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1. Food security in india :

  • According to FAO of UN Food security is a situation when all people at all times have sufficient food to meet their dietary and nutritional needs to lead a healthy and productive life. Food security includes nutritional security and food affordability

  • India has attained food security for its 1.3 billion population despite several odds and challenges. Post Green revolution era, India strived for ‘Food For All’ by developing technological interventions, supporting policies and strategies and a vast network of PDS. Realising wide-spread poverty as a major threat to food security, GoI launched several social welfare schemes which ensure food to poor and ‘poorest of poor’ sections of society.


1.1. Importance of food security

  • Vastness of the country having many geographically challenged disparities pose big challenge in ensuring physical and economic access to all sections of society, especially poor ones. The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA 2013) converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Government of India. It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System. Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements. The Midday Meal Scheme and the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).

  • As a response to food shortages, GoI launched PDS during 1960s which relied mainly on procurement of food grains by FCI and their distributions through Fair Price Shops.

  • Government notified National Food Security Act 2013 to provide food and nutritional security to its people as a legal right. It doesn’t disturb the structure and provisions of Antyodaya Ann Yojana Antyodaya Ann Yojana- was launched in 2000 targeting families having monthly income of less than Rs. 250 who were not able to afford food even at subsidized rate.

  • In 1970s, PDS had evolved into a universal scheme for the distribution of subsidized food. Currently, it is the largest distribution network in the world. In 1990s, the government revamped the PDS to improve access to food grains to people in hilly and inaccessible areas and to target the poor. The Targeted PDS operates through a multi level process in which the centre and the states share responsibilities.

  • Government launched a unique ‘Mid Day Meal Scheme’ in 1995 to encourage enrolment and attendance in primary schools along with improvement in nutritional levels of the children.


1.2. Opportunities to sustain food security

  • Mission of the Vision 2050' has been formulated by ICAR to promote excellence in agricultural research, education and extension

  • To address the issue of global climate changes, ICAR has launched nation wide project NICRA- National Innovations in Climate Resilient Infrastructure

  • It aims at the Zero net land degradation, 20% increase in total food supply chain efficiency, reducing losses and wastages from field to fork, 20% increase in water and nutrient efficiency in agriculture etc.

  • It provides strategic support to farmers and empowers to adopt climate smart agricultural practices.

  • New varieties of crops are being developed which are tolerant to climatic stresses and perform well under stress.

  • Integrated farming models are being popularized in which livestock are being integrated in the cropping patterns as livestock has always acted as insurance during environmental stresses.

  • The power and potential of science and innovation promises hope for sustainable food and nutritional security through enhanced production and productivity of crops and livestock including fisheries.

  • Genetic enhancement of plants/animals/fish is considered a major option to sustain food security.

  • Mechanisation of agriculture and food production systems may enhance overall productivity to save labour and cut down production cost.

  • Biotechnological advances in agriculture may improve soil productivity and may provide safety net to food production.


1.3. Issues involved in the food security

  • Though, the functioning of PDS has ensured the availability of essent ial commodities to the people, the system is often blamed for:

  • Lack of efficiency.

  • Discrimination in Rural-urban service delivery.

  • Many instances of corruption and black marketing, known as PDS leakages.

  • Identification of poor by the states is not fool proof.

  • A large number of poor and needy persons are left out.

  • Lot of fake and shadow ration cards are available in the market.

  • Fair Price Shop owner uses bogus Ration cards and sell the food grains in the open market.

  • Many times, good quality food grains are replaced with poor quality food grains.

  • Uneven distribution of food grains all over the country.Increasing population , Financial illiteracy . Increase in urbanization.Dietary preferences such as high demand for livestock products and consumption of more processed food.

  • Increase in demand for food due to rising income.

  • Global climate change is a long term challenge on food security as it could lead to scarcity of fresh water in northern and peninsular region of the country.

  • Declining and degrading land resources pose a serious threat to food security as availability of per capita land is declining sharply due to increase in population.

  • Agricultural land is being diverted to other uses such as infrastructure development, urbanisation and industrialisation, negatively affecting agricultural production

  • Biodiversity of plants and livestock, which is very crucial for sustaining long term productivity, is under threat.Rate of extinction is alarming as only four crops provide about 60% of global food, causing decline in genetic diversity among cultivated species.

  • To sustain food and nutritional security, India will have to raise its food grain productivity.


1.4. Women and food security

  • Despite all landmark decisions by government, the aspect of intra-household gender disparity against women and girl child in terms of food security has always been ignored.In rural areas, women and girl child are often found to be relatively more malnourished within a household.

