The Political Economy of Hunger in 21st Century India
Jayati Ghosh

It is apparent that despite the persisting food insecurity of the bulk of the population and the near-emergency with respect to the nutrition of children, women and other vulnerable groups, the Government of India is still not taking the job of ensuring universal food security with sufficient seriousness. Its attitude towards meeting its 2009 election promise of legislating a comprehensive Food Security Act is an example of this lack of seriousness. Political and social mobilisation around this issue, to make it a resonant demand that cannot be ignored, is therefore essential.


uestions of food security and the right to food have become urgent political issues in India today. This is not surprising, since rapid aggregate income growth over the past two decades has not addressed the basic issue of the need to ensure food security of the population. Instead, nutrition indicators have stagnated and per capita calorie consumption has actually declined, suggesting that the problem of pervasive hunger may have got worse rather than better.

1 Evidence of Food Insecurity
Consider the evidence on nutritional outcomes from the most recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2005-06. According to this, 46% of children below three years are underweight; 33% of women and 28% of men have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below normal; 79% of children aged 6-35 months have anaemia, as do 56% of ever married women aged 15-49 years and 24% of similar men; and 58% of pregnant women. The national averages mask locational differences: all these indicators are much worse in rural India. Further, these indicators have scarcely changed, or have changed very little, since the previous NFHS in 1998-99. In terms of calorie consumption the picture is even worse. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) large survey of 2004-05, the average daily intake of calories of the rural population has dropped by 106 kcal (4.9%) from 2,153 kcal to 2,047 kcal from 1993-94 to 2004-05 and by 51 kcal (2.5%) from 2,071 to 2,020 kcal in urban areas. The average daily intake of protein by the Indian population decreased from 60.2 to 57 grams in rural India between 1993-94 and 2004-05 and remained stable at around 57 grams in the urban areas during the same period.
vol xlv no 44

This is an edited, condensed and updated version of the text of the Brajamohan Sarma Memorial Lecture delivered in Guwahati on 2 October 2010. Jayati Ghosh ( is at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Economic & Political Weekly EPW

The all-India averages do not capture the wide variation across states and even within states. For example, the India State Hunger Index 2008 (brought out by the International Food Policy Research Institute) shows very large differences across 17 major states, ranging from 13.6 for Punjab to 30.9 for Madhya Pradesh. If these states could be compared to countries in the Global Hunger Index rankings, some states in India have index scores at the bottom: Bihar and Jharkhand rank lower than Zimbabwe and Haiti, and Madhya Pradesh falls between Ethiopia and Chad. Table 1 (p 34) gives some idea of the variation among major states and also shows how India is placed as a whole in relation to other Asian countries. It is evident that India’s performance with respect to hunger is abysmal, particularly in relation to other large developing countries like China, but even in comparison to the rest of south Asia, with only Bangladesh having a higher value of the index. Indeed, India’s index value is close to that of Zimbabwe, a country which is in the throes of severe hyperinflation and collapse of domestic food markets. Within India, some of the supposedly richest states with most rapid recent growth of GDP, such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat, perform very poorly on the hunger index, clearly much worse than Kerala but even worse than Assam. West Bengal is close to the middle among the major states, and slightly below the national average in terms of the hunger index, which means that it is an important policy concern also within this state. The recent rise in food prices in India is likely to have made matters much worse, and the effects of the global crisis on employment and livelihoods within the country are likely to cause a further deterioration in people’s access to food. Clearly, therefore, food security is currently one of the most important policy areas, and demands stressing a rights-based approach to public food strategy have gained ground.

2 Global Food Crisis
The most loose definition of food security is one in which the population does not live in hunger or fear of starvation. But recent definitions have been more stringent.

