As India continues on its journey to become an economic superpower, we cannot lose sight of the basic amenities that people still live without. While the high rises of smart cities house the story of 21st century India there are still streets, hamlets and families living without two square meals a day. Amartya Sen recently said that India is the only country trying to be a superpower with an uneducated and unhealthy labor force. India’s current literacy rate stands at 74.04% and 38.7% of children are classified as stunted. The respective figures for Uttar Pradesh, one of the most populous states in the country stand at 67.78% and 50.60%. A stunted growth implies that the height is more than two standard deviations less than the norm. Food security is defined by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as existing when “all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious foods to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life.”
The Uttar Pradesh government is fully aware of these figures and has announced that it will be implementing the Food Security Act with a renewed vigour and approach. The food security act aims to provide food at a subsidised rate to approximately two thirds of the population of the country. Within UP, the act hopes to benefit more than 15.21 crore people in the state. Till now, 4.5 crore people were availing subsidised food grains from the Targeted Public Distribution System.
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) was launched by Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav from his official residence by distributing food grains to 15 beneficiaries at a function. This is a step towards providing food security to all. The scheme will be implemented in three phases covering a total of 75 districts. Within the scheme, rice and wheat will be provided at the rate of Rs. 3 and Rs. 2 per kg respectively. As per this act, pregnant and lactating women and children are entitled to free meals. The scheme also covers the Mid-day Meal Scheme, ICDS and PDS. According to reports the scheme stands to benefit 75% of the population.The districts being benefited include Etawah, Mainpuri, Amroha, Agra, Auraiyya, Baghpat, Basti, Bijnore, Bulandshahr, Farukkhabad, Firozabad, Noida, Ghaziabad, Jalaun, Hapur, Jhansi, Kannauj, Kanpur city, Kanpur rural, Lucknow, Mathura, Lalitpur, Meerut, Sant Kabeernagar, Siddhartthanagar, Mahoba, Amirpur, and Chitrakoot. While the first phase of implementation has begun the process will go on till April.
The need for a revival of the Food Security Act is necessary as previous schemes such as the Antayodaya Anna Yojana covered a limited number of people and those living below (BPL) and above (APL) the Poverty line had to pay more for food. Orissa and Assam have also implemented this scheme.
In order for the scheme to achieve its objective it has to be aided with effective administration and infrastructure from the government and participation from the people. Through proper implementation all parties involved stand to gain.