by M. S Swaminathan
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
Member of National Advisory Council
Building a Sustainable Nutritional Security System:
The Role of the Proposed National Food Security Act
1. Food is the first among the hierarchical needs of a human being and is a basic requisite for a healthy and productive life. The proposed National Food Security Act’s goal should be to ensure that every Indian has physical, economic and social access to balanced diet, clean drinking water, environmental sanitation and primary health care.
2. Food Security has three major dimensions.
a) Availability, which is a function of production.
b) Access, which is a function of purchasing power.
c) Absorption, which is a function of clean drinking water, sanitation and primary health care.
3. Hunger can be endemic, due to chronic protein-energy under-nutrition; hidden, due to the deficiency of micro-nutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin B2 and B12, Vitamin D, Iron, Iodine and Zinc; transient, due to natural calamities.
4. The Act should have the following four sections:
a) Legal entitlements;
b) Enabling provisions;
c) Infrastructure Development, particularly safe storage structures;
d) Governance of delivery systems (reforms of Public Distribution System), with particular reference to social oversight and restructuring of the Public Distribution System involving modern technology.
5. Legal Entitlements
A life cycle approach should be adopted in designing the food entitlement programmes.
a) The first 1000 days (from the conception to the completion of two years):
This will involve maternal and foetal nutrition and support of breast feeding for at least six months (One Thousand Days Child Nutrition ans Development Programme)
b) Second 1000 days (age group three to six) which will involve a restructured ICDS involving community participation.
c) School Noon Meal Programme.
d) Food Entitlement to adults based on a common but differentiated (in relation to quantity of food grains and price) approach.
e) Old and Infirm Persons.
f) Destitutes, Orphans and Street Children.
6. Enabling Provision
a) Drinking Water – Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission
b) Sanitation – Total Sanitation Programme
c) Primary Health Care – National Mission
d) Revitalisation of Agriculture – National Commission on Farmers
e) Popularisation of Double and Multiple Fortified Salt (iron, iodine and vitamins)
f) Mainstreaming Nutrition in the National Horticulture Mission, in order to provide horticultural remedies for nutritional maladies; also the popularisation of nutritious millets like bajra, ragi, madua, jowar, maize etc.
7. Road Map
a) The right to food should be designed so that it becomes a right to balanced diet over time. This will call for mainstreaming nutrition goals in the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission, National Horticulture Mission and similar programmes.
b) The involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions is essential for monitoring and ensuring the delivery of entitlements to the right individuals and at the right place and time.
c) Adopting a life cycle approach while designing the food entitlements programmes will help ensure that every Indian has access to the minimum essential nutrition from birth to death.
d) A National Grid of grain storage structures should be established, beginning with on-farm conservation by farmers and including rural do-downs and national ultra-modern storage facilities at about 50 locations, extra facility capable of storing a million tonnes.