october 30, 2010


which is part of the official publicity around any period of price rise. the claim that foodgrain prices have soared because of more demand from China and India as their GDP increases.30 times the total amount of China 7.7 rise. These include the short-run effects of diversion of both acreage and food crop output for biofuel production. Social discrimination and part of this.PERSPECTIVES According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). per person per day.87 6 simply a matter of preferred Rajasthan 14. particularly of food crops.5 42.4 59.00 5 upon imports.6 5. Also.6 17.6 36.8 The calorie undernourishment indicator is based on a very low cut-off of 1.7 4.63 2 creasing the domestic proAndhra Pradesh 19.73 11 food markets. large voluntary rather than forced system of roles in determining both livelihood and public procurement. but a policy imperaWest Bengal 18.1 9.7 1.6 5.7 5.5 19.6 32.1 39. It also requires preventing speculative activity in futures markets.0 40.1 rice traded in world marVietnam 12. Any programme of national food security must be combined with a concentrated focus on improving foodgrain production in the country. so that we are not dependent upon imports in a volatile global market. Real Economy Factors This is not to deny the undoubted role of other real economy factors in affecting the global food situation.3 28. and speedy implementation of the many reforms that have already been suggested by the Farmers’ Commission to improve the productivity and financial viability of farming.6 22. 2007 desirable eating habits. which means that there must be a ban on futures markets in all essential commodities. as well as more medium-term factors such as rising costs of inputs. Malnourishment is closely linked to poor sanitation and other unhealthy practices. sanitation and access to other basic amenities as well as knowledge about correct or Table 1: State Hunger Index.2 13. By contrast. This is especially important in the context of the recent price volatility in world food markets.80 10 large country in most world Karnataka 28. falling productivity vol xlv no 44 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 34 october 30.3 44. and which threatens the world once again.5 7.4 30.83 4 country is not dependent Haryana 15.70 13 Chhattisgarh 23.1 37. unfortunately. which generated a global food crisis in 2007-08. IFPRI (2008). it is also necessary to avoid instability in domestic prices of foodgrain and curb speculative tendencies. which.) Even the anticipation Sri Lanka 15. all of which would be through improved agricultural producnecessary at both local and national levels.of providing minimum support prices ment.63 1 Kerala 28.632 kcals lative forces described earlier. Ensuring adequate supplies of food can be used as a strategic weapon in food requires increases in agricultural geopolitical terms. India is a Maharashtra 27.5 20. in that its enOrissa 21. This requires making cultivation Making sure that food can be accessed by financially viable as well as more proall the people requires that they have the ductive.1 30. India’s current producMadhya Pradesh 23.5 38.4 23. On the contrary it has been intimately connected with it. is completely invalid. To make this successful. When this effect is comBangladesh 25.4 8.3 56.6 22.97 7 practice. the first productivity. in turn. Undernourishment Children Rate (%) Score Rank (%) < 5 Years (%) To begin with. the FAO assumes 1.3 19. extreme volatility of global It is evident that genuine food security food prices noted earlier makes it difficult among a population requires a wide range and undesirable to base a national food of features. means that employ.67 16 ple.80 12 try especially as an importer Gujarat 23.800 kcal per person per day to be the minimum below which the result can be extremely there is moderate or severe undernourishment. adverse.0 of more imports by India can Nepal 20. since both aggregate and per capita consumption of grain have actually fallen in both policy on even partial import deciated with the need for some public inter. access to food by different social categories.8 9.4 8.0 42.6 57. to allow comparison with the Global Hunger Index.7 6.9 increase domestic food production bility of cultivation.6 9. are State Prevalence Proportion of Under-Five Hunger Hunger of Calorie Underweight Mortality Index Index all necessary. and should be part of a exclusion still play. have access to sufficient.7 6.9 9. possibly changes in cropping priority of a national food policy must be patterns and certainly the sustained via. so that the provision of clean drinking water.5 5.1 24.6 kets. 2010 .pendence. Supply factors have been – and are likely to continue to be – more significant.5 20. This requires much more attention to the requirements of farmers. It is also clear that the global food crisis is not something that can be treated as discrete and separate from the global financial crisis. (For examJharkhand 19.5 23.7 22. all or many of which are asso.87 17 tion of rice is more than six India 20.4 40. national food security requires inPunjab 11.2 bined with that of the specuZimbabwe 23. This is not Tamil Nadu 29.0 3. particularly through the impact of financial speculation on world trade prices of food.0 36.2 20. through a range of measures purchasing power to buy the necessary such as those described earlier. This does not simply mean cracking down on hoarders. A policy food.1 8.30 15 bal trade prices. safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.1 23. In any case. at all times. tivity.13 9 gic implications.63 14 can dramatically affect gloBihar 17.3 9.97 7 tive since it has huge strateUttar Pradesh 14. so that the Assam 14. food security in a particular society exists “when all people.6 cause world trade prices to Pakistan 21. and this too needs to be reckoned with.5 27. this is largely unjustified given that there has been hardly any change in the world demand for food in the past three years. the Source: India State Hunger Index. it is well known that vention. In particular. remuneration and livelihood issues that reach all farmers is an essential are important.1 24.53 3 duction of food. Therefore.3 47. While demand-supply imbalances have been touted as reasons.0 26.

