PDS revision for improved nutrition.


On the 2022 Global Hunger Index, India came in at position 107 out of 121 evaluated nations (GHI). The paper claims that despite some measuring difficulties with the GHI, India has a high rate of malnutrition as a result of skewed rice-wheat policies. Malnutrition in India manifests as a triple burden, including underweight, particularly in the poor, hidden hunger (micronutrient insufficiency), and overweight.

The National Food Security Act of 2013 (NFSA) was introduced to make sure that everyone has access to a sufficient supply of wholesome food at reasonable costs. According to the act, a specified quantity of wheat, rice, and/or coarse grains (in some states) are eligible to subsidies through the Public Distribution System for 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population (PDS). PDS is a cereal-based programme that has been effective in reducing hunger, but it does not address the issue of malnutrition.

The central government has recently given state governments the freedom to add more goods to PDS in accordance with local needs. For instance, states and Union Territories (UTs) are given access to pulses purchased under the Price Stabilization Buffer and Price Support Scheme for distribution under the PDS. In order to alleviate iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 micronutrient shortages, the Central Government launched a pilot project in 2019–20 to fortify rice and distribute it through the PDS in 11 districts.

Government must prioritise sustainable production as well as economically viable procurement and distribution of varied foods if it wants to include them in the PDS. By encouraging crop diversification away from the paddy-wheat cycle, crop diversity in production can also help farmers earn more money. Many governments offer financial incentives to farmers who switch from paddy to pulses, oilseeds, and cotton. Haryana, for instance, offers financial incentives of 7,000 rupees per acre. By providing subsidised improved seed types, Odisha encouraged farmers to switch from paddy to vegetables, pulses, ragi, maize, cotton, and groundnuts. To encourage diversity, the Telangana government is discouraging paddy production during the rabi season.

In several states, governments have already streamlined the purchasing of pulses and millets. Additionally, local procurement and distribution activities are carried out at the farm gate in a number of states through Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), women Self Help Groups (SHGs), and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) in order to cut down on transportation and other logistical costs as well as to increase prices for the producers. The distribution and supply chain processes under the PDS have been strengthened even further by digitalization.

Inclusion of varied foods like millets, pulses, and fortification will only require a little cost with significant added advantages compared to the food subsidy of roughly 2 lakh crore yearly with an emphasis on rice and wheat. Open market purchases can solve the procurement issue when market prices are greater than the support price, ensuring continuous distribution of millets and pulses.

Lack of customer knowledge about nutritious foods is another barrier to food basket diversification through the PDS. Women can be the focus of awareness campaigns through panchayat raj organisations, SHGs, and FPO groups.

Overall, as States are free to introduce new commodities under the PDS, state governments must play a stronger role in promoting varied diets. Given the PDS system’s reach over the entire nation, using it as a tool to address the undernutrition problem is doable.

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