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Food Insecurity in Gujarat

Using data that surveys sample households in the tribal area of rural Gujarat known as the Panchmahaals-Dahod and a non-tribal sample from Maliya and Jasdan in the Rajkot district of Saurashtra, we find the prevalence of large-scale food insecurity with less than 10 per cent of the population surveyed found to be food secure all 12 months in a year. A staggering 73.66 per cent (Panchmahaals) are found to be food insecure for more than six months in a year. The corresponding figure for Rajkot sample stands at approximately 19 per cent. This food insecurity is seen to be roughly consistent across poverty classification categories with similar distributions of food deprivation across both above poverty line and below poverty line households in our sample. Finally, the unavailability of food is found to be a seasonal phenomenon with unavailability peaking over the summer and monsoon and dropping off right before the winter months.

Food Insecurity in Gujarat

A Study of Two Rural Populations

Using data that surveys sample households in the tribal area of rural Gujarat known as the Panchmahaals-Dahod and a non-tribal sample from Maliya and Jasdan in the Rajkot district of Saurashtra, we find the prevalence of large-scale food insecurity with less than 10 per cent of the population surveyed found to be food secure all 12 months in a year. A staggering 73.66 per cent (Panchmahaals) are found to be food insecure for more than six months in a year. The corresponding figure for Rajkot sample stands at approximately 19 per cent. This food insecurity is seen to be roughly consistent across poverty classification categories with similar distributions of food deprivation across both above poverty line and below poverty line households in our sample. Finally, the unavailability of food is found to be a seasonal phenomenon with unavailability peaking over the summer and monsoon and dropping off right before the winter months.

SUJOY CHAKRAVARTY, SEJAL A DAND

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Food InsecurityFood InsecurityFood InsecurityFood InsecurityFood Insecurity

T
he vibrancy of Gujarat belies the unchanged condition of food insecurity for millions of its hungry citizens. Around 20.4 per cent of Gujarat’s current population does not get enough calories from food as compared to the all-India figure of 13.4 per cent. Seven per cent of Gujarat’s children suffer from severe malnutrition while another 44 per cent suffer from moderate malnutrition. It is estimated that over 60 per cent of children in Gujarat under the age of five are either moderately or severely malnourished [Hirway and Mahadevia 2003] Our study, which samples two vulnerable rural populations, one tribal and the other non-tribal, finds a high incidence of food insecurity and the associated medical effects of nutritional deprivation, such as low body mass indices (BMI). Moreover, this deprivation is shockingly similar in the case of both above poverty line (APL) and below poverty line (BPL) households. Thirdly, the food insecurity in both the tribal and non-tribal populations surveyed displays a seasonal pattern and has been increasing to a peak during the summer and monsoons and decreasing thereafter through the winter.

According to M S Swaminathan Research Foundation [MSSRF 2003, 2004], which used 17 key urban food security indicators for the urban sector and 19 such indicators for the rural sector, identified Gujarat as “moderately secure” with respect to urban food security and “severely insecure” with respect to rural food security. This underlines one of the central issues in the problem with food security in India today, i e, the problem is one of access and not one of underproduction. Typically, problems with targeting in the public distribution system (PDS) have often left vulnerable rural populations (especially, tribal populations) out whereas the urban sector has seen better distribution of grain. Also the unviability of fair price shops (FPS) has resulted in a further lowering of the offtake of grain among these poor communities [Shankar 2004].

A major factor that has contributed to food insecurity over the last decade is that agrarian incomes have plummeted in absolute terms making it difficult in many cases to sustain a livelihood and obtain the basic necessities including food (see Section II). Furthermore, the disparity between urban and rural incomes has increased over time. This coupled with the uncertainties of primarily rain-fed agriculture has increased the incidence of migration to urban areas and a growth in the informal sector [DFID 2004]. However, very few migrants are able to obtain the relatively high wage jobs due to the large size of the urban casual labour pool and end up in conditions that are as adverse as in their rural subsistence livelihoods.

We describe the food insecurity problem in Gujarat in detail in Section IV before we discuss the specific population sample we used and the results from our survey (Sections VI and VII). Finally, we present our conclusions and some specific prescriptions that we feel will help the government of Gujarat design better policies to combat food insecurity. We now look at the larger problem of food security in India and its causes with a specific focus on tribal populations.

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Food Insecurity in IndiaFood Insecurity in IndiaFood Insecurity in IndiaFood Insecurity in IndiaFood Insecurity in India

One of the main reasons for the prevalence of food insecurity in India is the demand deflation that has been brought about by falling agrarian incomes over the past decade. Our economy traditionally has had a significant amount of private ownership of assets by a small section of the economic elite. The high disparity in wealth between this small elite class and a considerable-sized poorer section of society has always given our economy a dualist nature, where growth-led policies adopted by the government have co-existed with support-led measures. However, in recent years a reduction in the state intervention (PDS, food-for-work, direct aid programmes) coupled with a rapid opening up of the agricultural sector to foreign competition from vastly subsidised foodgrains from developed countries (which leads to a change in composition of output and a lowering of agricultural prices) has led to a rise in rural poverty and a lowering of food security [Patnaik 2001, 2003, 2004a, 2004b].

It is also true that today in India the distribution of income within the population is more skewed than it was a decade ago. According to Sen and Himanshu (2004) and Ghosh (2004), the bottom 80 per cent of the rural population who now number almost 600 million, have seen declining per capita consumption since 1989-90. This is in stark contrast to the top 20 per cent of the population whose per capita consumption (and thus income) has gone up by about 40 per cent in the 1990s. Thus the averages of the parameters of wealth ownership may look impressive, but they obscure a serious problem of the rising numbers that go hungry everyday.

In order to mitigate the regional inequalities of foodgrain production, to provide subsistence for the poorest and to stabilise agricultural prices, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) started procurement and distribution operations in 1964. However, the universal coverage of the PDS which gave way to the targeted PDS (TPDS) in 1997 has been a complete failure both in terms of the high errors of exclusion (due to flaws in identification of APL and BPL households) it has propagated and a significant level of inefficiency and corruption that has characterised its operations.1 A third factor that affects the level of food security in India is supply-side cuts that may be brought about by famines or earthquakes. This is particularly true for the disaster-prone states like Gujarat and Rajasthan. These contribute to further exacerbate the already existing problems with dwindling agrarian incomes and a failing PDS by causing more hunger and poverty that arise due to shortages in production. India has suffered several crippling famines over this century, including the Bengal Famine of 1943, which killed more than three million people. In the recent past, the droughts of 1987 and 2002-03 have created an enormous agrarian distress. Devastating as they can be, Sen (1981) and Dreze and Sen (1989) aver that it is the mismanagement of foodgrains stock and flawed distribution policies and not necessarily a lower output of foodgrains that make famines as devastating as they are.

