Das, Gautam Kumar (2017). 'Effectiveness of Public Distribution System in Rural India in Achieving Food Security' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Food security is a multidimensional concept. According to World Food Summit (1996), the food security exists when all people, at all times, 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. The summit argued that food security has to ensure three pillars. These are; food availability, food accessibility, and food use or food utilization. India is dominantly agricultural based. The unusual scenario of Indian agriculture is that, the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP is decreasing but the share of employment in the agricultural sector is still very high as compared to other sectors. At the same time, poverty level in rural sector is very high. According to Planning Commission of India during 1973-74, 56.44 percent population in the rural areas was below poverty line. The poverty level declined to 28.3 percent in 2004-05. This shows that the rural people are not in good condition.

In India, about 35 percent of population are food insecure; consume less than 80 percent of minimum energy requirements, and 9 out of 10 pregnant women between 15-40 years are malnourished and anaemic. According to Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 23 percent of Indian population are undernourished. Under such a situation, strong food policy is very essential for providing the livelihood security to the poor people. In order to overcome the problems of food insecurity and food shortages after Independence government of India has given more importance on Public Distribution System (PDS). In India PDS has passed from universal to target oriented programmes. The reform in the delivery mechanism, particularly since 1997 indicates a huge debate in PDS. One group of scholar views that the PDS should be universal, because only universal PDS can ensure food security for the poor.  While Government of India give more importance on Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). At the extreme, some literature emerging since early 2000s and, of late, more vigorously, pushing for introduction of a coupon/cash transfer system to cut out the massive diversion of food grains from PDS into open market. At the present time PDS is suffering from the various problems such as insufficiency of ration quota, failure of coverage of the targeted groups, poor quality of PDS commodities, irregularities of supply of the PDS commodities, higher price of PDS commodities, improper weights, issues of non-accessibility, inclusion and exclusion errors etc.

The study has three objectives. First, to assess the performance of PDS in coverage and distribution of commodities to poor and non-poor households in rural India. Second, to estimate the Prevalence of Undernourishment (POU) and Prevalence of Malnourishment (POM) of the poor and non-poor households in rural India. Finally the study will estimate the contribution of PDS in total calorie, protein, and fat intake.   

The present study is based on secondary data. The study period is from 1993-94 to 2011-12. Secondary data are mainly collected from the three rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS) consumer expenditure data, survey conducted in 50th (1993-1994), 61st round (200405) and 68th (2011-12). In the study poor and non-poor household are categorised according to the state and sector specific poverty line given by the planning commission in different year. The POU and POM is the head-count percentage of persons whose calorie intake and protein intakes respectively are below a pre-specific norm. Pre-specific norms is the per day dietary requirement given by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR). The pre-specific norms vary according to the sex and different age groups.

The study finds that in India, the coverage of poor households in the PDS has increased over the period of time. Therefore accessibility to the PDS increases. The study also shows that the Per Capita Consumption (PCC) of rice for poor households from the PDS in all India has not only increased but higher than non-poor household. However, the PCC of sugar and kerosene of the non-poor household is more than the poor household. Because of higher coverage and increase of PCC of rice from the PDS, share of rice in total household consumption has increased. The study find that, the share of Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) on cereals has declined over the period of time, and share of MPCE on non-cereal item has increased. In non-poor households, the share of MPCE on the cereal was less than that in poor households. On the other hand, MPCE share of the non-poor households in non-cereal item is more than the poor households. The study also find that the, gap between requirement and availability of calorie and protein has increased over the period of time. Consequently, undernourishment and malnourishment is also increased. The gap between requirement and availability of calorie and protein is higher in poor household than non-poor household, which results more undernourishment and malnourishment in the poor household than non-poor household. Finally, the study find that the contribution of PDS in total calories, and protein intake has increased at the same time malnutrition and undernutrition is also increased.

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