India’s National Advisory Council, headed by the nation’s most powerful politician Ms. Sonia Gandhi, has been forced to dilute its earlier recommendations with severe pressure from the government headed by the Prime Minister, and former World Bank employee, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The NAC has backed off from its several earlier proposals to be included in the “National Food Security Act” (NFSA) bill. The government, aided by the Planning Commission headed by its Vice Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has played a crucial role in liquidating the ambitious earlier recommendations that had been agreed upon.
The NAC has recommended differential legal entitlement of foodgrains for the Indian people, through a reformed Public Distribution System (PDS) for the fiscal year 2011-12. With these recommendations, nearly 800 million people will be covered under the new PDS network. It has been decided to obviate below poverty line (BPL) criteria, instead two broad categories, namely priority and general, will become eligible for availing benefits under NFSA.
According to these recommendations, the people in the priority category will be entitled to receive 35 kg food grains at subsidy price of Rs 1 a kg for millets, Rs 2 a kg for wheat and Rs 3 a kg for rice. The general category will be entitled to receive 20 kg of foodgrains at a price of not exceeding 50 percent of the minimum support price (MSP). The Priority category consists of 46% of rural and 28% of urban poor, whereas general category, who are supposed to be better off than the priority category, consists of 44% of rural and 22% of urban relatively less poor people. (Link)
Clubbing the two categories, 90% rural and 50% urban people will be covered under the news PDS. The new percentage figures of priority category (BPL) and general category (APL - Above Poverty Line) - were obtained from the Tendulkar Committee findings.
Legal entitlements for child and maternal nutrition (including nutrition programmes for pre-school children, pregnant and nursing mothers, maternity benefits and middy meals for schoolchildren), community kitchens, and programmes of feeding destitute and vulnerable groups are contained in the proposals by the NAC. It has also suggested universalizing primary health care, extending nutrition and health support to adolescent girls, strengthening the school health programme, the programme for Vitamin A, iodine and iron supplementation and the national programme for crèches.