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Poverty among Tribal PopulationsPoverty among Tribal PopulationsPoverty among Tribal PopulationsPoverty among Tribal PopulationsPoverty among Tribal Populations

The two main groups that are socially and economically disadvantaged in India are the scheduled castes (SC) and the scheduled tribes (ST). These two groups have been specifically targeted in our Constitution for affirmative action and accounted for 16.5 and 8.1 per cent of the total population [Census of India 1991]. This figure has remained more or less the same over the next decade. According to the 2001 Census [Economic Survey 2004] STs numbered 84.32 million and accounted for 8.2 per cent of India’s population. Unlike the SCs, whose economic and social discrimination stems from being at the lower end of the Hindu religious hierarchy, the STs have been socially and economically disadvantaged due to their isolation both geographically as well as culturally from the mainstream population. Habitation in remote difficult terrains, statisation and corporatisation of forest lands and the lack of alternative investment opportunities in their communities have led the tribals to depend on wage labour and subsistence agriculture. Moreover, the lack of knowledge regarding their lifestyle and customs has also caused them to be regarded as “backward” or “uncivilised” by the majority of urban and a large section of the non-tribal rural population. According to Sundaram and Tendulkar (2003a, 2003b) the headcount ratio of the percentage of the population below the poverty line among STs was 48.81 per cent in 1993-94 and 48.02 per cent in 200001 for the rural sector giving rise to a poverty gap of almost 20 per cent with the non-SC/ST population.2 Farrington and Saxena (2003) find the central tribal belt in India to be among the poorest in rural India.3 In urban areas too, this poverty gap is almost 15 per cent in 1999-2000 [Sundaram and Tendulkar 2003a]. The most vulnerable groups with respect to poverty in India are the agricultural labour households (rural) and the informal sector casual labour households in the urban sector. Gang et al (2002) find that the poverty rates among tribal agricultural labour households to be at 58.3 per cent as compared to 37.3 per cent for the non-scheduled households, using the 2,400 calorie per capita measure for evaluating the poverty line. The high incidence of poverty among agricultural labour households in general, and tribal agricultural labour households in particular, has also been analysed by Dubey and Gangopadhyay (1998) and Meenakshi and Ray (2002).

The high poverty rate of the tribal population has meant a lower literacy rate [Gang et al 2002], high incidence of disease caused by low sanitation and staggering levels of food insecurity in most areas they inhabit. Particularly in Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, the STs are significantly below the poverty line (BPL) with 69.6, 60 and 55 per cent, respectively of their population falling within the monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) group of Rs 190 and below [NSSO 1994]. In some states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the percentage of ST households in lower expenditure classes is small, but the deprivation and vulnerability of these populations in expenditure classes of less than Rs 140 per capita per month is very severe. This is especially true for the more drought- or disaster-prone areas of rural Gujarat or Rajasthan.

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Food Security of Rural Gujarat: An OverviewFood Security of Rural Gujarat: An OverviewFood Security of Rural Gujarat: An OverviewFood Security of Rural Gujarat: An OverviewFood Security of Rural Gujarat: An Overview

Rural Gujarat suffers from both supply-side as well as demandside factors that make its population particularly food insecure. Cyclones, droughts and earthquakes have led to high instability in cereal production (the most unstable among the 16 states surveyed by MSSRF (2003)) which has often led to the cropping patterns that have moved away from cereal production, a high degree of capital-intensive farming by the wealthier farmers who favour commercial crops over (particularly coarse) cereals. This cash crop favouring cropping patterns lead to environmentally unsound agricultural techniques that strip the soil of nutrients and lead to risky and unsustainable modes of cultivation. The per capita production of food in Gujarat from 1995-98 is shown in Table 1. Note that that the production of the three main food groups (cereals, pulses and vegetables) in Gujarat in gms/day is significantly lower than the all-India average.

Not only have the gains from more capital-intensive farming on the part of more commercial farmers not trickled down to small and marginal farmers, support-led measures have also consistently underperformed in Gujarat. The most glaring evidence of this underperformance is with respect to the PDS. Table 2 shows the foodgrains offtake from the PDS in different states using NSS 55th round data from 1999-2000 [Vepa 2003]. Gujarat’s offtake at 31gms/day is much lower than the states like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which in spite of a lower proportion of the population under the poverty line have a more developed system of public distribution. The 55th round data of the NSSO also breaks up the consumption of PDS foodgrains in rural Gujarat by MPCE classes. This is given in Table 3 for the four lowest MPCE classes.

From this table we see that the lowest four classes consumed on average 38 gms of grain a day or a little over a kilogram a month. For the MPCE class 225-255, the average consumption was a shocking 0.89 kg a month. This low offtake for the lower income classes has meant that these populations have no recourse, but to borrow from moneylenders and traders (at usurious interest rates) in times of hardship and natural calamity.4 The low offtake is also a function of the inefficiency and corruption that is rife in the PDS. Dreze (2002) and Swaminathan (2001) allude to the costs that make running FPS unviable in many parts of the rural sector. Some of these costs are related to storage and transportation cost of grain vis-a-vis the revenue from sale, whereas others are related to the payments that are necessary to be made to corrupt functionaries of the state. Often these significant transaction costs make selling grain on the black market a sine qua non of the existing PDS and result in the infrequent opening of FPS in certain communities (see Section VII for evidence of this phenomenon from our sample). A Tata Economic Consultancy Services (TECS) 1998 report on two rural districts in Gujarat (Junagadh and Bharuch) finds that 23 per cent, 21 per cent and 18 per cent of wheat, rice and sugar, respectively are being diverted to private trade from the PDS.

It would be simplistic to say that the food security in Gujarat would be restored only, if the TPDS could be implemented in a better way. The reality is that in the absence of regular assured incomes, the mere availability of cheap foodgrains through PDS is no guarantee that the poor can, in fact, have the wherewithal to purchase this grain. Shankar (2002) asserts this in a study on starvation deaths in Uttar Pradesh. Due to the opening up of the economy to cheap and subsidised grain from the US and EU, small farms producing grain are a relatively unviable proposition today. This is further exacerbated by drought conditions that prevail in numerous areas of the state. Furthermore, the increased commercialisation of agriculture (and the associated fall in demand for agricultural labour) and the industrial slowdown over the last decade have meant a lower demand for casual labour. Unemployment and poverty (and food security) on the average are related but need not necessarily go together. However, the unemployment in lower income classes is typically a good predictor of food insecurity. In Gujarat, unemployment does not seem to be a problem on the surface. The unemployment person days at daily current status are 4.2 per cent for males and 2.9 per cent for females. However, the problems emerge when we study the pattern of employment for the poorest. In Gujarat, 70.6 per cent of the population in the lowest four monthly expenditure classes constitutes casual labour. According to the 55th round NSS data, the expenditure of agricultural labour households on food are as low as Rs 277 per month [Vepa 2003].

A large number of the food insecure households in Gujarat are from the SC/ST communities, who are materially affected by the discriminatory attitudes of the mainstream. According to the 2001 Census of India close to 30 per cent of the population of Gujarat is SC/ST. The NSSO (2001) identifies 36 per cent of the ST population as belonging to the four lowest expenditure classes. According to the NMMB (2000), about 43 per cent of the ST population in Gujarat depends on casual labour for their livelihood. About 44 per cent are cultivators who may or may not own land. The cereal intake for males is 273 gms per capita per day and for females is 215 gms per capita per day. Mean caloric consumption of tribal males per day was 2,145 Kcal per capita per day which is lower than the RDA of 2,425 Kcal for tribal males. Ramanujam (2000) finds the caloric intake to be less than 1,833 Kcal per capita per day in tribal areas of the Vadodara district in Gujarat.

