New Delhi: Tough road lies ahead for the Food Security bill passed by the Parliament with serious objections raised by the states which will be responsible for implementation of the policy.

Several state governments along with UPA’s key ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) have questioned the Bill on various grounds. According to them, while the credit of the food scheme will be hailed by the UPA government, the repercussions of the shortcomings would have to be swallowed by the state governments.  

The responsibility of the development of an infrastructure for providing food to the poor population has been adhered to the states which will be a huge burden on the state revenue.

The task of ensuring sufficient godowns, proper ration system, prevention of thefts by food mafia and establishing a surveillance system for overlooking the policy have been handed over to the state. However, the Food Security Bill is found to be speechless on the financial assistance required by the states for the purpose.

The troubles for the state governments are far from over as they have to pay food security allowance to the needy in case of delay or their failure to provide them the required foodgrain.

Miffed by the flaws in the bill, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has rubbished the move as an election stunt in the wake of the upcoming assembly elections in five states including UP.

Moreover, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik have conveyed their objections to the Centre.

These Chief Ministers have made serious objections with the government over the procedure to be adopted for the identification of people hailing from Below Poverty line category and the counting of population belonging to financially weak background. The states differ with the Centre on the socio-economic census-2011and do not agree on the number of poor.

The food allowance will be provided to the states on the standards set by the Centre which has added to the woes of the state government. The states are required to improve the existing public distribution system as described in the Food Security Bill and the ration system, non-adherence to which the states will also be liable to punishment by the Centre and may be devoid of the foodgrain allotted under the Food Security Bill.

Salient features of food bill

The National Food Security Bill, 2011 introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday has ambitious provisions to ensure access to adequate quantity of food to India's 1.2 billion people at affordable prices.

Its salient features are:-

1-    Food and nutritional security, in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices.

2-Every person belonging to priority households to receive seven kg of foodgrain every month from the state government under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) at price not exceeding Rs.3 per kg for rice, Rs.2 for wheat and Re.1 for coarse grains.

3- General households to get not less than three kg foodgrain per person per month at subsidised price not exceeding 50 percent of the minimum support price for wheat and coarse grain and not exceed 50 percent of derived minimum support price for rice. 

4- Entitlement at subsidised price to extend up to 75 percent of rural population and up to 50 percent of the urban population with not less than 46 percent of the rural and 28 percent of the urban population being designated as priority households.

5- Every pregnant woman and lactating mother entitled to meal, free of charge, during pregnancy and six months after child birth through the local anganwadis so as to meet the nutritional standards.

6- Children up to age of 14 years entitled to free of charge meal through local anganwadis and one mid-day meal everyday in all government-aided schools.

7- Provide meals through anganwadis to children who suffer malnutrition. Destitute people to get at least one meal everyday. The homeless to get affordable meals at community kitchens.

8- Eligible people to receive food security allowance in case of non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrain or meals within the time and manner prescribed by the Central government.

9- The Central government to prescribe the guidelines for identification of priority, general households and exclusion criteria for the purpose of their entitlement.

10- Identification of priority households and general households by the state government or such other agency as may be decided by the central government.

11- Progressively undertake necessary reforms in the TPDS by the Central and state governments.

12- Eldest woman, not less than 18 years of age, to be treated as head of family for purpose of issuing ration cards.

13- Obligation on the central and state governments to put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism.

14- Food commission to be constituted by every state government.

15- Penalty on any public servant or authority found guilty by the state or national food commission.