Get local bodies to implement food security, suggest experts

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NEW DELHI - There should be more clarity in implementing the Food Security Act and local bodies could be involved in the process, experts said Tuesday while welcoming the recommendations of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on the matter.

The experts termed the NAC’s recommendations as “balanced and more targeted” and said it signalled affirmative action for the poor.

“It is good to know the NAC has decided to address the most marginalized in rural and urban areas, contrary to the earlier stand on universalisation. However, they need to ensure proper governance in food and security programmes so that it actually reaches the marginalised,” said Basanta Kar, director of advocacy at CARE India, which has been in the field of food security programmes for nearly five decades in India.

The NAC at its meeting Oct 23 struck out a balanced set of recommendations to make the Food Security Act “near universal” to cover at least 75 percent of the population. Under the programme, 90 percent of the rural households and 50 percent of the urban households will be covered.

The NAC also decided to set aside the Below Poverty Line (BPL) criteria, suggesting two broad categories - “priority” and “general” - eligible for foodgrain entitlement under the act.

Kar said that the more important question is who will decide this 75 percent population that will get subsidised foodgrain.

“We have been asking the authorities to entrust this task with the local bodies up to the district level, making procurement, storage and distribution completely decentralised,” Kar told IANS.

Terming the proposed parameters of the Food Security Act more balanced than the earlier proposals, N.M. Prusty, convenor of National Food Security Watch, also expressed apprehensions on the implementation part. He also stressed the need for decentralised process so that the food security can be “locally contextual”.

The National Food Security Watch, a broad-based civil society platform for the most marginalised groups in India and South Asian countries, has held five multi-stakeholder consultations at the national and regional levels, attended by experts including the members of the NAC.

The organisation had written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, detailing the outcome of the consultations and listing the desired interventions from her. The leaders of the organisation said many of their recommendations could make it into the final report of the NAC.

Ashok Bharati, chairperson of National Conference of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), said the recommendations looked encouraging as a whole. He, however, said there should be separate and specific treatment for the Scheduled Castes and the SCheduled Tribes in the proposed Act.

The experts, while congratulating the NAC for incorporating the nutritional aspects in the programme, also called for production of minor millets in areas where micro-nutrient deficiency or hidden hunger is high.

Filed under: Economy

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