According to the NSS 55th round data, the lowest 10 per cent of the population in Gujarat consume 8.73 kg per capita per month or 291 grams per capita per day (grams/day) of cereals, compared to the requirement of 420 grams per capita per day (and the all India average of 424 grams per capita per day). Taking the whole of Gujarat’s population into account, the cereal consumption is merely 339.67 grams per day, which is short of the all-India average and RDA consumption of cereals. A lower consumption

Table 1: Average Per Capita Food ProductionTable 1: Average Per Capita Food ProductionTable 1: Average Per Capita Food ProductionTable 1: Average Per Capita Food ProductionTable 1: Average Per Capita Food Production
in Gujarat (1995-1998)in Gujarat (1995-1998)in Gujarat (1995-1998)in Gujarat (1995-1998)in Gujarat (1995-1998)

Food Group Gujarat (gms/day) All India (gms/day)

Cereals 221.9 430.33 Tubers 30.46 65.73 Pulses 28.96 31.94 Sugar 54.67 41.00 Edible oil 44.01 18.10 Fruits 58.83 58.33 Vegetables 109.04 179.22 Milk 265.22 184.33 Eggs 3.63 9.38 Fish 40.32 14.01

Source: Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India [MSSRF 2003].

Table 2: Average Per Capita Consumption of FoodgrainsTable 2: Average Per Capita Consumption of FoodgrainsTable 2: Average Per Capita Consumption of FoodgrainsTable 2: Average Per Capita Consumption of FoodgrainsTable 2: Average Per Capita Consumption of Foodgrains
from PDS in the Rural Sector (1999-2000)from PDS in the Rural Sector (1999-2000)from PDS in the Rural Sector (1999-2000)from PDS in the Rural Sector (1999-2000)from PDS in the Rural Sector (1999-2000)

State Rice Wheat Foodgrains (gms/day) (gms/day) (gms/day)

Andhra Pradesh – – 76.67 Assam – – 23.67 Bihar – – 5.00 Gujarat 12.67 18.33 31.00 Haryana – – -Himachal Pradesh 50.67 42.33 93.00 Jammu and Kashmir 70.00 22.00 92.00 Karnataka 40.00 10.00 50.00 Kerala 138.00 14.67 152.67 Madhya Pradesh 7.33 5.33 12.67 Maharashtra 15.67 22.33 38.00 Orissa – – 51.00 Punjab –– – Rajasthan – – 6.67 Tamil Nadu 105.33 4.67 110.00 Uttar Pradesh 3.67 6.00 9.67 West Bengal 7.67 5.00 12.67

Source: NSS 55th round, adapted from Vepa (2003).

Table 3: Average Per Capita ConsumptionTable 3: Average Per Capita ConsumptionTable 3: Average Per Capita ConsumptionTable 3: Average Per Capita ConsumptionTable 3: Average Per Capita Consumption
of PDS Foodgrains in Rural Gujaratof PDS Foodgrains in Rural Gujaratof PDS Foodgrains in Rural Gujaratof PDS Foodgrains in Rural Gujaratof PDS Foodgrains in Rural Gujarat

MPCE Class Rice Wheat Foodgrains Percentage in (gms/day) (gms/day) (gms/day) MPCE Class

Less than Rs 225 13 31 44 2.3 Rs 225-255 10.67 19 29.67 2.3 Rs 255-300 15.67 23.33 39 5.3 Rs 300-400 16.33 22.67 39 6.9 Lowest four classes 14 24 38 16.8 All classes 12.67 18.33 31 100

Source:NSS 55th round, draft table provided by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, GOI. Adapted from Vepa (2003).

of cereals does not automatically ensure food insecurity. It may be true that for some populations as income increases, a lower consumption of coarser grain may be substituted by a higher consumption of more refined foods keeping overall calorific intakes above the RDA levels. Punjab reflects this type of reduction in the share of “inferior” foods like grain (in terms of share in total consumption) to some degree and an increase in the share of more refined foods like meats and processed cereals [MSSRF 2003].5 However in Gujarat, there is little evidence of a trickle-down in incomes that would lead to such a significant diversification of the consumption basket. Indeed, at all levels of income in rural Gujarat the consumption of the main food groups are lower than recommended levels. Table 4 illustrates this point and Table 5 shows the per capita caloric intake of different deciles of the population in Gujarat. The consumption of the lower 10 per cent of the population is a shocking 1,400.06 calories per capita per day.

A second shocking observation from Table 4 is that the consumption of cereals, milk and fats and oils fell off significantly in the five years between the 50th and 55th NSS surveys. There was, however, an increase in consumption in the sugar and eggs categories, showing that accounting for all income categories, there might have been some diet diversification from cereals to more refined foods.

A significant fallout of low calorie intakes is a worsening of the health status of a population, particularly for the children in these poor households. According to Hirway and Mahadevia (2003), “the incidence of malnutrition and undernutrition is relatively large among the poor and particularly the tribal poor, women and children, who suffer from malnutrition-related diseases”. The BMI figures revealed by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-1, 1992-93) shows that chronic energy deficiency (a result of low BMI) may be as high as 55 per cent among tribal women. Our survey shows that more than 50 per cent of women sampled in our study from the Panchmahaals-Dahod area have seriously low BMI. Almost 51.3 per cent of rural women in Gujarat suffer from anaemia according to the NFHS-2 survey in 1998-99. Gujarat’s adult health indicators (e g, maternal mortality, life expectancy) are not among the worst in India [MSSRF 2003]. However, with respect to child nutrition, rural Gujarat’s position is worse than many states which have a poorer record of adult health. The percentage of severely stunted children at 54 per cent is the worst among all 16 states surveyed in the Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India [MSSRF 2003]. The underweightness for children under five category similarly shows that the problem in Gujarat (36 per cent) is the most severe among the 16 states surveyed.

Based on a number of food security indicators that combine indicators of food availability, food access and food absorption, the MSSRF has mapped the food security situation for the 25 districts of Gujarat.6 Based on this analysis the district of Panchmahaals is the most food insecure, followed by the district of Kachchh. These are followed by the districts of Bharuch and Banas Kantha. We look at some of the different indicators for the districts of Kachchh, Panchmahaals, Bharuch, Banas Kantha (food insecure districts) and Junagadh, Mahesana, Kheda, Surad and Valsad and Rajkot (relatively food secure districts). These indicators are shown in Table 6.

From this table we do see distinct differences in indicators of food secure and non-food secure districts. The prevalence of drought conditions is higher for the food-insecure states (except for Rajkot). The poverty headcount ratio is definitely not a good predictor for food insecurity as Surat and Valsad both of which are more food secure than the Panchmahaals and Kachchh which show a higher poverty ratio. Literacy levels that may help with empowerment, employment and calorie consumption seem to track the level of food insecurity in the aggregate. The presence of a large SC/ST population (much higher for Panchmahaals, Bharuch, Kachchh and Banas Kantha) seems to indicate a more food insecure population.

