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Food security has been a major developmental objective in India since the beginning of planning. Initially, the food security system and price policy consisted of three instruments: procurement prices, or minimum support prices, buffer stocks and the public distribution system. However, in order to achieve food security, it is also important that the poor have sufficient means to purchase food. Poor people cannot afford to purchase the food they need at market prices, and therefore, the need to subsidise food through social protection programmes like PDS and employment programmes. Even if there is availability as well as access to food, there is no guarantee of adequate absorption or nutrition, especially since nutrition depends on many other factors such as condition of pregnant women, breast feeding, health factors, hygiene, drinking water and sanitation.
The National Food Security Act 2013 converts into legal entitlements the existing food security programmes of the Government of India. The Mid Day Meal and the Integrated Child Development Services schemes are universal in nature for the target group, whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population ie 75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas. The legislation marks a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security from the welfare approach to a rights based approach. The Act will bring about security in people’s lives and make it easier to meet their basic needs, protect their health, educate their children and take risks. The Act also contains provisions for access to safe and adequate drinking water and sanitation.