Stocktaking of Four Years of NFSA in Odisha – concern remains

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By Pradeep Baisakh, Bhubaneswar: ‘’Ensuring food security is the priority of the government of Odisha and we will ensure that the benefit reaches to the last person’’; said Shri R. Balkrishnan, Development Commissioner cum Additional Chief Secretary to Government of Odisha while speaking at an event titled “Four years of National Food Security Act-2013: Stocktaking in Odisha”.The event was organized on 20th July 2017 jointly by Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies (NCDS), Centre for Equity Studies (CES) and Rupayaan at Bhubaneswar.
The National Food Security Act (NFSA) which first came as an ordinance in July 2013 and later become an act from September 2013 has completed four years of enactment. It provides food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach by ensuring access to adequate quantity and quality of food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity. The Targeted Public Distribution System, Integrated Child Development Services, Mid Day Meal and Maternity Benefits (in Odisha Mamata Yojana) have become entitlement under the Act. There are mixed progress in Odisha when it comes to implementation of the Act.
“In last four years and especially after the roll out of NFSA from November 2015, the state government has taken a number of positive steps, however there remain concerns both at the policy and implementation level” said Rajkishor Mishra, former state advisor to supreme court commission on right to food and one of the organizer of the stock taking.
Harsh Mander, former special commissioner to Supreme Court of India on right to food observed, “Odihsa is one of the good performaing states so far as implementation of NFSA is concerned”. However, he advised the government for focusing the most vulnerable communities ought to be taken on a priority basis so that they are not deprived of right to food.
It has emerged from the stocktaking that the government has provided ration cards to more than 99% of total targeted beneficiaries. The end to end computerization of TPDS helped in improving the system. However, the exclusion error still exists. 5 to 10% of most vulnerable beneficiaries are still out of the coverage. Further, the target is fixed based on the 2011 census and the decadal growth of population has not been considered. More than two lakh Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) potential beneficiaries are yet to be identified and enlisted. The government has not taken steps to diversify food grains under NFSA. Framing of rules for providing food security allowance under TPDS has not taken up.
When it comes to ICDS, there are issues of poor infrastructure, i.e 47% centres have no building and 68% have no toilets. The preschool and hot cooked meal for the children of tag villages is almost dysfunctional.
Odisha has been a pioneeing state in implementation of the maternity beneift scheme-Mamata. However, in last 7-8 months, money has not been released to the benificuaries accounts due to procedural reasons. In both ICDS and Mamata, there is no transparency in terms of disclosing information in public domain. While, the mid day meal is comparatively functioning better but there are issues of irregularity, delay in revising the per child cost norm as well as poor infrastructure.
Responding to the points raised, the Development Commissioner mentioned that “the state government is committed to provide food grains to all the beneficiaries and would not refuse eligible beneficiaries due to want of Aaadhar”. However, there is pressure from government of India to complete Aaadhar seeding by end of September, he added.
Along with the Development Commissioner cum Additional Chief Secretary, State Nodal Officer of Mid Day Meal cell, Additional Secretary of Food, Supplies and Consumer Welfare department and representative of the Agriculture and Farmer’s Empowerment department of government of Odisha participated and shared their views.
A list of top ten policies asks has come from the stocktaking. This includes creating a coordination and convergence point for 7 related departments under the leadership of the Development Commissioner, Framing of comprehensive rule for NFSA, Transparency portals for ICDS and Mamata Yojana, Increasing quota under TPDS, preparing a roadmap for diversifying food grain distribution, Delinking Aadhaar from accessing schemes, Provisioning and distributing food security allowance in case of denial of entitlements, Ensuring a functional internal grievance redresal mechanism and preparing guideline for the functioning of DGRO, Provisioning and building capacity of the community based institutions and Working towards the holistic approach of NFSA which are mentioned on the schedule III of the Act.
Prof. Srijit Mishra, Director, Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for development Studies, Bhubaneswar facilitated the whole event.

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