Bihar : Food Security

Bihar : Food Security

Food security can be described as a phenomenon relating to individuals and can be defined by nutritional status of the individual household member that is the ultimate focus, and the risk of that adequate status not being achieved or becoming undermined.

Food Security can defined as

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Household food security is the application of this concept to the family level, with individuals within households as the focus of concern.

Food insecurity exists when people do not have adequate physical, social or economic access to food as defined above.

Food security includes at a minimum:

  • the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food and
  • an assured ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways.Bihar : Food Security

Food security is not guaranteed merely by adequate food grain production or even by food availability. It is more fundamentally linked to effective access to food, both physically and economically. Broadly speaking, livelihood security and livelihood access are important determinants of food access. According to observation made by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and World Food Progamme 2001, “If people have access to livelihood, they would in general have access to food and nutrition.

Food Security atlas on Bihar

Food security Atlas was prepared to look in to the matter of food insecurity in the country. The IHD and the UNWFP have collaborated to produce Rural Food Security Atlases on eight Indian states so far. The report, prepared by the Institute for Human Development (IHD) in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Food Programme (UNWFP), provides a comprehensive food security information system for the state while pin-pointing the most vulnerable districts that are in dire need of targeted intervention.

They have prepared  Atlas on Bihar and results show that the north eastern Bihar lacks food security. As many as 12 districts in North-Eastern Bihar have been identified as major “hotspots” in food security in the state, according to the Food Security Atlas on Rural Bihar.

The atlas indicates the unevenness of food security spread across Bihar, with 13 districts which include Araria, Purnia, Katihar, Banka, Lakhisarai and Darbhanga ranked as “severely insecure” while Kishanganj and Jamui are ranked as “extremely insecure” on a food availability scale of 0-1.

Twelve of these districts have been grouped as Special Category Districts (SCD), requiring immediate government intervention.

According to the study, Bihar’s poor female literacy rate – which stands at a low 33.64% (as against the All-India level of 54.2%) – was the most significant factor in aggravating Food Insecurity and Child Mortality in the rural regions. It showed the districts that were in dire need of urgent intervention.

Food insecurity along with inaccessible  primary health centers (PHCs) care and safe drinking water augur the situation. However, these two variables also bear quite a strong correlation with the food security index as well and the problem is very gruesome. According to the report, the state fared poorly in terms of critical health infrastructure with the ratio of number of doctors per lakh population standing at a mere 32.7 as against an All-India figure of 60.

According to the report, the percentage of BPL households covered by the Public Distribution System in Bihar is less than one-third of the all-India level.

Suggestions given by the report

It also provides various solutions to overcome the problems of food insecurity and others.The atlas makes three specific suggestions to overcome the problems ailing the functioning of the state’s PDS which include increasing the number of State Food Corporation godowns and increasing awareness among the public about the new “food coupon system.” There is also the problem of deserving people not figuring in the BPL list at all. For them, it will be of no account whether a system of cash transfers or a PDS is in place.

National Food Security Act , 2013 (NFSA)

Government has passed the National Food Security Act, 2013  with the objective to provide for food and nutritional security in human by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity. The Act provides for coverage of up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized food grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population. The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of food grains per person per month at subsidized prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains. The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of food grains per household per month.

The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.

Children up to 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.

In case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.

The Act also has provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability.

Status of Food Security Act in the State

Food Security Act in the state covers 84% (6.90 crore) of the rural below poverty line (BPL) people and 74% (70 lakh) of the urban BPL population. In an important development, it is estimated that  40 lakh BPL families, which were left out in a survey that determines eligibility for food security scheme, will be entitled to subsidized food grains.

Biggest beneficiary

Bihar has been the biggest beneficiary of the act. As it will cover huge population of the state. There will be  around 25 lakh households which fall under the Antyodaya scheme  and will continue to get 35 kgs of food grain per month at the rate of Rs. 2 and Rs. 3 per kg for wheat and rice respectively.

Grievance

According to the act , there should be a proper grievance redressal mechanism. A grievance redressal system has been set up at the district and State level, according to which complaints regarding non-availability of food grain should reach the district official within 30 days and should be resolved in 15 days. There is also a toll free number for a citizen grievance cell.

Door delivery

To improve the public distribution system, the State government has invested Rs. 388 crore to implement a door-step-delivery process, under which the stock of grain will reach PDS shops. Vehicles transporting the grain from the godowns to PDS dealers will be monitored using the Global Positioning System and SMSs.

Ensure Transparency

A web portal of Bihar state food corporation was also launched to ensure transparency through GPS tracking and monitoring of vehicles carrying food grains from godowns to PDS dealers. It would also help update stock position and lifting, besides providing a variety of other related information.

The Food Security Act which is termed as a ‘game changer’ by the UPA-II Government,  the State Governments need to draw their own parameters to identify the beneficiaries. The Act, which made food a legal right, got Presidential assent in September 2013, and gave one year to the States for its implementation.

Biggest challenge of the country is to feed over 1.25 billion people. Despite economic growth and self-sufficiency in food grains production, high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition persist in India . The National Food Security Act (NFSA) passed in 2013 is a milestone in the history of India’s fight against hunger and malnutrition, as it claims to feed more than 800 million Indians with highly subsidized food grains. There is economy wide impact of NFSA on the Indian economy. It estimates  the labor requirement, GDP growth, and indirect impact on the other sector of the economy.

 

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