  • The orthodox social norms, constrained roles to domestic work, limited access to resources, inadequate opportunities are some factors behind food insecurity of females.

  • The issue remains disguised because most studies evaluates at the household level and not individual level.According to study by FAO, women’s education resulted in 43% reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995. Additionally, they should be supported for access to land and property rights.

  • Gender sensitisation is linked to gender empowerment. Men and women should get equal opportunities to develop their full potential.

  • Mother and child health and nutrition programmes can break gender barriers in child care by including men and boys in nutrition and health education activities.

  • Bringing legislation that guarantees equitable employment condition that protect workers in both formal and informal employment.

  • Extending coverage of social protection to all categories of rural workers and ensuring that they incorporate women’s special needs.

  • A gender approach to food security can enable shifts in gender power relations and assure that all people, regardless of their gender can be benefited and empowered by development policies.

  • Thus, engendering the issue of food security is necessary to achieve SDGs related to eradication of extreme hunger and poverty of entire population. By facing challenges against food security of women, the goal of women empowerment can be fulfilled and different modes of women empowerment may ensure better access of women to food and nutrition.


2. Food Security Act

  • To strengthen food security of people, the government enacted NFSA 2013 which marks a shift from welfare based approach to rights based approach. The act legally entitles upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban population to receive subsidized food grain under TPDS. There is special focus in the act on nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers and children upto 14 years of age.

  • The act also keeps in mind the important role of women of household and provides for an important provision of empowerment of women by giving status of head of household to the eldest woman of the household, for the purpose of issuing ration card. The fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution has been interpreted by Supreme Court and National Human Rights Commission includes right to live with human dignity, which include right to foodand other basic necessities. NFSA has given one year from 2014 to 2015 to identify eligible household for receiving subsidized food grains under TPDS.


2.1. National Food Security Act 2013

  • To strengthen food security of people, the government enacted NFSA 2013 which marks a shift from welfare based approach to rights based approach. The act legally entitles upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban population to receive subsidized food grain under TPDS.There is special focus in the act on nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers and children upto 14 years of age. The act also keeps in mind the important role of women of household and provides for an important provision of empowerment of women by giving status of head of household to the eldest woman of the household, for the purpose of issuing ration card.

  • NFSA has given one year from 2014 to 2015 to identify eligible household for receiving subsidized food grains under TPDS. National Food Security Act 2013

  • To strengthen food security of people, the government enacted NFSA 2013 which marks a shift from welfare based approach to rights based approach.

  • The act legally entitles upto 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban population to receive subsidized food grain under TPDS. There is special focus in the act on nutritional support to pregnant women and lactating mothers and children upto 14 years of age.

  • The act also keeps in mind the important role of women of household and provides for an important provision of empowerment of women by giving status of head of household to the eldest woman of the household, for the purpose of issuing ration card. NFSA has given one year from 2014 to 2015 to identify eligible household for receiving subsidized food grains under TPDS.


2.2. Determinants of food security

1. Availability of food

  • Food availability is determined by domestic production, import capacity, food stock and food aid. Fluctuations in per capita net availability are mainly due to changes in production due to variations in weather, increasing population, change in stocks etc.


2. Accessibility

  • In the post reform period, more than 300 million people continue to live in poverty.Food accounts for more than 50% of monthly per capita expenditure in India. NFSA 2013 provides nearly 800 million people with subsidized monthly households rations. PDS system, Antyodaya Ann Yojana, MSP, developing infrastructure through MGNREGA are some of the means through which food security is provided.


3. Absorption

  • Nutrition security evolved from multi-sectoral nutrition planning approach in 1970s and UNICEF conceptual framework.The 10th FYP focused on comprehensive interventions aimed at improving nutrition security. Population needs adequate quantities of balanced diet to remain healthy.The 1996 World Food Summit provided a comprehensive definition of food security bringing into focus the linkage between food, nutrition and health. The two major determinants of human nutrient requirement are body size and physical activity.


Challenges involve in food security act

  • Dominant presence of government in all basic aspect of marketing- procurement, storage, transport and distribution.

  • These all are carried out by FCI whose only responsibility is to build buffer stock to meet any exigency, open market purchase/sales to stabilise domestic prices and provide security requirements.

  •  Inefficiencies have been observed over the years in functioning of FCI through concentration on procurement operations to a handful of states.


Production and yield

  • Average yield of major crops showed impressive growth from 1970-70 to 1990-91.


