This article has been written by Ashish Gajwani, a Law Student at Maharashtra National Law University, Aurangabad. The author here has focussed on the key features of the Act, scope of Act, amendments proposed in the principal Act, limitations of the Act and criticism on the proper implementation of the Act.


The Indian Constitution does not recognize the right to food as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, but it can come under the ambit of right to live with human dignity which per se is recognized as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, also there is a duty cast upon the states under Article 47 of The Indian Constitution to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living and to improve public health. The issue of food security was previously dealt by the government under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), but with the introduction of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) there has been a drastic change in the schemes and protocols of Food Distribution and Security. The bill for the same was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 and on the basis of the report of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, the Union Cabinet cleared the bill on 4th July 2013. After the enactment of NFSA, 67% of the population was entitled to receive highly subsidised foodgrains. The Act aims to provide subsidized food grains to the citizens and is in line with the goal of the United Nations with the objective of ending hunger by 2030.


The Preamble of the Act reads as “ An Act 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 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. The PDS and TPDS are now covered under NFSA with an aim to provide highly subsidized food grains. Nutritious Meals and Maternity benefits are also included for Pregnant and Lactating Mothers. Children up to 14 years of age are also entitled to benefits under the act. It covers 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population. It also promotes women empowerment as the eldest woman of the household of 18 years of age or above is considered to be the head for the purpose of issuing Ration Cards. Grievance Redressal Mechanism is also set-up at the State and District Level where the states have the privilege of using the existing machinery or set up separate mechanisms for the same. Provisions have been made for presenting the records relating to PDS, social audits and setting up of Vigilance Commissions in order to ensure transparency and accountability. The Act also contains provisions for providing food security allowance to all those persons who are unable to receive food as per schemes introduced under the Act. Penal Provisions for Public Servants or authority, if found guilty of failing to comply with the relief recommended by the District Grievance Redressal Officer are also enacted under the Act. 

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Salient features and objectives of the Act

Various salient features of the act are enumerated below:

  1. Targeted Public Distribution System- Under this system ‘Priority Households’ means, the Households identified by the State Government are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month at subsidized prices. In India, there are many people who cannot afford even two square meals per day, their purchasing power being so low that at even BPL(Below Poverty Line) rates they are not able to buy food grains. For targeting these types of persons Antodyan Anna Yojna was launched by the government in December 2000, now this scheme comes under NFSA and the ‘Antodyan Households’ identified by the Central Government are entitled to thirty-five kilograms of food grains per person per month at prices ranging from Rs. 3 – Rs. 1 per kg. Children between the age group of 6 months to 6 years including children suffering from malnutrition will be provided with free meals by the local ‘Anganwadi’ as defined under Section 2 (1) of NFSA, 2013. Children aged between 6 years to 14 years will be provided with mid-day meals in schools run by local bodies, governments and government-aided schools, except on school holidays. Pregnant Women and lactating mothers are also entitled to free meals and maternity benefits of Rs. 6000, in instalments. 
  2. Identification of Eligible Households- The State-wise coverage of the households is defined by the Central Government and specifically by the NITI Aayog. The task of identifying the eligible households is left to the respective states/UTs which can frame their own criteria or use Socie Economic and Caste Census data. The people living in hilly and tribal areas are to be paid special attention. The list of ‘Eligible Households’ as identified by the state government should be placed in the public domain.
  3. Commissions- The act establishes a State Food Commission consisting of a chairperson, five other members and a member secretary which should include two women and one each from SCs and ST’s. The State Commission is established with the objective of monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the Act, advising the state governments and their various agencies and enquiring into violations of entitlements. The State Commissions also act as the appellate authority for District Grievance Redressal Officers and are also given the task of preparing an annual report for presenting before the legislature. Section 20 (2) of the NFSA, 2013 provides that the State Commission may transfer any case to the judicial magistrate having jurisdiction and he shall hear the complaint as if transferred to him under section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
  4. Grievance Redressal- The Act provides for two-tier grievance redressal the State Commissions and District Grievance Redressal Officers (DRGO). The DRGO shall be appointed by the State Government who shall hear complaints and take requisite actions according to the norms prescribed by the state government. The State Commission should be the appellate authority for every complaint filed before DRGO. The State Governments are also obliged to establish call centres, helplines or designated nodal officers. 
  5. Transparency and Accountability- Section of 27 of the NFSA provides that all records in relation to TPDS should be placed in the public domain and kept open for inspection to the public. Section 28 of the Act provides that local authorities authorised by the state government should conduct periodic social audits on the functioning of fair price shops, TPDS and other welfare schemes and take necessary actions in such manner as may be prescribed. The Central Government may also conduct social audits through independent agencies having experience in conducting such audits.
  6. Penalties Section 33 of the Act provides that the State Commission has the power of imposing penalties not exceeding five thousand rupees on any public servant or authority found guilty while deciding an appeal or complaint or failing to provide relief recommended by the DRGO, without reasonable cause or willfully ignoring the same. The public servant or authority so involved must be provided with a reasonable opportunity of being heard before imposition of any penalty.
  7. Compensation- According to Section 8 of the NFSA, in case of non-supply of the entitled quantity of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons, the concerned state government shall requisite amount of allowance within such time and manner as prescribed by the Central Government. 
  8. Reforms in TPDS – 

According to Section 12 of the NFSA, the Central and the State   Government shall endeavour to progressively undertake necessary reforms in TPDS, which inter alia includes:

  • Doorstep delivery of foodgrains. 
  • Application of information and communication of technology tools including end-to-end computerisation in order to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels. 
  • Leveraging Aadhar for unique identification. 
  • Preference to public institutions or public bodies such as panchayats, self-help groups, co-operatives in-licensing of fair price shops and management of fair price shops by women or their collectives.
  • Diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS over a period of time.
  • Support to local public distribution models and grains banks.