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Our StudyOur StudyOur StudyOur StudyOur Study

Our analysis tries to map the extent of food insecurity by studying a pair of vulnerable populations in Gujarat. There are a few studies that use secondary data (NSS, Census of India) in order to describe the situation in the state with respect to food security. In the preceding section, we have referenced these in order to set the stage for our study, and also to identify benchmarks from the extant data that we can compare our primary data with. The main contribution of this study is not in its innovative methodology, but in the fact that it is a significant-sized sample of primary data collected from two specific vulnerable populations which may get missed in large studies that sample only a few villages randomly from each district. Our purpose is not to generalise these results to the whole of Gujarat or India, but to present the extent, nature and dimensions of food insecurity in these populations and discuss policy prescriptions that may make the lives of those surveyed villages a little better. Furthermore, our Rajkot sample, from the Maliya and Jasdan areas, represent a vulnerable population from a district that is relatively food secure. We observe that the condition of the poorest in our sample from this population is not significantly different from that of the more conventionally vulnerable tribal sample. To make

Table 4: Consumption of Food Items in Rural GujaratTable 4: Consumption of Food Items in Rural GujaratTable 4: Consumption of Food Items in Rural GujaratTable 4: Consumption of Food Items in Rural GujaratTable 4: Consumption of Food Items in Rural Gujarat

Food Item Average Consumption Average Consumption Recom50th Round, 1993-94 55th Round, 2000-01 mended (NSS Consumer (NSS Consumer Daily Expenditure Survey) Expenditure Survey) Allowance in gms/day in gms/day in gms/day

Cereals 353.33 339.67 420.00 Pulses and products 12.33 19.67 30.00 Sugar 32.00 38.67 40.00 Milk (litres) 152.00 105.33 150.00 Fats and oils 21.67 16.67 22.00 Eggs (numbers) 5.67 12.33 45.00 Calories per consumer

unit 2470 cal 1986 cal Calories per consumer

unit for lowest 10 per cent 1788.43 cal 1758.31 cal Calories per capita

of lowest 10 per cent 1339.03 cal 1400.00 cal

Source: Vepa (2003).

Table 5: Calorie Intake by Deciles in GujaratTable 5: Calorie Intake by Deciles in GujaratTable 5: Calorie Intake by Deciles in GujaratTable 5: Calorie Intake by Deciles in GujaratTable 5: Calorie Intake by Deciles in Gujarat

Population Deciles (Per Cent) Per Capita Calorie Intake

Lower 10 1400.06 Lower 20 1536.91 Lower 30 1600.43 Lower 40 1657.83 Lower 50 1703.11 All deciles 1986.00

Source: NSS 55th round, ‘Nutritional Intake in India’, 1999-2000.

our study even more “micro” we include some excerpted interviews with survey participants on the underperformance of the PDS in their areas, which further accentuate how food insecure these populations are.

According to the FAO (1996), “food insecurity exists when all people, at all times, do not have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. In our study, we adopt a definition evolved by Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI) using a method developed out of the Participatory Action Learning System (PALS) with a sample of the respondents of our study.7 This definition identifies a participatory household as food insecure if food is not available or if the food is not enough. Accordingly, food is not available if it is not available in the house (someone else is providing it or the household is reliant on charity, see next section for more details), or it is the primary reliance on foraging from the forest or borrowing food against credit from a local village shop. Food is not enough is if there is not enough quantity of all three primary meal components (cereal, pulses and vegetables). For the classification food is not enough we have not used an explicit measure in terms of calories, weight or expenditure of food intake, relying instead on subjective measures of satiety that are specific to and reported by these populations. This, we feel, is a more meaningful method for gauging hunger than direct methods that use caloric norms and often provide misleading and spurious conclusions regarding food security. For a detailed discussion on this issue, see Dev (2005).The benchmarks that define the classifications food is not available and food is not enough have evolved out of exercises using the PALS methodology that have involved these populations. The next section looks at our classifications of food insecurity in more detail and explains the evolution of our definitions in the specific populations surveyed.

Food Insecurity in Specific Contexts

Most studies that examine poverty levels of a population use objective measurement criterion that involves indirect methods such as identifying a basket of food items adhering to a calorie norm in a certain base year and applying a new list of prices to this original basket. There are also direct methods that calculate headcount ratios of people consuming less than a certain amount of calories (e g 2,400 cal or 1,800 cal) per capita per day. The former has often grossly underestimated poverty levels in population, obtaining poverty ratios as low as 25 per cent [Deaton 2003; Deaton and Dreze 2002] and an overall poverty rate in 1999-2000 of approximately 13 per cent [Bhalla 2003; Bhalla and Das 2004]. For a more detailed discussion, see Patnaik (2004a). Direct methods, on the other hand, tend to be more transparent in the sense that they fix a certain calorie norm, say 2,400 calories in a certain year and identify all those whose expenditure falls below this as BPL. This approach though more unambiguous in identifying the poverty threshold it has its own problems. According to Meenakshi and Viswanathan (2003) who use the direct headcount of people consuming less than 2,400 calories a day in 1999-2000, find the ratios as high as 80 per cent (Andhra Pradesh), 81.2 per cent (Kerala), much higher than the BIMORU8 states which are clearly observed to be more poverty ridden. Lowering the calorie requirement to 1,800 and 2,200 calories does not alter the rank ordering of poverty for both Meenakshi and Viswanathan (2003) and Ray and Lancaster (2005) whose analysis find the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal as the poorest states in India. According

Table 6: Food Security Indicators for Select Districts in GujaratTable 6: Food Security Indicators for Select Districts in GujaratTable 6: Food Security Indicators for Select Districts in GujaratTable 6: Food Security Indicators for Select Districts in GujaratTable 6: Food Security Indicators for Select Districts in Gujarat

District No of Persons Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage Adult Female Percentage Infant Percentage Supported Area under Area under of Population of Literacy Literacy of SC/ST Mortality Rate of Stunted Per 100 Quintal Non-food Drought below Agricultural (Rural) (Rural) (1991) (1991) Children of Cereal Crops (1999) Poverty Line Labour (2001) (2001) (1992) Production (1992-93) (1993-94) (1991) (1995)

Panchmahaals 140 9.6 100.00 25.89 14.50 41.61 28.44 50.85 88 53.6 Kachchh 173 64.2 100.00 25.9 25.9 48.77 36.00 18.85 74 53.5 Bharuch 268 31.5 100.00 28.70 40.20 56.99 47.01 49.80 69 46.6 Banas Kantha 107 41.8 88.8 25.90 22.60 38.69 24.74 17.54 83 53.5 Rajkot 377 75.9 95.7 11.80 14.70 67.29 56.85 7.50 39 45.2 Valsad 92 31.2 0.0 28.70 36.95 58.41 50.74 57.38 40 46.6 Mehsana 89 48.5 31.1 25.9 25.1 58.42 47.32 9.35 89 53.5 Surat 159 22.1 0.0 28.70 23.80 62.72 54.09 39.72 54 46.6 Kheda 79 26.9 34.9 26.24 29.40 60.83 47.52 7.11 85 48.6 Junagadh 171 76.3 0.0 11.80 23.30 54.17 43.84 9.37 52 45.2

Source: Adapted from Vepa (2003).