3. Nutritional Security For All

  • Sustainable development goals aim to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, including achieving targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years and nutritional needs of adolescent girls by 2025.

  • The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2025) promotes policy coherence between food systems, nutrition and health to accelerate efforts to reduce malnutrition.

  • Food security has evolved over time from ‘freedom from hunger’ in 1940s into broad concept encompassing three determinants: availability of food, access to food and absorption.

  • Food availability is affected by climatic condition, declining water resources and pests which decrease agricultural output. Economic access to food by persons living below poverty line remains problematic despite rapid economic growth in recent years.

  • The level of food absorption is low- 44% children under 5 are underweight, 72% infants and 50% women are anaemic.

  • In policy formulation, distinction should be made between transient and chronic food security.

  • Transient food security is related to risks in either access or availability of food during the off-season, drought or inflationary years.Chronic food security is associated with poverty and arises due to continuous inadequate diet.


3.1. Food security and Constitution of India

  • In the constitution there is no explicit provision to right to food. The fundamental right of article 21 has been interpreted by Supreme Court and NHRC to include right to live with human dignity which included right to food and other basic necessities.Under DPSP, article 47 provides that the State shall regard raising the level of nutrition and standard of living of people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties.


Price volatility

  • There is low price elasticity of demand for food staples and thinness of markets. This translates problem of food availability into large increase in domestic prices and reductions in real incomes of poor consumers. The affordability dimension of food security is influenced by price movement of food grains in country The food inflation based on WPI at 2004-05 prices have experienced wide fluctuations between 2012-13 and 2015-16. This volatility in prices creates uncertainty in ‘economic access’ pillar of food security.


Access to PDS

  •  Role of PDS is supplementary in nature. It protects the household by providing basic entitlement at affordable prices and at convenient locations through FPS. But most of time, eligible beneficiaries get excluded and bogus beneficiaries take away the benefits.


Centralized Procurement Model

  • NFSA mandates central government to procure from central pool and state governments are responsible for further distribution. In 1997-98, decentralised procurement system was introduced due to practical difficulties faced by central government/FCI to procure on its own. Under PDS, states were invited to assist in the procurement and distribution of food grains under TPDS. But by suggesting centralized procurement model, NFSA seems to be taking a retrogressive step which was found unsustainable in the first place.


Food subsidy

  • Food subsidy bill presents basic direct cost incurred by government on procurement, stocking and supplying through PDS. In last 10 years, food subsidy has quadrupled which has been today 13.2% of GDP.increasing economic cost of handling foodgrains, increasing procurement ,widening difference between economic cost of foodgrains and central issue price.


3.2. Government Initiatives to boost production from Small and Marginal Farmers

  • The promotion of Farmers produced organisation (FPOs) particularly by organizing small holder producers, has the potential to reduce the costs of marketing of inputs and outputs and provide a forum for members to share information, coordinate activities and make collective decisions.

  • NABARD is also supporting producer organisations out of its producers organisations development Fund, adopting a flexible approach to meet the needs of producers.

  • Recently, RBI has directed scheduled commercial Banks to achieve target of 8% lending to Small & Marginal Farmers within 18% target set for agriculture.

  • Other important programs that can sustainability benefit Small and Marginal Farmers include soil health card scheme, Pradhan Mantri Sinchai yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal bima Yojana, National Agricultural market,Agricultural portals among others.


Nutritional guarantee

  • As the country’s economy grows rapidly, the extended trend is for people to eat less cereals and switch to more costlier nutritious food such as milk, fruits, fish and meat. Even poor people are now consuming fewer cereals but they are not increasing their intake of calorie-rich food.

  • Increase in access and availability of food through PDS, MDMS, ICDS and increase in purchasing power of people through MGNREGA has resulted in better calorie intake in rural areas.

  • However, according to NSSO, despite rising wages, more and more Indians have not been meeting recommended calorie requirements of 2400 cal/person/day in rural areas and 2100 kcal/person/day in urban areas.

  • Raising rural income is central to ensuring food and nutrition security for which massive improvements in rural infrastructure are required. Food and nutrition security should be given high priority and efforts to increase the production and economic accessibility needed to be addressed by technological innovations, investments in irrigation, creating rural infrastructure and raising rural employment opportunities.


4. Addressing Issues Of Food Storage Management

  • India has the potential and capacity to increase and feed everyone under the National Food Security Act, 2013 it food losses due to huge wastage are substantially minimised and the FCI is enabled to execute its mandated food management policies efficiently viz food  procurement, storage, transportation and distribution in particular.


