Ensuring Food Security: The Chhattisgarh Model
While the Congress-led UPA continued to debate the Bill during all the years, the BJP government in Chhattisgarh enacted a law and implemented it so perfectly that it is today a model for the entire country to ensure food to all. The UPA’s Bill covers 67 per cent population and increases possibilities of errors of exclusion and inclusion, but the Chhattisgarh state Act covers 90 per cent of the population and excludes only income tax payers and big land holders. There is another big difference. The UPA’s Bill gives only five kg (of foodgrain) per person for the APL (above poverty line) category, whereas the Chhattisgarh Act gives seven kg per person.
Enacted on December 21, 2012 the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act created history by ensuring that no one would die of starvation in the state. Since the public distribution system in the state has gone on-line, the possibility of leakage is bleak.
According to provisions of the State Bill, the eldest adult woman member of the family is considered to be head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards; this directly helps in the emancipation of women status in backward areas. The grains are delivered to fair price shops, following “door step delivery” and computerised records are maintained. To ensure that the prescribed foodgrains reach their destination without any ‘leakage’ in between, all the trucks carrying the foodgrains are installed with a GPS system, which can locate the trucks position from anywhere.
The distribution is done through “Public Distribution system”, local bodies like Panchayats, Municipality, district board, cantonment board, town planning authority etc, are responsible for the implementation. Preference is given to public institutions and public bodies like Gram Panchayats, self-help groups and cooperatives. Private dealers are prohibited to run the ration shops. More than 2000 ration shops in the state are being run by women.
The Act has ensured a greater transparency of by providing public scrutiny of all the records and audits by Gram Sabha. Going beyond the Centre’s definition of Antyodaya, the Chhattisgarh Government has declared as ‘Antyodaya households’ all families of ‘vulnerable social groups’ including Vanvasi groups, widows or single women, terminally ill persons, physically challenged persons, elderly-headed households with no assured means of subsistence and persons freed from bonded labour.
The most noticeable impact of the state Food Security Act is that there is no hunger death in Chhattisgarh. Also the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) has been dropped from 379 to 269. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has dropped from 79 to 51, with institutional child births rising from 20 to 41. One of the biggest achievements of the Act is that the PDS is functional even in worst Maoist affected areas. The Act also exhibits a fine coordination between various Government Machineries. From the planning phase to the successful implementation phase everything has been done with transparency and efficiency. The scheme is highly successful and has shown positive outcomes in just six months of its enactment. With its primary aim of making subsidised food accessible to everyone it also ensures women empowerment and bringing transparency in the government machinery; the areas in which the UPA has simply failed.
p Meals for pregnant and lactating mothers through Anganwadi
p Meals for children of age 6 months to 6 years through Anganwadi
p Mid-day meal for children of age 6 years to 14 years in school
p Supplementary nutrition for malnourished children
p Foodgrains for all students residing in hostels and Ashrams (a residential school run by government or any government aided institution)
p Meals through Dal-Bhat centres or take home rations through Panchayat for – (i) destitute (ii) homeless people
p Special provisions for emergency or disaster affected people
p Household suffering from hunger and or conditions akin to hunger will be given meals free of charge for a period of six months.
Commendable work in Gujarat
Gujarat has also done commendable work on ensuring food to all. It distributes 35 kg food grains per month to 32 lakh families under Antyodaya Anna Yojana and BPL Yojana. The State Government is providing 13 kg wheat at Rs. 2/- per kg and 3 kg rice at Rs.3/- per kg for last 10 years. The central government has decided 21.20 lakh poor families by considering percentage of poor in 1993-94 and population in the year 2000, out of which 8.09 lakh families are Antyodaya families. Hence it distributes foodgrains by considering 21.20 lakh families, whereas the State Government distributes foodgrains to 32 lakh families. Thus, State Government is doing appreciable distribution work of food grains to additional 11 lakh poor families, despite it gets the same for 21.20 lakh poor families only.
Hunger kills as foodgrains rot
Despite quintals of foodgrains rotting in government godowns, almost half of the country’s children remain hungry. A survey conducted in 112 districts, in nine states, found that at least 42 per cent of children, under the age of five years, are underweight and 59 per cent stunted. Out of these, half are severely stunted and half are severely underweight by the age of two years. Prevalence of malnutrition is significantly higher among children from low-income families and children from Muslim or SC/ST households generally have worse indicators. Birth weight remains an important risk-factor for child malnutrition. It was found that prevalence of underweight children, born with weight below 2.5 kg, was 50% and among children born with weight above 2.5 kg was 34%. The survey was conducted by Nandi Foundation across 112 districts, including 100 focus districts of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh were other surveyed states.
Surveys show MGNREGA, Mid-day Meal failed
Without honestly evaluating the impact of its previous social security schemes like MGNREGA and Mid Day Meal, the UPA-II launched another scheme with the promise to provide food to all. But hard fact is that both, MGNREGA and Mid Day Meal schemes, have failed to achieve their desired objectives. This is the outcome of two different studies conducted for Government of India by different agencies to assess the impact of these schemes.
The first study was conducted on behalf of the Agriculture Ministry by agriculture development and rural transformation wing of Bangalore-based Institute of Social and Economic Change. The study says the scheme failed to provide employment for 100 days which led to the migration of 45 per cent labourers. The study, conducted in 16 states, says majority of the people migrated in Assam where at least one member from two families migrated. The situation in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh is also almost the same. “The prime objective of MGNREGA was to provide employment to rural labourers near their villages only. But our study shows that the scheme failed to achieve its objective. The major drawback of the scheme is that it failed to provide employment for 100 days as promised. It is due to the sluggishness of releasing the funds,” said Dr Pramod Kumar, who headed the study.
The Mid Day Meal scheme too is not on the track. A survey conducted by ‘Accountability Initiative’ on the direction of Ministry of Human Resource Development, in about 150 schools of Jaunpur and Hardoi districts of Uttar Pradesh and Nalanda and Purnia districts of Bihar shows that either foodgrains are not available as per the numbers of the students or meals is not prepared regularly. The survey, conducted at random in 2011-12, also shows that hardly 60 per cent students get meal on a working day. In Hardoi, the school opened for 223 days whereas the meal was served only for 218 days. The gap in Nalanda is far wide. The school opened for 232 days but the meal was served for 163 days. In Purnia, the schools opened for 239 days but the meal as served only for 169 days.