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

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Food Security in Drought-Prone Areas

The functioning of the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India has come under scrutiny because of rising burden of subsidy and storage cost and meagre coverage of the poor and the actual benefits received by them. It is argued in this paper that the existing system has become unwieldy and unsustainable and that the time has come to review it, especially in the context of panchayat raj institutions (PRI) and the role they are expected to play in regard to the rural poor. With the help of illustrative data from two drought-prone districts of Karnataka, an attempt is made in the paper to demonstrate the feasibility of a decentralised system operated by PRI based on the local staples consumed by the poor. The result seems encouraging enough to suggest that it would be worthwhile to have more substantive investigation as also pilot projects to test the workability of the decentralised system.

Food Security

Sustained development of agriculture for ensuring food security needs country-specific measures, with a vital, balancing role played by all three crucial institutions of state, markets and civil society.

Food Security

Towards Hunger Free India: Agenda and Imperatives edited by M D Asthana and Pedro Madrano; Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2001; pp liii+592, Rs 895

Taking the PDS to the Poor: Directions for Further Reform

This paper examines the costs and benefits associated with the operation of the Public Distribution System (PDS) for foodgrains in India. It illustrates through counterfactual simulations how the benefit-cost ratio for the PDS increases when subsidies are targeted at the poor and indirect benefits are accounted for, even in a scenario where PDS grain is procured at market prices. However, administration of directly targeted PDS is difficult and can lead to the error of excluding the poor. The paper therefore examines the inefficiencies in the system, comparing costs of public storage and distribution operations with those of private agents and discusses how the rising government costs can be curtailed by making administration more efficient and relying on market forces for spatial distribution of grain. Finally, it discusses the issues involved in the targeting of PDS to the poor and examines the potential for geographic targeting.

Food and Power in Bihar and Jharkhand

Public distribution of foodgrains in India is a national policy, which exists in all states. In some states, however, the public distribution system (PDS) works much better than in other states. The undivided state of Bihar (now the new Bihar and Jharkhand) is one of the states in which the policy works poorly. It is important to understand why this is the case. Generally, policy changes and recommendations do not take the specificities of particular states into account. Yet, for the PDS performance to improve in Bihar and Jharkhand, it is absolutely necessary to understand why it works as it does, what the main bottlenecks are and where there are possibilities for improvement, if any. This paper makes such an attempt: it describes the PDS in Bihar and Jharkhand, not only in terms of how it fails and what it does not accomplish, but also in terms of what it is and what it does. It is shown that while many people do benefit from the present set-up, there are also people within almost all categories of stakeholders who are dissatisfied with the large-scale misappropriation of foodgrains. It is argued that there is scope for change, but change requires strategic political manoeuvring and initially a low-key approach in order not to awaken and antagonise strong vested interests.

Strategies to Combat Under-Nutrition

Household nutrition security in the 21st century must come to mean a lot more than avoidance of starvation. Foods for families must be adequate; that is, not just meet the bare energy needs for survival, but provide all the nutrients essential for normal development. The changing nutrition scene is influenced directly and indirectly by several interrelated factors. There is a need to evolve nutritional-orientation of food production programmes; examine and reverse the mistakes of the past and use new knowledge and technologies to evolve new strategies for combating under-nutrition.

Strategies for a New Era

 Securing India’s Future in the New Millennium edited by Brahma Chellaney; Orient Longman; pp 639, Rs 700.
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