Table 7: Panchmahaals-Dahod Sample DetailsTable 7: Panchmahaals-Dahod Sample DetailsTable 7: Panchmahaals-Dahod Sample DetailsTable 7: Panchmahaals-Dahod Sample DetailsTable 7: Panchmahaals-Dahod Sample Details

District Block/Taluka Villages in Survey Number Number Data of of Collection Villages Households Agency

Dahod Devgadh Baria Ambli Pani Chotra, Bamroli, Bara, Devirampura, Divya, Fangiya, Juni bedi, Kansatiya, Kelkuva, Kundaliya, Lavariya, Panchiyasal, Ruparel, Sadaliya, Sadra 15 346 ANANDI Panchmahaal Shehera Boriyavi, Chopda, Dhandhalpur, Gangadia, Juna Melan, Khojalvasa, Mangaliyana, Nanderva, Navamelan, Saradiya, Sureli, Kothara, 12 328 ANANDI Panchmahaal Ghoghamba Bhojpura, Chandranagar, Chatha, Gajapura, Galibeli, Godli, Gamani, Ghogha, Gorada, Goya Sundal, Jabu Vania, Kankalpur,Kantu, Malmahudi, Padedi, Palli, Pipaliya, Ranjitnagar, Richwani, Ruparel,Sajora, Vavkulli, Virol, Zoz 24 761 ANANDI

Aggregate 51 1435

to Dev (2005), public policy should not use any of these studies in order to frame support-led strategies, using instead studies that use caloric norms related to the lifestyle of different populations, i e, there should not be one poverty line but many, based on the characteristics of the population being surveyed. Food security, which is often a concomitant to poverty, thus has a tendency to get estimated differently depending on the method used.

During our survey we presented the respondents with a pictorial representation of the 12 months in the year and asked them to mark the months in which they were food insecure. Before this response data was collected, a PALS exercise was performed whereby people from the sample populations were asked to convey their understanding of what it meant to have non-availability and partial availability of foodgrains in their population. The consensus definitions that emerged from this exercise was that if food was not available, there was a need in the family to borrow money to buy food or to mortgage land or jewellery or to ask friends or neighbours, or to migrate out of the village to earn more money. In the same context when food was partially available (food was not enough) families ate meals with no vegetables and they only afford to have chaas and rotla,9 they consume a single meal in a day, if all three main food categories (cereals, pulses and vegetables) were not available or, if everybody got less than the amount needed to satiate their hunger. Thus we have not used a fixed calorie norm though it is very clear that even if a respondent avers that food is not enough she is significantly below the 2,400 (or even 2,200) calorie norm that is used in the poverty literature.

Survey Administration and Variables

The survey was administered in two broad areas of rural Gujarat. For the tribal areas of Panchmahaals-Dahod in Gujarat we sampled 1435 households from 51 villages in three blocks of two districts. The sample was chosen from the members of the self-help groups from the poorer populations of these villages belonging to mainly the Nayak and Rathwa tribes and the Baria community identified as other backward caste (OBC). The nontribal sample of 1066 households was from Rajkot district spread over 23 villages and two blocks. The survey participants were women from the various Mahila Mandals (women’s organisations set up by the various NGOs that conducted this survey). A combination of the participatory research tool and survey methodology was used to collect data from the members present regarding the extent of food insecurity during the period April 2003 to March 2004. Tables 7 and 8 provide details regarding the two sample populations.

Each participant was given a pictorial form to map to mark her food security over a 12-month cycle. The respondents indicated the months in which their households suffered from food insecurity either because food was not available or it was not enough. For each month food is not available category was a different field from food is not enough category. The former implied the latter but the latter did not necessarily imply the former. For all respondents in each month of the year the response was either to check the food is not available field or the food is not enough field or to leave it blank, signifying that they were food secure. The definition of food insecurity that we use to classify the sample in our results section merges these two degrees of food insecurity into one consolidated definition and thus, a household is food insecure if food is not available or food is not enough. The participant additionally supplied some demographic details that were noted by the surveyor. These included her age, her marital status and the composition of her household. Furthermore, the details regarding land ownership, occupation and poverty classification were also supplied by her. Specifically, the surveyor noted how much land her family owned, cultivated as a sharecropper, had obtained in mortgage or had given out on mortgage. The respondents were asked if members of their family earned income by performing casual agricultural and nonagricultural labour in the village, if they had an alternative income from operating a shop or retail outlet and if there were any family members who migrated out of the area for work. Finally, they were asked if they had an APL or a BPL card.

Table 9: Characteristics of Food Insecurity:Table 9: Characteristics of Food Insecurity:Table 9: Characteristics of Food Insecurity:Table 9: Characteristics of Food Insecurity:Table 9: Characteristics of Food Insecurity:
Panchmahaals-Dahod (Number of Households: 1435)Panchmahaals-Dahod (Number of Households: 1435)Panchmahaals-Dahod (Number of Households: 1435)Panchmahaals-Dahod (Number of Households: 1435)Panchmahaals-Dahod (Number of Households: 1435)

Characteristics Mildly Moderately Severely Extremely

Food Food Food Food

Insecure Insecure Insecure Insecure

(0 to 3 (4 to 6 (7 to 9 (10 to 12

Months)‡ Months) Months) Months)

Total number (percentage) 178 200 780 277

(12.40) (13.94) (54.36) (19.30) Land owned* 1.60 1.44 1.02 0.62 Land owned as sharecropper* 0.09 0.07 0.01 0.04 Land given in mortgage* 0.30 0.33 0.22 0.17 Land taken in mortgage* 0.27 0.12 0.06 0.04 Land cultivated* 1.66 1.29 0.86 0.54 Casual labourer (per cent) 39.88 66.5 55 66.43 Migration (per cent) 54.49 69.5 74.1 79.06 Adult female (per household)† 2.82 2.78 2.5 2.2 Adult male (per household) † 2.80 2.80 2.36 2.12 Children (per household) † 1.75 1.52 1.42 1.46 Above poverty line (per cent) 30.99 39.5 43.72 41.88 Below poverty line (per cent) 38.20 51 49.74 54.51

Notes: ‡ Out of this group 100 households (6.97 per cent) were food secure in all 12 months.

* Given in acres, this is the average land held (either as sole owner or shareholder) mortgaged and cultivated by our sample in a particular category of food insecurity. Land cultivated is the sum of land owned (solely or as shareholder) and the land taken on mortgage less land given in mortgage.

† Since not all families indicated this number, we have taken an average number of males, females and children per family by using only the households that provided this data.

