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The Plate, Half-Served

Bijayini Mohanty and Pradeep Baisakh

“Iwant to educate my children. But we do not have sufficient food to eat; where shall I get money for higher education of my children? ” Chanchala, a tribal lady from Nuapada district, describes her situation with a lot of pain.

 

Chanchala Sabar is a 48 years old single woman (Widow) residing in Mahulbhata village of KandetaraGram Panchayat of Komna block. Chanchala lives with her 17 year old daughter, Rebati and 13 year old son, Sameer.

 

Chanchala’s economic condition is too miserable to manage the family of three. She is a landless lady depending only on daily labours.

 

Her family is not getting benefit from any of the government welfare schemes. She has applied for a widow pension attaching there levant documents, but yet to get it. Prior to launch of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), she had a BPL Card. But in the new dispensation she is out; the reasons not known to her. This is a classic case of exclusion error. The family consumes 30-35 kilograms of rice per month spending between rupees 750 to 800. Now the biggest challenge for Chanchala is to feed her children twice a day properly. While food and nutritional security is a distant dream for her, how can her educational need be met?

 

After a long drawn struggle of civil society organisations, led by the Right to Food campaign, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) came to existence in 2013 with the hope that no one in the country will sleep with an empty stomach, nor will a child die due to hunger & starvation. The NFSA is being implemented in Odisha from November 2015 with the objective to provide food and nutritional security by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices.

 

As on 20th June 2017, 77% of 2011 census population was enlisted under NFSA. However, it was found that vulnerable people are left out as population growth in five years was not taken in to consideration in fixing target.The number of house holds approved for Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) by central govt for the state is 1,264,500. And it has been noticed that after 20 months of roll out of NFSA, there are 2, 03,591 numbers of eligible families have not been identified and included into the scheme.Under the earlier dispensation, a family was considered as a unit, but under NFSA a member is the unit. This has led to decrease of the average grain quota per family from 28.5 kilograms to  20.12 kilogram. This is a major loss for many families. For example, a family of two old people were getting 25 kelograms before, but they would get  just 10 kilo grams now. (5 kg per person).

 

Low unit cost for MDM and ICDS

The NFSA also provides for nutritional support to women and children especially the pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years, who will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes. Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.But in reality while talking about the higher nutritional norms, the cost norms for ICDS and MDM is very low to fulfill the objective of NFSA, therefore the cost norm should be revised accordingly with the increased market price as it is in the guideline of both ICDS and MDM to procure the food items except rice locally. Even the ground realities shows that the children of the inaccessible hamlets are deprived of getting hot cooked meal and even getting food stuffs under supplementary nutrition programme on a regular basis is not so real for them.

 

Maternity Benefits

Under the Maternity Benefit Scheme (MAMATA in Odisha) the pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to receive not less than rupees 6,000. But they are being given a sum of rupees 5000 under MAMATA till date.

 

The law provides for internal grievance redressal mechanism. Besides, the provisions for transparency and accountability in the act include setting up of vigilance committees at State, District, Block and Fair Price Shop (FPS) levels with due representation of the local authorities, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women and destitute persons or persons with disability to inter alia regularly supervise implementation of all schemes under the act. This is almost non-functional.

 

 

During years of field visits, we have witnessed how deficient is the food intake of the rural poor, particularly the women. Where minimal food availability at home is difficult for a vulnerable family, how can we talk about their nutrition security?  Therefore, being a chronically food deficit state,all the food security schemes should be strengthened by the state government to make it hunger free.

 

Pradeep Baisakh is a Journalist and…………

 

 

 

 

Bijayini Mohanty works with Odisha Khadya Adhikar Abhiyan

 

(The views expressed here are those of the writers)

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