In a society, access to equal opportunities and rights is fundamental to an individual. Ironically, there are people who don’t receive equal social rights and opportunity. Food is essential for living. It is important to know the concept of food security and how it’s important to one’s life. Food Security in simple words refers to the availability of food and the ability of people to access it. The Indian government had initiated different steps for achieving food security in India. Public distribution system is one among them and a welfare program which is considered the largest distribution machinery in the world to battle food insecurity. It has become an important part of government policy for managing the food economy in the country. The main aim was to reduce hunger among the poorest segments of the population and distribution of food grains at affordable prices.
However, the inefficient functioning of such welfare measures has badly affected the lives of people. This paper tries to focus on the social injustice that has taken place in a coastal area and how people are being affected by its aftermath. Generally ration categories are divided into four: Antodaya Anna Joyana (AAY), Priority Household (PHH), Non Priority subsidy (NPS) and Non-Priority Non Subsidy (NPNS). A coastal area in North Calicut is the area taken for the study. Here the majority of the fisher folk are entitled with a PHH card. In reality, depending on their living conditions, they are eligible for the AAY category. This happened because of government manipulation that had taken place 10 years ago. This clearly shows the social injustice that has taken place to a section of society. The paper tries to analyse the issues faced by the marginalized section that is fisher community in North Calicut with regard to the social injustice and the improper functioning of the PDS. Moreover, this framework of analysis is important to know how the aftermath of such social injustice had created a burden in their individual lives.
Coastal Communities and vulnerabilities
Population growth and economic diversification in coastal areas have inevitably intensified effects on the environment and thereby endangering the survival of many species. Due to their abundant resources, coastal regions around the world have historically been among those that have been most actively exploited. More than half of the population in coastal countries now reside in coastal areas, and coastal migration from inland areas is growing. Many of the coastal regions now face additional dangers due to climate change. The increasing severity and frequency of environmental dangers made it evident that, in the absence of proper government and resource user action, the coastal environment will continue to deteriorate and there will be no chance for the sustainable exploitation of resources from these waters (Pavithran and Menon)
Kerala’s coastal populations are subject to a variety of issues. Climate change is one such factor. Due to climate change, people are experiencing coastline erosion. Because of this issue, fishermen cannot go fishing year-round. In general they are seasonal workers. They deal with issues that impair their way of life, because they aren’t compensated for saving, they don’t put money down for the future. They are making an effort to use their daily income to cover their expenses. To cover their daily necessities, they may have to borrow money from a bank or a nearby neighbourhood. Moreover coastal communities are generally seen as marginalised sections of society who are being relegated to the margins of society. There are many families living in each home. As a result, coastal areas have a large population. Therefore, food rations are necessary for everyone in the coastal town.
In Kozhikode, West hill is a coastal area which comes under the Northern division of Calicut. It is mainly covered under the corporation area. The majority of the residents belong to fisher folk. It is a typical coastal region with a male population engaged in work and female population are educated more when compared to men. Despite all progressive thoughts, women are made to marry after the age of 18 which has become a common norm. In the case of boys after 10th standard, they used to go for fishing jobs or daily wage jobs. The living conditions of the families are not in good condition.
PDS is a social welfare and anti-poverty programme of the Government of India. It provides a rational amount of basic food items such as rice, wheat, sugar, edible oil and other non-food products such as kerosine at minimum subsidiary price. The ration shop is viewed as the poor person’s shop. One of the basic necessities in human life for survival is food and in such scenarios it is important to know the concept and importance of food security. Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life. Food security is affected by many factors such as global warming, climate change, increase in the growth of population and so forth. Food security directly affects children, pregnant women and lactating women, which directly affect the child in the womb. Reports say 811 million people worldwide go to bed hungry each night. India ranks 71 in the 2021 World Food Index report and ranks 94 in the World Food Waste Index report. In the Global Hunger Index of 2021, India ranks 101 amongst 116 countries.(Gadha)
This demonstrates the status and condition of food security in India. After independence, food security became a top priority. Since the first five-year plan, the government has launched numerous programs aimed at attaining food security in India. India’s first five-year plan (1951–1956) mostly prioritised agriculture, which increased food production. Over its course of time, wheat production was emphasised in the third five-year plan (1961–1966). The third five-year plan was when India had its green revolution. The government made significant efforts to ensure food security in India in 1970. These programs include the Food for Work program, the Public Distribution System for Food Grains, and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) introduced by Indira Gandhi in the fifth five-year plan(Gadha).