Table 8: Rajkot Sample DetailsTable 8: Rajkot Sample DetailsTable 8: Rajkot Sample DetailsTable 8: Rajkot Sample DetailsTable 8: Rajkot Sample Details

District Block/Taluka Villages in Survey Number Number Data of of Collection Villages Households Agency

Rajkot Maliya Bhavpar, Bharatnagar, Khara vistar, Haripar, Vahivistar, Nava Hanjiyasar, Datarna Zad, Devgadh, MovarnoTimbo, PatVistar, Khakharechi,Venasar, ANANDI Kumbharia, Sultanpur, Chilkhali, Varshamedi, Rakhodiya,Khirai 18 654 and PVK Rajkot Jasdan Ajmer, Vichiya, Lakhavad, Revaniya, Vangadhara, 5 412 Savaraj

Aggregate 23 1066

Figure 1: Panchmahaals/Dahod –Figure 1: Panchmahaals/Dahod –Figure 1: Panchmahaals/Dahod –Figure 1: Panchmahaals/Dahod –Figure 1: Panchmahaals/Dahod –

VIVIVIVIVI

Food Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFood Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFood Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFood Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFood Insecurity across Poverty Classification

ResultsResultsResultsResultsResults

70

Indicators and Dimensions of Food Insecurity60

The first striking observation from our study is that a mere

50

Food Food Secure Food Insecure Food Insecure Food InsecureSecure 1-3 months 4-6 months 7-9 months 10-12 months

Percentage APL

Percentage BPL

Percentage of households

6.97 per cent of the Panchmahaals-Dahod sample and 14.73 per

cent of the Rajkot sample were food secure for all 12 months. The bulk (54.36 per cent) of the households surveyed in the Panchmahaals were in the severely (seven to nine months) food

insecure category, whereas the bulk of the Rajkot sample (51.59

per cent) were moderately (four to six months) food insecure.

40

30

20

Thus the households in the tribal Panchmahaals sample are seen

10

to be significantly more food vulnerable than the non-tribal Rajkot sample. Furthermore, almost one-fifth of the tribal sample is food insecure for 10 to 12 months in a year as compared to 22 households out of 1,066 in Rajkot. Tables 9 and 10 present these statistics as well as the characteristics of households for different intensities of food insecurity.

A second important finding in our study is that the distribution of APL and BPL households over the different categories of food insecurity are not significantly different between the two regions.

This phenomenon points to both the underperformance and

inefficient targeting of the TPDS in Gujarat not only as the

identified and targeted BPL population going hungry, but also

as the largest percentage of those designated APL (58 per cent)

in our sample are in the four to six month food insecure category

for Rajkot (Figure 2) and in the seven to nine month food insecure

category (which accounts for 59 per cent of the total APL sample)

0

Figure 2: Rajkot – Food Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFigure 2: Rajkot – Food Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFigure 2: Rajkot – Food Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFigure 2: Rajkot – Food Insecurity across Poverty ClassificationFigure 2: Rajkot – Food Insecurity across Poverty Classification

70 60

Percentage of households

50

40

30

20

10

for Panchmahaals-Dahod (Figure 1).

Furthermore, we see from our sample that food security is a cyclic seasonal phenomenon with insecurity being low over the winter months and peaking over summer and monsoon. In Panchmahaals we have a shocking 92 per cent of our

Table 10: Characteristics of Food Insecurity –Table 10: Characteristics of Food Insecurity –Table 10: Characteristics of Food Insecurity –Table 10: Characteristics of Food Insecurity –Table 10: Characteristics of Food Insecurity –
Rajkot (Number of Households: 1066)Rajkot (Number of Households: 1066)Rajkot (Number of Households: 1066)Rajkot (Number of Households: 1066)Rajkot (Number of Households: 1066)

Characteristics Mildly Moderately Severely Extremely

Food Food Food Food

Insecure Insecure Insecure Insecure

(0 to 3 (4 to 6 (7 to 9 (10 to 12

Months)‡ Months) Months) Months)

Total number (percentage) 319 550 175 22

(29.92) (51.59) (16.42) (2.06) Land owned* 3.92 3.12 2.48 0.72 Land owned as sharecropper* 0.41 0.76 0.27 0 Land given in mortgage* 0.06 0.06 0.05 0 Land taken in mortgage* 0 0.07 0.01 0 Land cultivated* 4.55 4.05 2.71 0.72 Casual labourer (per cent) 37.96 59.6 73.71 64 Migration (per cent) 5.64 7.45 6.85 22.72 Adult female (per household)† 2.41 2.41 2.56 3.00 Adult male (per household)† 2.42 2.52 2.47 3.91 Children (per household)† 0.60 0.68 0.72 1.59 Above poverty line (per cent) 29.47 43.09 44.00 27.27 Below poverty line (per cent) 20.68 18.54 34.86 45.45

Notes: ‡ In this group 157 households (14.73 per cent) were food secure in all 12 months.

* Given in acres, this is the average land held (either as sole owner or shareholder) mortgaged and cultivated by our sample in a particular category of food insecurity. Land cultivated is the sum of land owned (solely or as sharecropper) and the land taken on mortgage (and on lease) less land given in mortgage.

† Since not all families are indicated this number, we have taken an average number of males, females and children per family by using only the households that provided this data.

0 Food Food Insecure Food Insecure Food Insecure Food Insecure
Secure 1-3 months 4-6 months 7-9 months 10-12 months
Percentage APL Percentage BPL

sample population reporting food insecurity in August and September, whereas food insecurity peaks in Rajkot in the month of June, with 78 per cent of the sample reporting food insecurity (Figure 3). This seasonal pattern of hunger reflects the reality of small and marginal farmers dependent primarily on rain-fed agriculture.

Tables 9 and 10 also list some demographic and landholding characteristics for the different groups of the food insecure. We find that the land cultivated in acres diminishes as the extent of food insecurity rises from mild to extreme. This is reflected in both the tribal sample (Table 9) as well as the non-tribal sample (Table 10). Furthermore, in both Tables 9 and 10, casualisation of labour and incidence of migration (as a percentage of the number of households in the food insecurity category) are both higher for the two more severe categories of food insecurity compared to the six months and under categories. For our Rajkot sample, the average number of family members is positively correlated with higher food insecurity. The causality of food security and family size is most likely two-way, and we conjecture that a larger household may be desired by members of severely food insecure households in a bid to have extra earning members. However, for our tribal sample, the family size on average diminishes with a rise in food insecurity. Though we do not have the data in this study to establish it rigorously, we conjecture that mass migration (almost 80 per cent of the extremely food insecure households have at least one case of migration away from the village) on our tribal sample may have led to underreporting of family sizes by survey respondents.

Figure 3: Seasonality of Food Insecurity over the Two SamplesFigure 3: Seasonality of Food Insecurity over the Two SamplesFigure 3: Seasonality of Food Insecurity over the Two SamplesFigure 3: Seasonality of Food Insecurity over the Two SamplesFigure 3: Seasonality of Food Insecurity over the Two Samples

100 90

j l i l -l Percentage of Rajkot sample that is foodinsecure Percentage of Panchmahaals-Dahodsample that is food insecure

80 70

Percentage

60 50 40 30 20

il l 10 0 NovemberDecemberJanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober

identification and reversal of the status for some of the poorest households in the state. There is now a blanket order stating that all the new cards issued in Gujarat will be APL cards.

For the aged and the infirm, getting included in these schemes is in the hands of the panchayat body which is relatively less involved in the selection process. The sarpanch of Devirampura village, Mojliben says, “From my village, I got 11 people who are APL, but had BPL cards, to change their ration cards. Yet, I could not help the poor families in my village who did not have BPL cards. They said that this could only be done when the survey was over.” This highlights that one of the biggest problems in the TPDS is that of accurate targeting of the BPL. The state level survey to determine poverty status of a household is done by the department of rural development which conducts surveys every five years. So families which fall into poverty in between two surveys have no opportunity to obtain a BPL card and buy

i

Winter

Summer

Monsoons

subsidised grain.