For example. the ecological implications of both pollution and climate change. and the impact of climate change that has affected harvests in different ways. The first is the biofuel factor: the impact of both oil prices and government policies in the United States (US). this has also reduced acreage for other crops and has naturally reduced the land available for producing food. This is of global significance since China and India together produce more than half of the world’s Chart 1: Number of Undernourished People (millions) Latin America and Caribbean North Africa Sub-Saharan Africa West Asia CIS Asia South-east Asia East Asia South Asia Developing Countries Developed Countries World 0 200 400 Source: Report on State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009. But it will take time. official policy has been tardy in considering such problems. Neglect of Agriculture The second factor is the policy neglect of agriculture over the past two decades. are issues that have been highlighted by analysts but largely ignored by policymakers in most countries. Greater trade openness and market orientation of farmers have led to shifts in acreage from traditional food crops that were typically better suited to the ecological conditions and the knowledge and resources of farmers. prices for seeds. So many farmers are forced to opt for much more expensive informal credit networks that have added to their costs. The lack of attention to relevant agricultural research and extension by public bodies has denied farmers access to necessary knowledge. Reversing these processes is possible. In addition. Some more arid regions are already more drought-prone and in danger of desertification. and of course essential. Scientists are projecting that warmer and earlier growing seasons will increase crop susceptibility to pests and viruses. Costs of cultivation have been further increased in most developing countries by the growing difficulties that farmers have in accessing institutional credit. One major element has been the lack of public investment in agriculture and in agricultural research. inadequate public investment in agricultural research and extension. It has also been associated with other problems such as the excessive use of groundwater in cultivation. As a result. Far from halving or even decreasing. and the overuse of chemical inputs that have long-run implications for both safety and productivity. Inappropriate policies have several aspects. Brazil used half of its sugar cane production and the European Union (EU) used the greater part of its vegetable oil seeds production as well as imported vegetable oils to make biofuel. the number of malnourished people globally increased by more than 50 million between the early 1990s and mid-2000s (Chart 1). fertilisers and pesticides have increased quite sharply. leaving farmers to the mercy of large seed and fertiliser companies and Economic & Political Weekly EPW input dealers. much less in addressing them. because financial liberalisation has moved away from policies of directed credit and provided other more profitable (if less productive) opportunities for financial investment. and falling productivity of land. But at the same time. 2004-06 1990-92 wheat and rice. This will deprive the hinterland of much-needed irrigation water for wheat and rice crops during dry seasons. but they all result from the basic neoliberal open marketoriented framework that has governed economic policymaking in most countries over the past two decades. inadequate attention to preserving or regenerating land and soil quality. This has been associated with low to poor yield increases. to cash crops that have increasingly relied on purchased inputs. and diversion of such output to fuel production. 2010 vol xlv no 44 35 . East and south-east Asia also showed good performance in terms of falling numbers of malnourished people. The prolonged agrarian crisis in many parts of the developing world has been largely a policy-determined crisis. Two policy factors affecting global food supply require special note. Yellow and Ganges are fed by such glaciers. In addition to diverting corn output into nonfood use. as the numbers declined in developed countries. the impact of which is finally being felt. and particularly for certain developing regions. but 600 800 1000 october 30. Brazil and elsewhere that have promoted biofuels as an alternative to petroleum. Similarly. thus adding to cultivation costs. in 2007 the US diverted more than 30% of its maize production. especially in tropical agriculture.PERSPECTIVES because of soil depletion. there is the impact of recent climate change. There have also been attempts in most developing countries to reduce subsidies to farmers in the form of lower power and water prices. and will also require not only substantial public investment but also major changes in the orientation and understanding of policymakers. This was entirely because of increasing hunger in the developing world. which are expected to proliferate as a direct result of rising temperatures. FAO. All this means that the number of hungry people actually increased for the world as a whole. The rapid melting of glaciers in Asia is of huge consequence to China and India. Once again. where important rivers such as the Yangtze. Europe. including desertification and loss of cultivable land. both public provision of different inputs for cultivation and government regulation of private input provision have been progressively reduced. which has caused poor harvests in different ways ranging from droughts in Canada and Australia to excessive rain in parts of the US. This has led to significant shifts in acreage to the cultivation of crops that can produce biofuels.