The public distribution system in India is regarded as the world’s biggest distribution network. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) is one of the other significant programs the Indian government has introduced to combat food insecurity. AAY was introduced in December 2000, which was the ninth year of the five-year plan. Beneficiaries of this program must be a limited group of the poorest families with BPL cards.
On September 10, 2013, the Indian Parliament approved the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which is seen as a safety net for achieving food security in India. The Act provides for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to an adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices for people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto (NFSA, 2013).
The act is centred on the entitlements of the citizens. It also outlines the roles and obligations of different participants in the process, with a focus on the duties of the fair price retailer (Nakkiran). Through the FPS, the general public interacts with the government; issues relating to the transfer of food from state and central godowns to the FPSs also play a part in the fulfilment of entitlements. Authorised Ration Dealers (ARDs) must operate in accordance with the Act, which is largely ensured by the Department of Civil Supplies.
The state is in charge of initially ensuring category-wise entitlements in full quantity and quality on a monthly basis. In order for citizens to assert and claim their rights, it is the responsibility of the state to put in place effective mechanisms to secure the same. While the ARD must view itself as a provider of public services, the cardholder must also consider seeing themselves as citizens with duties and rights. A serious flaw is the lack of knowledge among cardholders regarding how the ration system operates. Both the ration dealer and the cardholder must internalise the new system of commissions that are proportionate to the sales at each shop as well as the category-based system of entitlements. Perspective that the entire system is based on public subsidies designed to prevent malnutrition and food insecurity in the nation is essential to having this understanding.
Another aspect of NFSA is to provide the entitlements to the eligible households. This is the main goal of the act. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority Household households are referred to as eligible households. In addition, it places a strong emphasis on entitlements, ensuring that households that qualify receive the entitlements at reduced rates.
According to the various card classifications, every AAY household is entitled to 35 kilograms of food grains per month for free of cost, 1 kilogram of sugar for 21 rupees and 5 kilograms of food grains per head in the household under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) scheme. In the case of Priority households, each member is entitled to receive 5 kilograms of food grains per month at subsidies rates prescribed by the government, and 5 kilograms of food grains per head in the household under PMGKAY scheme.
Mechanisms for redressing grievances were required for the efficient operation, monitoring, and evaluation of the act’s implementation. State Food Commissions were established for the same purpose along with it.
RESPONSIBILITIES UNDER NFSA
NFSA is defined by the joint accountability of the Central and State/UT Government. While the Center is in charge of distributing the necessary food grains to the States and UTs, and food grain transportation is the responsibility of each State and UT. Additionally, it offers central assistance to States and UTs so that food grains can be delivered from approved FCI godowns to the front doors of FPSs. The States/UTs are in charge of carrying out the Act effectively, which includes, among other things, identifying eligible households, providing them with ration cards, distributing food grain entitlements to eligible households through fair price shops (FPS), granting licences to Fair Price Shop dealers and overseeing their operations, setting up efficient grievance redressal mechanisms.(National Food Security)
IDENTIFICATION OF ELIGIBLE HOUSEHOLD
There was a transformation of ration card categories. Initially there were 2 types of categories; BPL and APL. Later PDS was further liberalised in December 2000, and was renamed as Antyodaya Anna Scheme. Under this scheme the poor were further classified as the ‘Poorest among the Poor’ and other living ‘BPL. ’ In contemporary time this 2 sections are divided into 4: AAY, Priority Household (PHH), Non Priority Subsidy (NPS) and Non Priority Non Subsidy (NPNS).
Different states use different standards for determining target populations. The State Government issues regulations governing the qualifying standards which are used to identify qualified families.
Each state constitutes an identification criterion, which is the culmination of inclusion and exclusion criteria. The identification criteria, which have since been amended a few times, were mostly based on the State BPL criteria of 2011. The Lakdawala Exert Group’s approach for estimating poverty is used to identify BPL families (Nakkiran)
An exclusion criterion is established with certain principles like families with members who paid income taxes, worked for the government, in education, or in the public sector, made more than Rs.25,000 per month, owned more than an acre of land, lived in a home larger than 1,000 square feet, or owned a four-wheeler were not eligible. Later, it became obvious that Scheduled Tribes homes would receive top priority regardless of the size of the land and even if some of the members held Class IV (Office Assistant) or lower jobs. On the other hand, inclusion criteria may take into account a number of things, including:
- Belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe
- Condition of house
- No ownership of land,
- Belonging to occupational vulnerable groups (including those in unorganised sectors) and other vulnerabilities such as age above 65 years, widow, suffering from serious diseases, facing mental or physical disabilities etc.