The homeless, the migrant workers and the poor living on the fringes of society are amongst the most food insecure populations. But, there is no provision for including them in the PDS. According to mahila mandal members of Rakhodia, “Rakhodia is a Vandh (hamlet) of Maliya village. Forty-five families live here. There

Figure 4 displays the categories based on the BMI calculations on a sample of 179 of our main survey participants from the Panchmahaals-Dahod area. We see that close to 37 per cent of the respondents are in the moderate to severely malnourished category based on the BMI. This statistic, which is arguably the direct result of food deprivation, underscores how serious the problem of food insecurity is, particularly for our tribal sample.

Targeting Problems of TPDS

The level of food insecurity as shown by our data is severe over almost our entire sample with approximately 74 per cent in the Panchmahaals and 19 per cent in Rajkot reporting that they were food secure for more than half the year. Though there are wide-ranging confluences of factors that have led to this current situation, the TPDS, whose main raison d’etre is to provide food security to the rural poor seems to have completely failed in its purpose in rural Gujarat. For the districts in our survey the TPDS’ identification of the poor has been arbitrary and delayed. Ordinary citizens as well as elected representatives of the panchayati raj institutions in these villages were not involved in the process of identification of the beneficiaries of Antyodaya Anna Yojana or the Annapurna Anna Yojana. The entire process of identification has been top-down with numbers being allocated to the state government which in turn distributed these at the district and taluka levels. The block level officials merely turned in the names without any assessments done at the village level. The number of people to be covered under the TPDS scheme is decided by the central government on the basis of the poverty index of the state. The discrepancy in the percentage of identified BPL households by the state government and the central government results in the additional subsidies being borne by the state government. In Gujarat, for instance, the central government has identified 20 per cent households as belonging to the BPL category while the state government survey of 1997 has identified 34 per cent households as BPL. This has created a strong incentive on the part of the state government to reverse its estimate of the number of BPL households downwards leading to more incorrect are no facilities like water, electricity, etc. House tax is also not collected. In our village there are many families who require new ration card as well as separate the names. Four families went to the ‘mamlatdar’ (block revenue official) for the cards. But they were asked for a light bill, water tax, house tax, receipts as proof of their residence. But as we do not have any facility like electricity or water and house taxes are not collected, we cannot produce it. How do we get our cards?”

One of the few cases where incorrect identification is reported by those who are not BPL come from Manji Harijan of Kumbharia village of Maliya taluka, Rajkot, “I have land and I am a mason working with an NGO. However, I am given an Antyodaya card by the gram sevak (village extension worker) that I do not need.” The testimonials of this sort are rare and errors of exclusion generally dominate errors of inclusion over our sample.

In the last seven years, Gujarat has seen many disasters. Though some aid has been received by the victims of the droughts and earthquake, the TPDS has not taken into account the impact of these on the food security of the vulnerable populations by increasing the number of BPL cards issued to families that have fallen into food insecurity. Says Jeda Jarinaben Fatemamad of Haripar village, Maliya: “I am a landless widow. I have constructed a home with government support after the earthquake.

Table 11: Details of PDS Stock in Fangiya (Devgadh BariaTable 11: Details of PDS Stock in Fangiya (Devgadh BariaTable 11: Details of PDS Stock in Fangiya (Devgadh BariaTable 11: Details of PDS Stock in Fangiya (Devgadh BariaTable 11: Details of PDS Stock in Fangiya (Devgadh Baria
Taluka,Taluka,Taluka,Taluka,Taluka,
Dahod District) FPS for September and October 2004Dahod District) FPS for September and October 2004Dahod District) FPS for September and October 2004Dahod District) FPS for September and October 2004Dahod District) FPS for September and October 2004

Month BPL Number of Cards: 123

Rice requirement: 123 × 3.5 = 430.5 Kg Rice available 330 Kg September 2004 Rice shortfall 100.5 Kg Wheat requirement: 123 × 9 = 1107 Kg Wheat available 760 Kg Wheat shortfall 347 Kg

Rice requirement: 123 × 3.5 = 430.5 Kg Rice available 320 Kg October 2004 Rice shortfall 110.5 Kg Wheat requirement: 123 × 9 = 1107 Kg Wheat available 770 Kg Wheat shortfall 337 Kg

Body Mass Index

Figure 4: BMT Classification in Selected PopulationFigure 4: BMT Classification in Selected PopulationFigure 4: BMT Classification in Selected PopulationFigure 4: BMT Classification in Selected PopulationFigure 4: BMT Classification in Selected Population

(179) of Panchmahaals-Dahod(179) of Panchmahaals-Dahod(179) of Panchmahaals-Dahod(179) of Panchmahaals-Dahod(179) of Panchmahaals-Dahod

Obese

30 40 502 5 413625 4129
Overweight

Normal

Low weight

Grade 1 mild

Grade 2 moderate

Grade 3 severe 0 10 20

Number of respondents

The government has designated my family among the poorest families in the village (Shramyogi). Still I am given an APL card which gets me nine litres of kerosene. I have to buy grain from open market at higher rates.” There is considerable evidence gathered from the public hearings of the Gujarat Anna Suraksha Abhiyan on the fact that those identified as BPL in the last survey done in 1997 do not have ration cards that entitle them to subsidised grain. Thus, overall, there seems to be a confusion that prevails regarding the identification of the poor entitled to subsidised foodgrains.

Inefficiency and Corruption in TPDS

The major sets of complaints from our sample populations relate to fair price shopkeepers not giving them their due quota of grains and other essentials,writing incorrect allocated amounts in the ration cards and charging higher than set prices on goods especially kerosene. Nowhere is the full quota of kerosene available. The receipts for the purchase of goods have not been given even when customers have demanded them. Entitlements are not known in many instances and even more difficult to realise in the available redressal mechanisms. The corruption that is prevalent in the TPDS system with no system of accountability, explored in other studies like Dreze (2002) and Shankar (2002, 2004) is corroborated by our sample and reflected in the statements of many of our respondents.

The gross irregularities in the PDS are also a function of the nexus of politicians and petty bureaucrats. In Chasiya village of Jasdan taluka, the FPS’s licence, owned by a local leader, was suspended following many complaints. Yet, the new licence was issued to another family member who had also not distributed any rations for two years. Only after the matter was brought to light in the public hearing in the presence of the principal secretary, the shop had moved to another nearby village.

In a public hearing held in Maliya block of Rajkot district on February 18, 2005, a panchayat member from Chikhali village said: “The FPS is 23 kms from the village. The transportation cost is Rs 20. When we go to obtain ration we have to lose a day’s labour. The shop does not open regularly. So our transportation cost goes wasted.”

