Food Security: Unfair PDS Deal For Fair Sex In Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: The oft-pronounced policies and measures of Central and Odisha governments for women upliftment and empowerment have a gaping hole in ensuring minimum food security to the fair sex.

Though strenuous and long-drawn process of Aadhaar seeding and digitisation of PDS has finally been completed, it has left behind a critical socio-economic aspect concerning the married women in Odisha. As per social practice across all communities, the women change their titles and settle with their in-law families after marriage. In the process, they forfeit their right to food as their names are deleted from the parental PDS card.

Unfortunately, the digitisation process has blindly ignored this aspect as there is no digital way to enter their names in the PDS card of their in-law families. Similarly, families are finding it equally difficult to add names of children to their family’s ration card.

According to 2011 census, 46% of migration was due to marriage, of which 97% or 20.58 crore migrants were women. The census also reports that 78% of Odisha’s population are PDS beneficiaries. It is estimated that at least 10 lakh women have been left out of PDS since the National Food Security Act (NFSA) came into force in 2013.

The NFSA has made the food security programmes of the government legal entitlements. It includes Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services and Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA recognises maternity entitlements.

While the Midday Meal and the Integrated Child Development Services are universal in nature, the PDS covers about two-thirds of the population comprising 75% of rural areas and 50% of urban areas.

Raising the issue, Odisha Right to Food Campaign, an organisation working on women’s rights and food issues in Odisha, has drawn the attention of state government to the lacuna and sought immediate intervention to ensure food security to married women.

Co-convenor of the organisation Sameet Panda said access to food has drastically reduced after the COVID-19 lockdown and the resulting loss of income. “Exclusion from PDS will further decrease food intake of families and worsen the already abysmal nutritional status of children, adolescent girls and women,” he added.

He further said a standard operating procedure for porting newly-wed women’s names from parental to marital ration cards in a time-bound manner must be issued and a grievance redressal system implemented to identify and fix gaps in the process.

Besides, transparency must be improved at the Fair Price Shops (FPS) where ration is disbursed. A beneficiary availing the ration from a particular shop should be informed through a letter or SMS if his/her name is deleted or added to the list, Sameet said.

Pasting the list of beneficiaries at each FPS every month can go also minimise the problems of the affected people, he added.

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