Budget gives BJP Manifesto Commitment of ‘Universal Food Security’ A Miss, Right to Food Campaign demands expansion and implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013, Government violates the law by postponement not as per Section 42.
New Delhi (Press Note): The Right to Food Campaign is flummoxed with the resounding silence of the Finance Minister on the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, in his Budget Speech for 2014-2015 presented in the Lok Sabha on 10th July, 2014.
This is in sharp contrast to the BJP’s pre-election manifesto, which clearly committed, “BJP has always held that ‘universal food security’ is integral to national security. BJP will take steps to ensure that the benefits of the scheme reach the common man and that the right to food does not remain an act on paper or a political rhetoric.”
But in the last six weeks, the NDA Government has not shown any sense of urgency to implement the National Food Security Act, 2013, passed unanimously by the Parliament. The budget makes an allocation of Rs. 1,15,000 crores for food subsidy, which although higher than the food subsidy of last year, is nowhere close to what is required to implement the NFSA across the entire country. The previous government had estimated that Rs. 1,32,000 is required for the food subsidy component of the NFSA.
Extending the Deadline of implementation of the law through a letter is violation of section 42 of the NFSA.
On the other hand, it has arbitrarily extended the deadline and given states three to six months to implement the public distribution system (PDS) entitlements without any mention of food security allowance as mandatory compensation provisioned in the law.
This postponement is in absolute violation of the law, as it is not as per notification in the Official Gazette and in each House of Parliament as stated in section 42. While technically, the selection of eligible householdswhich the law mandates in Section 10 needs to be completed by 5th July 2014, has been postponed, but in actuality, the implementation of the entire law that has been challenged by mere postponement through a letter.
The Right to Food Campaign may take legal recourse to address this violation.
Apart from subsidised foodgrain under the public distribution system, the Act also for a daily nutritious meal for every child (at the local school or anganwadi) and maternity entitlements. But the later have not even taken off. Only Rs. 400 crores is allocated for the maternity entitlement scheme, the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), which is only slightly higher than last year. While IGMSY has until now been a pilot in only 52 districts across the country, under the NFSA all pregnant and lactating women (except for those in government employment) are eligible to get a maternity benefit of at least Rs. 6000. The budget required for this expansion is estimated to be aroundRs. 15,000 crores.
Maternity entitlements: There has been no allocation with regard to this dimension of the NFSA, 2013. The law had recognised women’s reproductive labour in the unorganised sector. More than ninety percent of women in India are in the unorganised sector. They get neither paid leave nor wage compensation during pregnancy and childbirth. On the other hand, exclusive breastfeeding for six months (requiring close proximity between mother and child all day) is proven to be an important intervention for reducing infant mortality and malnutrition. This has been ignored in the 2014-15 budget.
FM bats for the failed system of Targeting, contrary to what PM Narendra Modi told Ex-PM Manmohan Singh when he was CM
The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s cryptic budget speech, “I also propose to overhaul the subsidy regime, including food and petroleum subsidies, and make it more targeted...” is also particularly disconcerting. On the other hand, the BJP manifesto clearly commits to a ‘universal’ approach without targets to ensure food security for every Indian.
Infact, last August, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi had even written a much-publicized letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “I am… pained to note that the Food Security Ordinance does not assure an individual of having two meals a day….”
11 months ago, on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley had rightly probed, “are we substantially expanding the right over what existed prior to this Bill being brought in? Are we substantially increasing the outlay? The answer is ‘no’…” Now, as the Finance Minister, in his maiden budget speech without substantially increasing India’s Food Bill – hasn’t he eaten his own words?
Last year, to support the push to expand the Act, BJP leader Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi even moved an amendment in the Lok Sabha to ensure that, “every person… shall be entitled to 10 kg of food grains, two and a half kg of pulses and nine hundred grams of cooking oil per person per month.”
Though this amendment was not passed, it contains three progressive elements:
i) universal eligibility for subsidised food grains for every Indian;
ii) increase in the guarantee from the present 5 kilos to 10 kilos of food grain
iii) inclusion of pulses and cooking oil into the public distribution system
The Right to Food Campaign welcomed this commitment of the BJP towards ‘universal food security’ and expansion of the Food Act. In this context, the 2014 Budget is particularly disappointing.
Despite Food inflation budgets for MDMS and ICDS remains the same
With food inflation reaching double digits, it’s also unjustified how the per child per day allocations for supplementary nutrition and school mid-day meals, legal entitlements under the NFSA for which the government has yet to notify rules, do not see any increase. Across social sector schemes, it seems that there has been no increase in allocation. Agriculture allocations (all three departments), for example, also remain almost stagnant for 2014-15 at Rs 27898 crore. Schemes and initiatives for the most marginalised and vulnerable were not even mentioned in the budget speech. While the social security pensions for the aged, widows and disabled remain at the same level, there is no mention of urgently required new initiatives such as a community kitchen scheme or shelters for the homeless in urban areas. The NREGA budget has actually gone down in real terms.
Further, the total revenues forgone at Rs 572929 crore are almost a third (36 percent) of the revised estimate of the 2013-2014 budget.
Pushing Cash Transfers through the Back Door
The only big-ticket PDS reform that the Finance Minister has announced is the restructuring of the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The Economic Survey 2013-4 spells out this strategy as, “With the FCI suffering from diseconomies of scale, adoption of the DCP (Direct Cash Programme) needs to be expanded to all states…A shift to a direct cash transfer system or food stampswould anchor our food policy to the requirements of the people and would additionally reduce the fiscal deficit.” The Right to Food Campaign strongly condemns this backdoor entry of cash transfers to replace the public distribution system.
We demand that the government make amends by taking steps to immediately expand and implement the National Food Security Act – in letter and spirit. We ask the Modi government to overcome the double speak – and honour its election pledge for – ‘universal food security’.
We also demand that the NSFA is amended to introduce more measures for food and social security for vulnerable groups, including pensions for the aged, single women and disabled people; portable rights for migrants; and community kitchens learning from successful models in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh.
Issued on 10th July by the Right to Food Campaign
For further details contact: Kavita (09351562965), Dipa (9650434777), Swati (09818841525)
—- Sec 42 of the Act says that (1) If any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central Government may, by order, published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty: Provided that no order shall be made under this section after the expiry of two years from the date of commencement of this Act. (2) Every order made under this section shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament. Section 10 (1) (b) “…Provided that the State Government may, as soon as possible, but within such period not exceeding three hundred and sixty-five days, after the commencement of the Act, identify the eligible households in accordance with the guidelines framed under this sub-section: Read with section 1 proviso (3) says that ” Save as otherwise provided, it shall be deemed to have come into force on the 5th day of July, 2013.”