9. Obligations of the Central Government- The Central Government shall provide food grains for the central pool, distribute among states the required quantity of foodgrains and provide transportation of foodgrains to the respective depots of states. In providing the foodgrains to the states the prices of foodgrains according to the eligible households should be kept in mind. Storage facilities for food grains and funds to meet the statutory obligation should also be provided. Rules and directions for the implementation of the act should be issued regularly by the Central Government.

10. Obligations of the State Governments- The State government is responsible for implementation and monitoring of various schemes under the act. The actual delivery of the food grains to entitled households at subsidised prices is done by the state government. Maintenance and monitoring of fair price shops and providing food allowance in case the entitled persons are not able to receive food grains or meals is done by the state government. 

The act was enacted with the objective of increasing food production, improving food distribution, food security at the household level, improving the nutritional status of the vulnerable population, improving awareness regarding nutrition and improvement of health care.

Scope of the Act

With the enactment of the Act, 67% of the total population was entitled to receive highly subsidised food. It covered almost 75% of rural and 50% of the urban population. The act includes various schemes like Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) which includes children up to the age of six years, food under these schemes is provided through various means like take home Ration, morning snacks and hot cooked meal also, pregnant women and lactating mothers are also entitled to take-home ration. Mid-day meals for upper and Lower primary class children which include Hot cooked meals are also provided. Malnutrition children are also covered under this act. Antyodya Anna Yojna the scheme which was started in the year 2000 is also covered under this act which includes persons who are not in a position to buy food grains round the year at even BPL rates, persons identified under these schemes are entitled to 35 kilograms of food grains per household per month. 

Amendments and new proposed bills

The National Food Security (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the National Food Security Act, 2013. The Proposed Changes are enumerated below:

  • The definition of ‘Food Security’ given under Section 2(6) was changed in order to include an exception condition of war in which the supply of food to the entitled persons will not be possible
  • The definition of ‘Meal’ given under Section 2(9) was changed to modify it to include a fresh hot cooked meal made from locally produced material and does not include pre-cooked meals or take-home ration.
  • Changes have been proposed under Section 3 of the principal Act in order to give the entitled persons the option of taking food grains of their choice rather as specified by the state government. 
  • Changes have been proposed under Section 8 of the principal Act for the purpose of giving the food allowance also the recipient’s choice will be considered, the food allowance should not be less than the market price of food grains of recipient’s choice and further, the recipient should be given the allowance in not less than 48 hours of the information of the unavailability of food grains of the recipient’s choice.
  • Clause (h) of subsection (2) of Section 12 shall be omitted.
  • Exceptions of a flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake as provided under Section 44 of the principal act shall be omitted also, the proviso given under section 44 should also be omitted.

Limitations and criticism

Although the NFSA, 2013 if often submitted to be the largest ever experiment in the world for distributing highly subsidised food by any government through an approach that aims to qualify the same as a ‘right’ of the beneficiary, still its full implementation is not done due to the ignorance of government agencies towards food security. In 2017 the Supreme Court in the case of Swaraj Abhiyan v. Union of India & Ors, AIR 2017 SC 3516 condemned the central and various state governments for not properly implementing the Food Security Act even after 4 years of its enactment. The Act in itself comes with certain limitations enumerated below:

  • It does not guarantee the universal right to food rather it limits it to only identified persons based on certain criteria.
  • It specifies that claims under the act will not be made available in the situation of war, a flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake, given the fact that the need for food arises the most in these types of circumstances.
  • Certain aspects which need to be included are agricultural reforms, public health and sanitation and decentralised procurement.
  • The PDS which is used by the government in order to ensure food security has certain loopholes which include 
    • Leakages, meaning thereby the food provided by the government does not reach to the entitled persons. 
    • The inadequacy of storage facilities across the country for the proper implementation of the Act.
    • Poor quality of food grains
    • Maintenance of data of entitled persons in a difficult task as authorities has to keep a check on their residential status, births and deaths.
    • Fake and ghost ration cards.


Recently in news

On January 20, 2020, it was announced by the government that the ‘one nation one ration card’ scheme will be introduced to the whole of India from June 1 2020, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed it but also made it inevitable considering the situation created by the Pandemic. During the announcement of the 20 Lakh crore package, it was announced by the Finance Minister that the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme will be implemented in full in India by March 2021, at present 20 states have implemented the same.

According to the One Nation One Ration Card Scheme:

  1. The Beneficiaries will be able to procure food grains from any part of the country using the same ration card under the NFSA.
  2. The beneficiaries will be identified on the basis of their Aadhar Card with the help of Electronic Point of Sale devices.
  3. A standard format for all ration cards will be issued and also the state government will be required to issue the ration cards in a bi-lingual format where the other language will be English or Hindi.
  4. Any Legal citizen of India can apply for this ration card.


Ensuring food security is one of the largest aims of every developing nation. Even after enacting a whole piece of legislation in order to ensure food security, the government has failed to implement it which is clear from cases like Swaraj Abhiyan. Although India is successful in making itself self-sufficient in the production of various food grains and setting up the Public Distribution system still the inefficiency and corruption in the working of various agencies leave the entitled with no benefits. In order to ensure full efficiency of the act Information Technology throughout the process from acquisition of the food grains till distribution should be used, information regarding storage facilities and quantity and quality should be made available to the beneficiaries in order to ensure full transparency. The coverage of Integrated Management of PDS should be introduced in all the states. Despite all the limitations and criticisms for not ensuring proper food security, the recent One Nation One Ration scheme introduced by the government is a positive step in attaining the objectives of the Act.


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