The FPS in our sample areas typically remain open for a limited period of time in a day and around three to four days in a month, leading to people not being able to avail of their full quota of grain and having to spend a significant amount on transport due to the repeated trips to and from the FPS. Women from the Mahila Mandals of Nava Hanjiyasar, Maliya said, “The FPS is away in Malia village. The cost of transport is Rs 20. We are salt pan workers living far from the village. The FPS shop is open for only three-four days, which too is not fixed. We lose a day’s wage to get to the shop, only to find it closed or are told that the stock has run out. Though the ration is not given, the shop owner will enter it in our passbooks. Thus we lose many days of our labour, transportation cost and still do not get the grains.”

Besides the obvious inefficiencies in the FPS administration that cause these outlets to be closed for a majority of days in a month, the oral testimonials of many of our survey participants point to the corruption of shopkeepers and diversion of essential items by them to other more profitable markets by entering in more than the actual offtake of individuals in their passbooks. Says Diwaliben Mesurbhai of Varsha Medi village, a beneficiary of Antyodaya scheme: “Three months back I was getting nine kg of wheat and 3.5 kg of rice. But the entry is for 20 kg of wheat and five kg of rice. In the past three months there is a wrong entry of 28 kg of wheat and seven kg of rice. I am not getting my entitlement of wheat and rice for the last three years. The FPS is only open for three to four days. And if we voice our grievances the FPS owner says, come next month, the stock is finished.”

Table 11 presents the details of the stock that was available at the FPS in the village of Fangiya (Devgadh Baria taluka, Dahod district) for the months of September and October 2004. From the table we see that only about 69 per cent of the cardholders’ requirement of wheat and 76 per cent of the cardholders’ requirement of rice was brought to the FPS over the two months. These figures are close to the TECS study [TECS 1998] which found 23 and 21 per cent of wheat and rice stocks from the TPDS were being diverted to private trade in rural Junagadh and Bharuch.

VIIVIIVIIVIIVII
ConclusionsConclusionsConclusionsConclusionsConclusions

Our results indicate that there is a very high degree of food insecurity in vulnerable populations in Gujarat today. Some of these populations like our sample from Maliya and Jasdan blocks are in the overall non-food insecure district of Rajkot. This fact may cause population such as these to be overlooked in more aggregate methods for estimation of poverty that is done by the central government in order to issue the TPDS cards. Thus we feel that more grassroot methods of targeting must be employed by the centre utilising local governing bodies such as panchayats to identify vulnerable communities. What is even more shocking is the plight of the tribal sample in our survey, which is a traditionally identified “vulnerable” population. Very little food is reaching to this population from the TPDS due to problems of targeting, inefficiency and corruption that have been detailed in the last couple of sections. Moreover, the pattern of food insecurity is seasonal in nature especially for subsistence farmers dependent on rain-fed agriculture and casual labour. So there is a clear need to target not just the households’ level of poverty measured statically at a period of time, but to track the dynamics of hunger as it changes over the months of the year in order to better allocate foodgrain.

Furthermore, the issue of ration cards to BPL and Antyodaya families should not be a one-time affair, or done on the basis of an index of poverty measured periodically. Rather, whenever a person applies for subsidised grain (BPL, Antyodaya or Annapurna card), a mechanism needs to be set up to carry out necessary verifications and issue an appropriate card within a reasonable time limit (may be one month). Similarly, people living in unauthorised dwellings (outskirts of villages, hamlets) like migrant labourers and homeless people are not issued cards due to their inability to furnish official documents that identify them. Given that these populations are from amongst the most food insecure households, they should be specifically targeted for receiving subsidised foodgrain. At least, a mechanism needs to be set up whereby the individuals without complete documentation are issued some kind of temporary facility for obtaining food while they apply for the documents necessary for them to qualify for a BPL status.

The TPDS today is rife with inefficiency and corruption both of which are inextricably linked. The high cost of transport and storage of grain that make FPSs economically unviable, lead to the criminal practices on the part of FPS owners such as diversion of grain to private markets, adulteration of food, provision of less than the entitlement amount and charging more than prescribed rates. A system of accountability and efficient redressal mechanisms need to be established so that a punitive and remedial action can be taken on complaints.

Finally, the food subsidy should be one tool out of many support-led measures for the uplift of the rural poor. It can never be the only solution for the eradication of poverty. Strengthening food-for-work programmes are the next step whereby skill training may be obtained by the poorest, which may over time provide them with other employment opportunities that yield more empowerment against exploitation. It is very important in such programmes to provide guaranteed employment to the participants in order to enable them to eke out a livelihood against the vicissitudes associated with rain-fed subsistence farming, unsure income from casual labour and the loss of life and property from natural disasters. A more empowering strategy may be the formation of agricultural cooperatives and the mobilisation of capital through rural credit schemes. These may allow the poorest some bargaining power through collectivisation and the pooling of resources and ultimately provide them with the economic, social and political capital to exert some control over their future. An example of such a programme in Gujarat is the Sampurna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, operated by the Food and Civil Supplies (FCS) department.

mr:

Email: sujoy@iimahd.ernet.in anandiindia@yahoo.co.in

NotesNotesNotesNotesNotes

[The authors wish to thank participating organisations ANANDI, Devgadh Mahila Sangathan and Panam Mahila Sangathan for designing and conducting the surveys that provided the data on which this study is based. We retain responsibility for all errors and omissions.]

1 See Swaminathan (2001, 2003), Nawani (1994) and Radhakrishna and Rao

(1993) for detailed discussion on the problems with the PDS. Chakravarty

and Dand (2005) provide a survey of the main criticisms that have been

brought forth against the PDS. 2 Sundaram and Tendulkar (2003a, 2003b) use Unit Record Data from the

50th (1993-94) and the 55th (2000-01) rounds of the consumer expenditure

surveys (CES) carried out by the National Sample Survey Organisation

(NSSO).

3 This belt includes Bundelkhand, Jharkhand, Vidarbha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, western Orissa, Telangana where the population practice risky rain dependent agriculture supplemented by casual informal sector labour.

4 The main problem of the TPDS with respect to Gujarat seems to be related to incorrect or inefficient targeting, wherein the presence of type I errors (errors of exclusion) lowers the PDS offtake. As explored in Swaminathan (2003) and Kriesel and Zaidi (1999), a large section of the population (i e, the BPL individuals) cannot purchase cheap grain due to the nonpossession of a ration card and the APL individuals choose to not use FPS and buy on the market as they receive very little or no subsidy.

5 This phenomenon is referred to as Engel’s Law which can be extrapolated to explain the diversification of diets that occur in societies as their income increases and leads to the substitution of inferior products like coarser cereals with more refined foods in terms of shares in total consumption [Engel 1877].

6 There are 13 indicators given in Vepa (2003) and they are, number of persons supported per 100 quintals of cereal production, percentage of area under non-food crops, percentage of area under drought, percentage of population below poverty line, percentage of agricultural labourers, percentage of SC/ST population, rural female literacy (2001), infant mortality rate, juvenile sex ratio (0-6 years) rural, percentage of stunted children, households without safe drinking water, percentage of households without electricity and number of hospital beds per lakh population.

7 For a deeper understanding of PALS, refer Mayoux (2003). The consensus definition of food is not available or food is not enough, evolved through PALS is discussed in the next section.

8 These are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

9 Rotla is hard bread made out of coarse grain, whereas chas is thin buttermilk with the fat extracted.

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