme will be transparent and subject to grievance redressal at appropriate levels with provisions for penalties and compensation.
• The Bill also has provisions for PDS reforms including doorstep delivery of food grains, end-to-end computerisation, leveraging “aadhaar”, etc. – in a nutshell, revolutionizing food distribution system as it exists now.
• This is no mean task, a task being accomplished in the second most populated country in the world. All the while, it has been a satisfying journey. The responsibility is not just of the Central Government but equally of the States/UTs. I am sure together we can fulfil this dream. 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.
• I always make it a point to say that after 1947, India never witnessed a famine anywhere in the country. The responsibility of ensuring that the country enjoys food security and that we are prepared for ever-green revolution lies on each one of us. The problem is a very huge and a sensitive one which cannot be left with the agricultural scientists and policy makers alone. I must congratulate the Confederation of Indian Industry for its proactive efforts in analyzing this important issue at its conference here.
• I once again thank you all for giving me this nice opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you on food security and the need for ever-green revolution in the country. As we all know, India being an agricultural country, agriculture must be on the top of our developmental agenda. If we fail in ensuring a vibrant agriculture in our country, all other developments, be they in industry, science and technology, IT, etc. will not help us becoming the world power that we want to become. I am sure, all our collective efforts will ensure that agriculture gets the place it deserves, and with its success, we as a nation will succeed, too. ”