Chhattisgarh beats Centre, makes food security law

Food law

THE Chhattisgarh Assembly Friday enacted a landmark legislation by unanimously passing the Food Security Act, becoming the first state in the country to introduce such a law, covering several deprived sections of society left out by existing welfare programmes.

The law also takes a major step to empower women by considering the eldest woman in a household as its head in matters related to the ration card.

"This is a historic day for me and the Chhattisgarh Assembly. I will never forget it," Chief Minister Raman Singh said. The law, which will be implemented by local bodies, is operational with immediate effect.

The Act considers entitlements under both public distribution system (PDS) and non-PDS on a household basis and not per person and places them under the Chhattisgarh Lok Seva Guarantee Act 2011.

The Act makes food entitlements a right and its non-compliance has been made an offence. Officials can be penalised if PDS rations are being siphoned. The state government will pay for entitlements not covered by the Centre. While some households mentioned under the Act will get rice at Rs 1 per kg, several categories such as destitutes and disaster-affected persons will get it free.

"Our Bill was ready for the last three years. We were waiting for the Central government to enact their food safety act. Since they have not done it so far and also that their proposed entitlements are lesser than ours, we finally brought our law," government spokesperson N Baijendra Kumar told The Indian Express. "It's a trendsetter legislation."

The Act includes all households of landless agricultural labourers, small or marginal farmers, workers in the urban informal sector and construction workers.

It also defines a new category of "particularly vulnerable social groups" which includes households headed by terminally ill persons, widows or single women, physically challenged persons, all households headed by a person aged 60 or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support and a person freed from bonded labour. All households of particularly vulnerable social groups shall be designated as Antyodaya households.

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