misleading and often completely wrong price signals to farmers that caused over-sowing in some phases and under-cultivation in october 30. In fact. it turns out that the pass-through of global prices was extremely high in developing countries in the phase of rising prices. Globally. financial firms and other speculators increasingly entered the market in order to profit from short-term changes in price. even if not to the same extent (Chart 2). In many developing countries. in that domestic food prices tended to rise as global prices increased. food prices remained high and even continued to increase during the period of falling global prices. A law that ensures universal food access and assigns responsibility and culpability would force governments at both central and state levels to take up the entire gamut of issues. Financial deregulation in the early part of the current decade gave a major reinvesting the proceeds in new contracts. by periodically rolling over commodity futures contracts prior to their maturity date and Oil price index 200 Food price index 150 100 50 0 2006M01 2006M07 2007M01 2007M07 Source: IMF Commodity price data online. the prices of many basic food commodities had not risen faster for more than three decades. such as India and countries in Latin America. The intensity of the food crisis that hit many developing countries from 2008 was particularly on account of the very sharp global volatility in food prices. including India. they are clearly the result of speculative activity in these markets. the crisis obviously made matters much worse. Persistent high food prices in the developing world continue to affect access to food of large numbers of vulnerable population in both urban and rural areas. Legislation for the Right to Food It is clearly important for the government to be aware of the need for a multipronged approach to the problem that has to extend beyond a legal promise if it is to be successful. Public procurement has to be combined with public distribution. However.” Therefore many developing countries in which widespread and persistent hunger was already a problem. with the only gainers from this process therefore being the financial intermediaries who were able to profit from rapidly changing prices. But thereafter they zoomed up. Such volatility had very adverse effects on both cultivators and consumers of food. There was a consequent emergence of commodity index funds that were essentially “index traders” who focus on returns from changes in the index of a commodity. Even so. they became prone to information asymmetries and associated tendencies to be led by a small number of large players. The result was the excessive volatility displayed by important commodities over 2008 – not only the foodgrains and crops mentioned here. Chart 2: Index of World Oil and Food Prices 250 boost to the entry of new financial players into the commodity exchanges. In addition. As noted by FAO (2008) “In countries where prices have declined the reductions have been modest compared to those in export markets and. 2010 others. This trend accelerated in the first few months of 2008. Instead. So both cultivators and food consumers appear to have lost in this phase of extreme price instability. even in recent years. generally. they allowed for inherently “wrong” signalling devices to become very effective in determining and manipulating market behaviour. so as to eventually vol xlv no 44 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 36 . such as India. the reverse tendency has not been evident in the subsequent phase as global trade prices have fallen. with an increase of around 40% in world food prices over 2007. and domestic food prices have not declined even after global trade prices started falling. but also minerals and oil. national cereal prices remain above their levels of a year earlier. 2008M01 2008M07 2009M01 2009M07 2010M01 2010M07 While this was the state before the global economic crisis. Such commodity funds dealt only in forward positions with no physical ownership of the commodities involved. This was not only because it sent out confusing. food prices internationally had shown only a modest increase until early 2007. which relate not just to actual food distribution but also to its production and patterns of consumption. Unlike producers and consumers who use such markets for hedging purposes. The surprise is that the growing prevalence of hunger and food insecurity was associated with relatively high GDP growth in several regions. a legal commitment to public food distribution can also play a role in extending and improving public food delivery so that it reaches all the people. but then from mid-2008 prices fell sharply and only started to rise again from early 2009. and once again have risen with the increase in world trade prices. and points to the role of public policy in ensuring that aggregate income growth translates into better provision of basic needs such as food for the general population. Far from being “efficient markets” in the sense hoped for by mainstream theory. Such wild swings in prices cannot be explained by seasonal supply and demand factors or any other “real economy” tendencies. Thus international commodity markets increasingly began to develop many of the features of financial markets.PERSPECTIVES such numbers increased quite sharply in south Asia (by 50 million) and sub-Saharan Africa (by 44 million). The contrast with east and south-east Asia is a stark one. have experienced significant increases in the prices of staple foods in the past two years.