- No Secure Toilet facilities
- No drinking water facilities available around an area of 500 metres of the house(100 Metres in hilly areas)
- No electrified houses
- Preferences were also given to people belonging to Ashraya scheme, suffering from mental or physical disabilities, autism and serious diseases, widows, those unable to live without support from others, and bedridden.
As mentioned earlier, coastal communities are generally relegated to the margins of society and designated as marginalised sections. They are the people where the majority of their work is based on seasonal aspects which doesn’t provide permanent social security. They live on a daily basis and satisfy their needs. People from the coastal community in North Calicut are one among them. Majority of their livelihood depends on fishing and have encountered problems related to it. Climate change is one of the main issues encountered by them over the course of their life. As a result their living conditions are subjected to vulnerabilities where there is no guarantee that the place and heart to which they reside gets away after any catastrophic disaster. Every moment of their life is in danger.
Apart from this, as they are seasonal workers, the families in the area depend on the public delivery system to satisfy their basic need, that is food. PDS acts as such a delivery system where beneficiaries get the entitlements in subsidised rates. There are families who solely depend on the ration system for their survival. Initially there were 2 categories in the ration system; Below Poverty line (BPL) and Above Poverty Line (APL). Later PDS was further liberalised in December 2000, and was renamed as Antyodaya Anna Scheme. Under this scheme the poor was further classified as the ‘Poorest among the Poor’ and other living ‘BPL. ’ In contemporary time this 2 sections are divided into 4: AAY, Priority House hold (PHH), Non Priority Subsidy (NPS) and Non Priority Non Subsidy (NPNS). So 10 years before after introducing new categories, the majority of the population in this area had to renew their card. As a result, majority were entitled with PHH category. Even eligible AAY beneficiaries were prescribed with PHH.
From the study conducted in this area the paper discusses the issues faced by the people in terms of the ration system and we came to know that a large number of beneficiaries are not getting the benefits that are prescribed to them. There are cases which show the discrepancy in card categories, not getting entitlements in full quantity, being subject tor cheating and so forth.
The below are few cases which shows the situations of a section of people from this area;
A 58-year-old woman named Beena lives at West hill in Kozhikode. The location is far from seaside areas. Their family is a joint family. Joint ownership applies to both the property and the home. The family has seven individuals, and two of them are employed on a daily basis. An elderly man with mental impairment resides in the home. They are entitled with NPS (Blue) cards. The condition of the house is pathetic where the rooftop is subjected to moisture retention which results in leakages and moreover it is in stage of collapse. As the family depends on daily wage, they find it difficult to meet their daily needs. In terms of their poor living conditions, unstable income, and also a person with disability residing with them, the family meets certain criteria for getting into the priority list. As they are holding NPS cards, they are being denied benefits which are actually eligible for. Additionally, their way of life is disaster prone.
Lalitha, a 47 year old lady is one of the residents from West hill, Calicut. The house is far from the beach side in the west hill neighbourhood. This case demonstrates the family’s social fragility and the challenges they have encountered. Initially the family belonged to a joint family, which subsequently got separated. Later they moved to a new house. After their separation, the family is entitled toNPS (Blue card). The living condition of the family is poor. The husband is no more and Lalitha stays with her 2 children; Elder one is a daughter who is an undergraduate and son is a class 11 drop out. Lalitha is the only earning member in the family who is a servant. Considering the family situation, the son discontinued his studies and he is searching for a job. The condition of the house is poor, which is not in proper condition andis almost in a kind of collapsed state. Considering their living condition and the income criteria the family is eligible to be included in the priority category. Financial hardship makes it difficult for families to pay for unforeseen medical costs that arise during their life course. The educational crisis was another important problem. The family struggles to meet their basic needs due to budgetary limitations. The biggest one among them was academic challenges. Despite having an NPS card the family finds difficulty in obtaining government assistance, particularly in the area of education. The daughter was a student who was not able to graduate and faced hardships because she didn’t have any financial aid for her further education. The respondent approached the appropriate authorities to change her ration card. The answer from the authorities was that they would come for an inspection and will see to it. . But the response was minimal. Apart from this they lack benefits of getting entitlements from the ration shop.
