ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Suman ChakrabartiSubscribe to Suman Chakrabarti

Deploying the Power of Social Protection to Improve Nutrition

The nutritional status of women and children in India continues to be poor. In this paper, we discuss how three major flagship social protection government programmes—the Targeted Public Distribution System, the Mid-day Meal Scheme, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act—can be made more nutrition sensitive. We discuss three potential approaches to making these programmes deliver better nutrition outcomes. These are strengthening governance and operations so that the programmes achieve their basic goals of improving food security and poverty; integrating nutrition goals and actions for each of these programmes; and leveraging the reach and scale of these programmes to also deliver specific nutrition interventions via these programmes, especially the tpds.

What Is the Cost of Providing One Rupee of Support to the Poor?

The enduring equity-efficiency debate on India’s food policy revolves around two key issues—leakage of cereal grains from the system, and reduction in benefits at the extensive margin to reduce the fiscal burden. Using descriptive analysis and costing techniques, it is found that the public distribution system works well in regions with low market access, high cereal prices, and high poverty. It protects households from inflation through a price ceiling that automatically adjusts the value of the real implicit transfer. However, the biggest weakness is its one-size-fits-all approach. Even without leakages, some states will not benefit as much from such a costly cereal subsidy because of low market prices for cereals in those states. Overall, it is found that inclusivity and the possibility of leakage reduction, thereof, has the potential to deliver a net gain of $1 billion in social welfare from the status quo.
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