The National Food Security Act, 2013

The National Food Security Act, 2013 is an Act whose objective is to provide for food and nutritional security by ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices in order to ensure that people live a life of dignity. The Act defines ‘food security’ as the supply of the entitled quantity of food grains and meals specified in Chapter II of the Act.

The Act entitles Priority households and Antyodaya households, collectively known as ‘eligible households’, 5 kgs of food grains per person per month and 35 kgs per household per month, respectively.

The Act makes special provisions for children of different age groups. Children aged between six months and six years of age are to be provided an age-appropriate meal by the local ‘Anganwadi’. School going children (6-14 years) studying in schools run by the local bodies are to be provided with free lunches by the schools everyday except on holidays. Also, every pregnant and lactating mother is entitled to a free meal at the local anganwadi (during pregnancy and six months after child birth) as well as maternity benefits of Rs 6,000, in instalments.

The Act does not specify the criteria for qualifying as an eligible household. Identification of the households is left upto the State Governments subject to the scheme’s guidelines for Antyodaya, and subject to guidelines to be “specified” by the state government for Priority households. The list of eligible households is to be a matter of public record.

The Act provides for the creation of State Food Commissions responsible for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Act. The Commissions also have the power to conduct enquires into alleged violations of the Act. The Commission is also tasked with hearing appeals from orders of the District Grievance Redressal Officer appointed under the Act. The State Food Commission also has the power to impose punishments for violations of the Act.

The Central Government is responsible for procuring food grains and distributing them to the State Governments, who in turn ensure that the food is provided to the eligible households, schools, anganwadis, etc,. Thus, the State Governments are responsible for ensuring that the objectives of the Act are met. They are empowered with wide-ranging rule making powers in order to ensure the same. The Act provides that State Governments must endeavour to reform the Public Distribution Systems in order to ensure that all persons eligible for food grain subsides are provided their entitlements.