In a country as diverse as India, ensuring access to affordable and nutritious food for all citizens is a top priority. The Government of India has implemented several initiatives to address food security and provide subsidized or affordable food items for low-income individuals and households. These initiatives aim to alleviate poverty, reduce hunger, and improve the overall well-being of vulnerable populations. In this blog, we will explore some notable initiatives undertaken by the Indian government to make food more accessible and affordable for those in need.
Public Distribution System (PDS)
The Public Distribution System (PDS) “Sarkari Rashan Card” is a cornerstone of the government's efforts to provide subsidized food grains to low-income households. Through a network of fair-price shops, essential commodities such as rice, wheat, and sugar are distributed at significantly lower prices. The government procures these commodities from farmers and ensures their availability to eligible individuals and households through PDS.
The National Food Security Act 2013, also known as Right to Food Act, is an Indian Act of Parliament that aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of the country's 1.2 billion people. It was enacted by the Government of India on July 5, 2013, and signed into law on September 12, 20131. The objective of the Act is to provide subsidized food grains to two-thirds of the Indian population. The enactment of the NFSA marked the Indian government’s approach to food security from welfare to fundamental rights.
National Food Security Act (NFSA)
The National Food Security Act, implemented in 2013, is a landmark legislation that aims to provide food security to a large section of the population. Under the NFSA, eligible beneficiaries are entitled to receive subsidized food grains through the PDS. The act ensures that priority households receive 5 kilograms of food grains per person per month, while Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households receive 35 kilograms per family per month at highly subsidized rates.
Mid-Day Meal Scheme
The Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a vital initiative that focuses on providing nutritious meals to school children. The government provides free meals to students in government and government-aided schools across the country. This program not only encourages school enrollment and attendance but also addresses the nutritional needs of children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)
During periods of extraordinary circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the government launched the PMGKAY to provide additional support to vulnerable populations. Under this scheme, eligible beneficiaries receive free food grains in addition to their regular entitlements through the PDS. The PMGKAY aims to safeguard food security during crises and ensure that no one goes hungry during challenging times.
The Annapurna Scheme targets destitute senior citizens who are eligible for National Old Age Pension but are not covered under the NFSA. Under this initiative, eligible beneficiaries receive 10 kilograms of free food grains per month, including rice, wheat, and coarse grains. The Annapurna Scheme aims to provide nutritional support to the elderly who are often the most vulnerable to food insecurity.
The Government of India's initiatives on subsidized or affordable food items are commendable efforts to address food insecurity and uplift the lives of low-income individuals and households. Through the Public Distribution System, the National Food Security Act, the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the PMGKAY, and the Annapurna Scheme, the government is striving to ensure that no one goes hungry and that basic nutritional needs are met for all citizens.
However, challenges persist, including efficient implementation, accurate targeting, and tackling issues such as leakages and corruption. It is crucial for the government to continually monitor and evaluate these initiatives, making necessary improvements to ensure maximum benefit reaches the intended beneficiaries.
By prioritizing food security and implementing sustainable strategies, the Government of India is taking significant steps towards eradicating hunger and building a healthier, more inclusive nation. Collaborative efforts between the government, civil society organizations, and communities will play a vital role in achieving this vision of an India where every citizen has access to affordable and nutritious food.