A beneficiary named Sadanandan, aged 54, resides in Santhinagar area, in North Calicut. There are 3 members in his family; Sadanadan, his wife and daughter. He is the breadwinner of the family who belongs to fisher folk. From interacting with the family, we came to know that the family is not getting the full benefits from the ration shop. The major among them was that entitlements are not provided in full quantity. Apart from that, the bill reflects the items which are not being purchased by the family. Even if they don’t get entitlements according to their needs, they may visit other ration shops. The nearby shop similarly rejects the beneficiary’s claim, saying that it is already printed on the bill. Concerning the PMGKAY scheme was still another serious problem.The beneficiary was not given the food grains under the PMGKAY scheme from their particular ration shop. Still it is reflected on the bill even if it is not purchased. They cannot obtain the food grains from the other ration shop as a result.
The recipient has a problem with how the weights are calculated. While weighing the grains, the scale is positioned to zero. The weight of the vessel is automatically added when the grains are weighed.
Apart from this the family is subjected to poor living conditions like lack of drinking water and sanitation facilities. There is no door for the toilet and a cloth is being used for the same.
Kavitha, a 43-year-old beneficiary, resides near Konnadu Beach at Calicut. Her household comprises two young children and her husband, a fisherman who is unable to leave for work due to employment uncertainties. She works as a housekeeper. Her home is situated in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), a region that is vulnerable to disasters. Her family is at risk from catastrophes. She is unaware of the property she owns because it was granted to her by the government (Pattaya bhoomi). She has issues in terms of the ration system. Main issue is with regard to bills and not getting PMGKAY entitlements. As a result of the shopkeeper’s harsh behaviour, she is not given a bill and is hesitant to ask for the same. The food grains she received from the shop are of poor quality. He reprimands her and states to her to go buy ration from other stores if she needs good quality grains. She is entitled with a PHH card even though she qualifies for an AAY card in all respects due to her substandard dwelling and lack of sanitary amenities.
The beneficiary, Safiya, is a 48 year old lady residing in Puthiyangadi, Konnadu Kozhikode. She has an NPNS (white) card, which serves as an illustration of the inconsistency in the distribution of ration cards. She has a very difficult life, with no access to clean water. The government does not provide any assistance to the family. It has been 5 months since she had submitted her ration card to PHH to get it changed. ‘Red tapism ‘ is reflected in her case. She perceives the idea that the fisher community is entitled with PHH. This is a common understanding that exists among the Fisher community.
Issues faced by the communities
Due to the high human density, coastal erosion, sand mining for industrial use, and significant morphological and shoreline changes creates difficulty for the people in coastal community. The only section that occasionally loses homes to erosion is the community residing near the coastal area.
It is clear that resources including fisheries, sand, and land are being overused. Coastal erosion is a result of various activities like development of infrastructure, which includes ports and harbours, sand mining for building and industrial use, recreational activities, and building homes. Private business owners have assumed control of the coast in the interests of growth and tourism. Numerous environmental issues, such as coastal pollution, erosion, flooding, and saltwater intrusion, are already affecting our shores, adding to the turmoil and devastation of the coastal ecosystem.
Coastal community is the one of the most vulnerable community that exists in the society. The risk of vulnerability is due to many factors. One such factor is coastal erosion which affects the functioning of whole fishing community. Most of them depend on sea for their livelihood. In some cases, women used to go for work because of the unavailability of employment for men. The living condition of the family forced the male population to engage in work and as result dropout rate in education is high among men. The living condition of families are poor. From the study it was clear that majority of them had issues in terms of improper sanitation facilities. There were cases where clothes were being used instead of doors for toilets. Lack of proper sanitation facilities is major issue that existed in the community. There are cases which raised concerns regarding lack of proper drinking water facility. Other main issue was the poor living condition. As majority of the houses were located near to shore, the risks of losing homes are high.
Moreover the condition of the house was so pathetic for instance there were situation of moisture retention which results of leakages in roof. In the above 4 cases, the houses were in almost to the stage of collapsed which can risk the lives of individuals. The government offer 10 lakh rupees to move from the land they are living because each time coastal erosion occurs first lane family is affected. But the families are not ready to move, because this money is not enough to buy a new land and build a house. So, the families are still living in disaster prone area. In some cases, the families are living in Coastal Regulation Zone.