4.1. Importance of Warehouses

  • Warehouses provide scientific storage of food grains to ensure quality-maintenance and prevent

  • losses by protecting them from the vagaries of weather, infestation of rodents, insects and pests. They offer services, viz. disinfestations, pest control, fumigation, clearing etc. They help in stabilizing price levels by regulating the supply of goods in the markets are released



  • When the grains are stored in CAP mode, the unexpected rainfall, pest infestation risks are more.

  • Procurement of excessive grains more from the prescribed buffer stocks is on added problem.

  • Despite the strict policy of first in - first out with respect to the crop year as well as within crop year during which the stocks are accepted, data shows that food grains pertaining to crop years 2008-09 are lying in central pool as on 31 March 2012.

  • In absence of covered storage space, food grains are stored under the cover and plinth (CAP) storage (Open storage) without following the established procedure which requires that the stock should be turned over every 6 months and in no case grains be stored for more than a year.

  • During the last five years, on the average buffer stocks with FCI have been more than double the buffering norms, which created unbearable pressure on limited storage capacity. One of the reasons for the wastage of food is that grains are not moved out of the ware houses in time and distributed.

  • The allocated stocks for the PDS system is not lifted due to the poor transportation techniques and facilities also adds fuel to the problem.


Way forward

  • The grain should not be stored in the CAP godowns, convert them into silos with mechanised / robotic assemblies in PPP mode. The transportation should be in the form of containers instead of gunny bags to reduce losses.

  • Proper integration of all regions with an efficient and robust MIS managed by efficient and competent professionals. Immediately after the procurement, give 6 months ration to poor beneficiaries with cheap grain bins for storage, thus FCI will have to store less grain in is godowns.

  • Total end–end computerisation of the entire food management system, starting from procurement from farmers, to stocking, movement and finally distribution through TPDS.

  • For optimum utilisation of the capacity, proper planning for timely moving stock from the major processing states to the consuming states can make available storage space for ensuring procurements.

  • Use of sophisticated information technology supported by robust monitoring and management information system can help in this regard.


5.Transparency In Public Food Distribution

5.1.Through Digitization

  • State resources are continuously utilized in the name of poverty alleviation and disparity reduction. Even after 69 years of independence, the country is still suffering from poverty and disparities PDS was introduced after 2nd world war due to severe food shortage in the country. Initially the subsidy was common to all. In 1990s, PDS was restructured to include hilly and in accessible areas. Finally, the scheme was moved with a targeted approach and is known as

  • Target PDS (TPDS). Under essential commodities Act 2001, public distribution system order was passed Department of Rural development through BPL Survey decides criteria for inclusion or exclusion of beneficiaries. With the enactment of Food Security Act, 2013 has done away with the need for BPL based identification.


Problems on PDS

  • Major challenges in the PDS system emanates from bogus ration cards belonging for fictitious families and shadow ration cards, that is genuine ration cards are being used by same one else. Attempts of preventing physical theft by human monitoring, Global Positioning System (GPS) of truck movement and electronic weigh bridges are inadequate and easily by – passable.

  • Quality and quantity of grains, uneven distribution of grains all over the country etc are some of the other issues to a robust PDS system



  • The Government should create a database so that, the Ghost beneficiaries can be eliminated, if the database is linked to Biometric identification and Aadhar.By digitisation, we can track the individual beneficiaries and can be utilised for various other schemes and programs.

  • The redressal mechanism can be evolved so that consumer complaints are addressed and better trust is created between citizens and Government is enabled.

  • Better identification of individuals and families leading to better targeting and increased transparency.

  • A mechanism of verifying the ID of the person at the time of delivery of grains will help in improving and targeting of the grains and beneficiaries.

  • The database created can be utilised for direct benefit transfer through bank account. Other steps to strengthen PDS

  • Decentralisation of procurement and distribution of locally produced food grain would ensure diversity of food grains requirement.

  • Proper identification and classification of beneficiates APL, BPL, or AAY household in a fool proof manner.

  • Incentivising the Fair price shops (FPS) for extended opening hours and selling commoditiesnot covered under PDS with permission. Like the Chattisgarh e-PDS, project, which has the real time GPS monitoring from depots to the FPS, other states also have to follow this way.

  • Food coupons can be utilised to reduce corruption, since the owner gets the same price from all the buyers. As these food coupons has the same value and only be redeemed at specific outlets or Government authorised agencies, it will promote distortion free trade.

Kurukshetra February 2017

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