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CHILD Protection & Child Rights » IV. National Mechanisms » Child Related Legislations » Right to Food Legislation and Children

Children are at a higher risk of becoming malnutrition and malnutrition has severe affects on children's development both physical and mental. Hence both the UNCRC and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights outline children's right to food. There are a number of constitutions in the world that safeguard a child's right to food. Such as article 44 of the Columbia constitution states "Children have fundamental rights to: life, integrity, health and social security, adequate food".

The Right to food legislation in India is an innovative new social security scheme being introduced by the UPA Government. A food security act has the potential to change the face of poverty and hunger in India. The National Food Security Bill followed from the National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 that was promulgated by the Government of India on July 5. After being introduced in both Houses of Parliament, the National Food Security Act, 2013 was passed in 10th September, 2013 with the objective to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity. It was signed into law on September 12, 2013, retroactive to July 5, 2013.

The National Food Security Act, 2013 also called as ‘The Right to Food Act” aims to provide subsidized food grains to two thirds of India's 1.2 billion people. The Act categorizes the population into an Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) group, a priority group and an excluded category. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana is a scheme launched by the Central Government in 2000.The excluded category is retained at 25 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population. The AAY category will be as per existing norms (about 10 per cent of all households). The Act provides different entitlements to groups. The poorest of the poor (the AAY group) will receive 35 kg of food grain/family/month while others (the priority group) will receive 5 kg of food grain/person/month.

The Act envisages covering upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. However, since Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households constitute poorest of the poor, and are presently entitled to 35 kg per household per month, entitlement of existing AAY households will be protected at 35 kg per household per month.

Importantly, it includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements. The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000. Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. In case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.

The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas). The Section 2(11) of the Act states that a meal means a hot-cooked meal or pre-cooked and heated meal or take home ration, as may be prescribed by the Central Government. Children aged six months to 14 years will get take-home rations or hot cooked food.

The obligations of both the Centre and State governments have been differentiated in the Act. The centre will allocate food grains to states based on the number of persons to be covered in each state. However, if the annual allocation to a state is less than the quantity of food grains it lifts from the central stocks for the last three years under the existing TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution system, the same shall be protected at prices determined by the Centre. The Act specifies the quantity of allocation to states. The Act specifies that the Centre will provide states with funds in case of short supply of food grains. The Centre shall also provide assistance to state governments for meeting their expenditure on intra-state movement, handling of food grains, and margins paid to fair price shop dealers.

The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability. The Chapter IX provides a grievance redressal system. Vigilance committees have also been established at the state, district, block and ration shop levels. The bill also contains provisions for social audits.

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