NSE – National Food security Act / Card

Updated on: Jul 6th, 2021 - 8:01:10 AM

7 min read

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A landmark legislation, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) aims at providing certain rights and entitlements to the underprivileged households in a hope to provide them with proper nourishment. Implemented on the 12th September 2013, the act comprises:

  • Midday meal scheme
  • Public Distribution System
  • Integrated Child development services

Most importantly, under this act, the government has allocated subsidized food grains to 2/3rd of India’s population. NFSA especially focuses on the aged, infirm, and destitute women.  

Objective and Important features of this act

The primary purpose of the act is to provide for food and nutritional security by making food accessible both quantitatively and qualitatively at affordable prices to people. The constitution empowers every citizen to live a life with dignity.

Identification coverage and eligibility of households

Under this act, the ‘eligible households’ are defined under the following two categories:

  • Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY);
  • Households covered as the priority households under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

The Central Government on the basis of latest census figures determines the coverage of the population in the rural and urban area belonging to eligible households. As of now, the act targets 75% of the rural and up to 50% of the urban Indian population.

Food entitlements and security allowance

Every household covered under the act will be entitled to a total of 5 kgs of foodgrains, per person, per month. Households covered under AAY will be entitled to 35 kgs of food grains, per month. The price not exceeding Rs. 3  per kg for rice, Rs. 2 per kg of wheat and Rs. 1 per kg of coarse grains for a period of three years. These prices would be maintained for the first three years of the commencement of the act after which the prices fixed by the Central Government (not exceeding the Minimum Support Price) shall take effect. In case there is a shortage of food grain, the beneficiaries of the act will be compensated with a food security allowance in the form of money.  

Special focus on women and children

  • Under the act, pregnant and lactating women are entitled to a free meal during pregnancy and six months after childbirth. The local anganwadis will provide these benefits.
  • Additionally, the act also pays attention to the nutritional needs of children. Children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years are entitled to receive free meals from the local anganwadis. Children in the 6 to 14 years age bracket are entitled to one mid-day meal from the government-aided schools.

Empowerment of women

  • The head of Every eligible household shall be a woman for the purpose of issuance under this act.
  • The woman must be eighteen years or above. In case the female member is below the age of eighteen, the eldest male member of the house shall be the head of the family

Grievance Redressal

Under this act, each state is required to form an internal Grievance Redressal Mechanism. These may include call centres, helplines, the appointment of nodal officers, or other such mechanism mentioned in the act.

Beneficiaries of the Targeted Public Distribution System

The beneficiaries of the TPDS are divided into three main categories:

  1. Households above the poverty line (APL)-  APL households were not identified and any household above the poverty line could typically apply for an APL ration card
  2. Households below the poverty line (BPL)-  The TPDS covers the beneficiaries of BPL. According to the act, they will be provided with a Food Security Ration Card (FSC).
  3. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)- The AAY scheme sole focus were the poorest amongst the BPL families.  Launched in December 2000, people under the following categories are entitled to an FSC:
    • Landless agricultural labourers
    • Marginal farmers
    • Rural artisans/craftsmen such as tanners and potters,
    • Slum dwellers,
    • Persons engaged in the informal sector such as porters, rickshaw pullers, cobblers,
    • Destitute people
    • Households headed by widows or terminally ill people, disabled persons, persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence
    • All primitive and tribal households.

TPDS Entitlements and beneficiaries


Beneficiaries (Rs. in Crores)

Foodgrains Allowed (KG)

BPL4.09 35
APL18.0415 – 35
AAY 2.4335

Acquiring a Ration Card

Every state Government prescribes a separate application form for acquiring a ration card. These forms can be submitted manually, or, online for obtaining a ration card. Common procedures that are generally followed in most of the states are given below.


  The eligibility criteria for obtaining ration card from the state Govt – An Individual:

  • Should be an Indian citizen
  • Should not hold ration card in other states
  • Live and cook separately
  • Applicant and member of the family must be close relatives
  • Should not possess any other family card in the same state

Documents required

    The list of documents to be submitted at the local ration office by the applicant:

  • Completed and signed application form
  • Identify proof of the applicant can be any of the following:
  • Election photo ID card
  • Driving license
  • Passport
  • Any other Govt issued ID card
  • Applicant’s current residence proof should be submitted which can be any of the following document:
  • Electricity bill
  • Telephone bill
  • Latest LPG receipt
  • Bank Pass Book
  • Rental agreement/  rent paid receipt
  • Photograph of the head of the family
  • Details about the annual income of the applicant
  • Old cancelled/surrendered ration card if any

The applicant must pay a basic minimum fee along with the application form. Once submitted, the application is sent for field verification. The officer in charge has to inspect and certify the details submitted by the applicant for further processing. The inspection is to be carried out within 30 days from the date of submission of the application.

Once the details are verified and confirmed by the officer, the ration card is created and issued to the applicant based on their annual income. If the application is rejected, a rejection letter is issued with reasons for the same to the applicant. In case of any false/misleading information, the applicant would be liable for criminal prosecution and consequent punishment under the law.


The driving force behind the National Food security act (NFSA) is India’s nutritional requirement. Given the staggering rate at which poverty is widespread, NFSA steps in to make sure that people are not denied the right to food under any circumstances.  

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