Discrepancy in card category
The poor living condition is one of the major difficulties undergone by the families of this community. Along with that, they are being deniedsocial justice. As they are facing many problems, one of the main problems encountered by the community is with regard to food security. PDS is one of the dependent sources for the community where they can access food grains at subsidised rights. Access to such facilities is the right of every individual. Living conditions and income are one of the eligibility criteria for including people to the position of priority list in ration categories. Poorest of the Poor are included under AAY. When PDS was liberalised in 2000 and after the implementation of the National Food Security Act, the ration categories were divided into 4. As a result, the fisher folk of this area were included to the PHH and NPS category and only a few were included in AAY. This created issues for the community. There are cases which are eligible for AAY, but are included in PHH and other top categories despite considering their actual situation. The above mentioned cases are clear cut examples for the same. For instance, in case 1, we can witness a family with poor living conditions, unstable income and include a person with disability. Still they are entitled with a NPS card. The family struggles to meet daily ends. In such cases, the ration system is supposed to act as a relief. But as she is entitled with NPS, she doesn’t get much benefit from ration shops which forces the family to depend on other retail shops. They have given requests to the concerned authorities but no proper measures were taken. In case 5, their living conditions are so difficult but they own NPNS. But these people are unaware about the card categories they get. The living conditions of other cases are also the same.
Denial of rights
When beneficiaries are entitled with wrong card category, they are hindered from government rights which are prescribed for them. In most cases families face academic challenges and educational crises where children don’t get any scholarships. Apart from this the main issue is that they only get the benefits for the card which they hold. As a result, what they get from ration shops is not sufficient for their living. Along with that beneficiaries are not getting the entitlements in the right quantity apart from the above mentioned difficulties. Case 3 and 4 have mentioned their concerns of not getting entitlements under special ration named as PMGKAY and if they assert their right to get it, the shopkeeper behaves rudely. The quality of food they used to get is poor quality, and if they ask for better quality the shopkeeper says to buy from the next shop with rude behaviour. So, beneficiaries were hesitant to ask. Sometimes the bill reflects the items which are not purchased. All these show the improper functioning of the ration system. Ration shops are public delivery systems which are established for the benefits of individuals. So it is the right of every individual to get their entitlements in prescribed quantity and price. If it’s not provided, you have the right to claim for the same. But in many cases, as they are unaware about the system and due to the rude behaviour of shopkeepers, it hinders the beneficiary to question for their rights. In such scenario, the PDS which is supposed to function as a welfare centre for the beneficiary acts as a roadblock for them in reality.
From the study, we could clearly understand the issues faced by the coastal community with regard to the ration system. PDS should act as a welfare system for the people but we could witness the improper functioning practised by the system which affects the individuals badly. A great discrepancy and manipulation is found in terms of distribution of ration cards. The eligible categories are entitled with wrong cards. That is, eligible AAY card holders are entitled with a PHH card. There are many cases where households lack basic facilities, and live in poor conditions. But at the end of the day they are being entitled with a PHH card instead of AAY. Another major observation was the misconception that existed among people. Majority of the fisher community perceives the idea that entire fisher communities are supposed to be entitled with a PHH card. This misunderstanding exists among the majority of the people. Such kind of understanding has been imbibed in the minds of people because of manipulation from official authorities. The improper functioning of PDS includes; not providing entitlements in right quantity, manipulation in weight and not providing bills and so forth. So the fisher community of this area are examples of certain sections of society who are being subjected as victims for the improper functioning of the government system. End of the day, the people in the community suffer for the same and are subjected to social justice which ultimately leads to the denial of rights.
- Gadha,R. (2022, February 3). DR. D.Y. PATIL UNITECH SOCIETY. Retrieved August Tuesday, 2022, from DR. Y. PATIL ARTS, COMMERCE & Science College: https://acs.dypvp.edu.in/blogs/food-security#:~:text=India%20ranks%2071%20in%20the,of%20Food%20Security%20in %20India.
- Nakkiran, D.S. (2004). A Study on the Effectiveness of Public Distribution System. Research, Tamil Nadu
- National Food Security. Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India. Retrieved August 2022, from National Food Security Portal-: https://nfsa.gov.in/portal/nfsa-act
- Pavithran, S., & Menon, N.R. (2014). An Analysis of Various Coastal Issues in Kerala. International Journal of Scientific Research and Education, 2(10).
Gadha,R. (2022, February 3). DR. D.Y. PATIL UNITECH SOCIETY. Retrieved August Tuesday, 2022, from DR. Y. PATIL ARTS, COMMERCE & Science College: https://acs.dypvp.edu.in/blogs/food- security#:~:text=India%20ranks%2071%20in%20the,of%20Food%20Security%20in %20India. ↩
Nakkiran, D.S. (2004). A Study on the Effectiveness of Public Distribution System. Research, Tamil Nadu ↩
National Food Security. Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India. Retrieved August 2022, from National Food Security Portal-: https://nfsa.gov.in/portal/nfsa-act ↩
Pavithran, S., & Menon, N.R. (2014). An Analysis of Various Coastal Issues in Kerala. International Journal of Scientific Research and Education, 2(10) ↩