The reasons can vary: crop failures. Surely this is not too much to allocate to ensure that no one goes hungry in what should be a civilised society. 2010 37 . it is actually impossible.000 crore) that have been given away as tax benefits and other concessions to corporates over the past year. that “For APL families in food-deficit states (emphasis added) depending upon the availability in the central pool. For example. those that have a better record of public food distribution are those that have gone in for near-universal access. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh all have defined BPL in such an inclusive way that the vast majority of the population is included. they are inbuilt into systems that try to provide scarce goods to one section of any population. At current levels of subsidy this would cost around Rs 1.” But this is impossible since not only are Planning Commission estimates survey-based and therefore technically random numbers. It is evident from NSSO and NFHS surveys that the proportion of the population that is nutritionally deprived is significantly larger than the “poor” population.000 with the huge amounts (nearly Rs 3. So these estimates cannot be used as a definitive guide to the exact number of the poor on any subsequent day.000 crore. Kerala. Monitoring each and every household on a regular basis to check whether any of these or other features has caused it to become food-insecure is not just administratively difficult. These are not simply mistakes that can occur in any administrative scheme. which can vary considerably for the same household from one day to another. and so on. Even among the states of India. that would come to around 90 million tonnes. are unlikely to work. The notion that a universal scheme that provides subsidised food to all households is too expensive is not tenable either. however defined. it is counterproductive to base public food provision on a predefined group of the “poor”. it requires no imagination to realise that making a scarce good (cheap food) supposedly available only to the poor is one of the easiest ways to reduce their access. Thus one Concept Note of the government declares that “it shall be the responsibility of the state governments to identify without inclusion or exclusion errors (emphasis added) as per the number fixed by the. but the same survey indicated calorie deficiency (at less than 2. it generates greater stability in government plans for ensuring food production and procurement.. Further. if the state government finds that its own estimates of poverty are higher than those determined by the central government. first by the central government to the states. and in many states they are not completely overlapping categories either. the central october 30.5% of GDP. because of changing material circumstances. This may seem like a lot.200 kcal per day) among 70% of the rural population. but the current food subsidy already amounts to around Rs 50. and this one in particular. In hierarchical and discriminatory societies like India. and it becomes a trivial amount. sharp rises in the price of food. have been those that have gone in for universal or near universal access. of unjustified exclusion of the genuinely poor and unwarranted inclusion of the non-poor. the lack of any real provision for the above poverty line (APL) population is especially worrying. it allows for better public provision because even the better off groups with more political voice have a stake in making sure it works well. Therefore equating poverty and hunger is fallacious: there may be a significant overlap. Part of the reason for this relates to the third problem. the absence of any notion of dynamics in a rigid law that defines “poor” and “vulnerable” households in a static sense and changes the group only at infrequent intervals. indeed likelihood. The key point here is that such a law must guarantee universal access. especially women and children. it reduces the transaction costs and administrative hassles involved in ascertaining the target group and making sure it reaches them.20.00. compare the amount of Rs 70. which makes their schemes close to universal. Similarly they can also go from being foodsecure to food-insecure in a short time. To deal with food insecurity in an effective manner. The second problem relates to the distinction between food insecurity and poverty as currently defined. the accumulation of debt. Most significant of all. There are many reasons why targeted schemes for the below the poverty line (BPL) population.000 crore – or around 1. health issues that divert household spending. where social and economic power is unequally distributed.000 crore. more than double the poverty estimate! Other estimates from the NFHS point to widespread anaemia and low BMI among a majority of the population. which would deprive a large number of others who are also food-insecure. Consider the maximal possible estimate of such spending. and then by the National Advisory Council (NAC) are travesties of the original promise and negations of the spirit of ensuring genuine food security. Yet the versions of the proposed “Right to Food” bill that have been circulated. there are the well known errors inherent in targeting. but solving the problem of widespread hunger and undernutrition requires a more comprehensive and inclusive approach that does not remove the Economic & Political Weekly EPW majority of the population from the ambit of public provision.PERSPECTIVES ensure genuine food security.Government of India. Households – and people within them – can fall in or out of poverty. of substantial exclusion of the hungry from the access given to BPL households. these are based on the dimension of household consumption. the Planning Commission estimate of rural income poverty based on the National Sample Survey 2004-05 was 28%. employment collapses. and so to expect there to be no errors of either exclusion or inclusion would be statistically impossible. how can it possibly avoid errors of unfair exclusion? And who is supposed to be legally culpable if there are indeed found to be such errors of exclusion? Given the continuing possibility. across societies. Right to Food Proposals This approach also leads to implementation requirements which are so inconsistent as to be laughable.. so this is an additional Rs 70. In any case. There is a cursory mention of such households. This provides economies of scale. This is why all successful programmes of public food distribution. If all households in the country are provided 35 kg of foodgrain vol xlv no 44 per month.

