x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Selection process for beneficiaries of food programme 'must be transparent'

India's newly promulgated food security legislation could lead to disenchantment and anger if the procedure for selecting the beneficiaries is not transparent, a member of the government's National Advisory Council (NAC) has warned.

NEW DELHI // India's newly promulgated food security legislation could lead to disenchantment and anger if the procedure for selecting the beneficiaries is not transparent, a member of the government's National Advisory Council (NAC) has warned.

N C Saxena, who worked on a draft food security bill in the NAC, said the right to food encompassed many sectors such as health, nutrition, agriculture, livelihood, gender equality and water, and bringing them on a converged platform would result in synergy.

"Passing the bill is a necessity, but not a sufficient condition for reducing hunger. India requires a significant increase of targeted investments in irrigation, rural electrification, nutritional programmes, clinics, disease control, rural roads and sanitation," Mr Saxena said.

He said the country also needed systemic reforms to make the government process more accountable.

Mr Saxena welcomed the government's decision to advance an ordinance on the food security bill, saying nothing was being gained by procrastination.

The president, Pranab Mukherjee, promulgated the National Food Security Ordinance on July 5 after it was approved by the federal government. Parliament has to approve the bill in its next session, which begins later this month, for it to become law.

The ordinance states that the government will provide 5 kilograms of subsidised foodgrains per person per month to priority households, and 35kg per household per month to 25 million households identified as being among India's poorest.

These two categories will account for 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent the urban population, covering a total of about 180 million households. Their state-wise number will be determined by the federal government, but identification of eligible households will be left to the state governments, who may frame their own criteria or use the results of the socio-economic caste census (SECC).