and so on) seem to be minor. The general households (44% in rural areas and 22% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 20 kgs (equivalent to 4 kgs per person) at a price not exceeding 50% of the current Minimum Support Price for millets. Indeed.. even if it is slightly higher. is therefore essential. References FAO (2008): Crop Prices and Food Situation. prices and coverage. Political and social mobilisation around this issue. “Depending upon choice of State Governments. quite apart from problems of leakage..htm. Thus. wheat and rice (NAC. Postscript The decision by and recommendations of the NAC last week make the proposals for food entitlement even more complicated than the targeted schemes that have already been seen to be impracticable. That is because the kind of legislation described in this document is so far off-track as to be the very opposite of a genuine right to food legislation. Most of all. 30 August 2010. women and other vulnerable groups. the NAC recommends that The priority households (46% in rural areas and 28% in urban areas) should have a monthly entitlement of 35 kgs (equivalent to 7 kgs per person) at a subsidised price of Re 1 per kg for millets. instead of allocating foodgrains under TPDS. because the purported bill allows state governments to replace physical provision with a system of cash transfers to those identified as poor. http://www. would be completely lost in a system of cash transfers. Ministry of Consumer Affairs. In conclusion. Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice. Indeed. rather than such a convoluted system. NAC: “National Food Security Bill: Proposal to NAC on 30 August 2010 on Behalf of NAC Working Group”. diversion and misappropriation (which it is absurd to believe that schemes like UID and using “smart cards” can solve). In the current context. . to make this a resonant demand that cannot be ignored. In any case it is not clear if the amount of the cash transfer would actually compensate for the denial of actual foodgrains. accessed on 26 March 2009. circulated to state governments in February 2010. 2010 vol xlv no 44 EPW Economic & Political Weekly . the lack of any specification of the price at which such foodgrain is to be made available. the basic purpose of the public procurement and distribution system. discrimination and corruption that operate to prevent the poor from access to public foodgrains would not operate at all when the strategy is straightforward cash transfer.PERSPECTIVES Ministry of Food and Public Distribution may make some allocations of foodgrains at issue prices. the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution may transfer equivalent subsidy as cash grant to such State Governments. Food and Agriculture Organisation. “Gist of Decisions of Meeting of 23 October 2010”). it would probably be far more sensible to provide universal access to foodgrains at a common price. which amounts to an effective destruction of the PDS rather than a genuine attempt at reform and strengthening. Rural coverage can be adjusted state-wise based on the Planning It is not difficult to imagine the fate of such an extraordinarily complicated scheme with varying entitlements. 38 october 30. therefore. troubling though they are. Rome. it is apparent that despite the persisting food insecurity of the bulk of the population and the nearemergency with respect to the nutrition of children. of providing an incentive price to farmers for foodgrain production and ensuring the distribution of such food to deficit areas. the sheer administrative costs of such an elaborate system are likely to outweigh the supposed gains resulting from differential prices.fao. and make it far more difficult for other states to follow suit to improve basic food access for all. Food and Public Distribution: “Concept Note on the Proposed National Food Security Act”.” It is absurd to imagine that the systems of power.” This extremely restricted and parsimonious allocation from the centre would inflict severe damage on those states that have managed to develop functioning and near-universal systems of public food distribution. In any case. org/docrep/011/ai476e/ai476e01. the government is still not taking the job of ensuring universal food security with sufficient seriousness.The State Governments may distribute the equivalent food subsidy in cash to identified BPL families. the elimination of special provision to the poorest in the Antyodaya and Annapurna schemes. the central pool of foodgrains in a system such as that proposed by this document would tend to be extremely small and may not even exist. the likelihood of large-scale diversion and denial to the deserving is even greater. the other problems in the purported draft bill (such as the reduction of the amount of foodgrains to be provided from 35 kg per month per household to 25 kg. Commission’s 2004-05 poverty estimates. which will not be lower than the cost of acquisition. such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Compared to these massive flaws.

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