Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

How Punjab and Haryana remain key to National Food Security?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Trends in wheat and Rice production

Mains level: National food security;

Why in the News? 

The recent drop in agricultural production due to El-Nino has highlighted once more the critical role Punjab and Haryana play in ensuring India’s food security.

Role of Punjab and Haryana for the Food Security of India:

  • Punjab and Haryana are crucial in years with bad monsoons or climate shocks.
  • The average per hectare wheat and paddy yields in these states are 4.8 tonnes and 6.5 tonnes, respectively, significantly higher than the all-India averages of 3.5 tonnes and 4.1 tonnes.

Wheat Production:    

  • Traditional procurement: Until the mid-2000s, Punjab and Haryana supplied over 90% of the wheat for India’s public distribution system (PDS) and other government programs.
  • Impact of the Green Revolution: The spread of high-yielding varieties to other states and the establishment of infrastructure for buying grain at minimum support prices (MSP) reduced Punjab and Haryana’s share to around 65% by the early 2010s.
    • In 2019-20 and 2020-21, total wheat procurement reached record levels (39-43.3 million tons), with Punjab and Haryana’s share falling to just over 50%. Madhya Pradesh became the top wheat procurer in 2019-20, surpassing Punjab.
  • Climate Shocks: The last three years have seen production setbacks due to climate shocks, including: An unseasonal temperature surge in March 2022. Heavy rain in March 2023 during the grain formation stage.

Recent Climate Impact: 

In 2023-24, unusually warm temperatures in November-December impacted wheat yields, especially in central India. The delayed winter, attributed to El Nino, led to premature flowering and shortened the vegetative growth phase.

Regional Impact:

  • Madhya Pradesh’s wheat procurement dropped significantly from 12.8-12.9 million tons in 2019-20 and 2020-21 to about 4.6 million tons.
  • Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan also saw significant declines from their 2020-21 highs.
  • Punjab and Haryana have been less affected due to longer winters and later sowing (early to mid-November).
  • Uttar Pradesh and Bihar reported good production due to near-normal March temperatures, but much of their produce was sold to private traders at prices above the MSP.

Rice production in the states:

  • Traditional Procurement: Government rice procurement was historically concentrated in Punjab, Haryana, and the Godavari-Krishna and Kaveri delta regions of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Tamil Nadu (TN).
  • Diversification: There has been a diversification in rice procurement, with new states like Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh (UP) becoming significant contributors to the Central pool.
  • Change in Procurement Shares: The combined share of Punjab and Haryana in total rice procurement decreased from 43-44% in the early 2000s to an average of 28.8% in the four years ending 2022-23. In the current crop year, this share has risen to around 32.9%, with some procurements still pending in Telangana, AP, and TN.

Impact of Irrigation:

  • Farmers in Punjab and Haryana, with assured access to irrigation, did not suffer production losses from last year’s patchy monsoon attributed to El Niño.
  • In contrast, states like Telangana saw reduced rabi paddy planting and struggled with irrigation due to depleted groundwater levels.

Policy implications

  • NFSA Entitlements: Under the NFSA, about 813.5 million people are entitled to receive 5 kg of wheat or rice per month through the Public Distribution System (PDS) at highly subsidized prices.
  • Current Government Policy: Since January 2023, the current government has been providing this grain to all NFSA beneficiaries free of cost.

Way Forward:

  • Adoption of Climate-Resilient Varieties: Develop and promote high-yield, climate-resilient wheat varieties that are tolerant to heat, drought, and diseases.
  • Efficient Irrigation Systems: Invest in modern irrigation systems such as drip and sprinkler irrigation to ensure efficient water use.
  • Invest in Agricultural Research: Increase funding for agricultural research institutions to develop new wheat varieties and innovative farming techniques.

Mains PYQ:

Q Why did the Green Revolution in India virtually by-pass the eastern region despite fertile soil and good availability of water? (UPSC IAS/2014)

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Food factor: On the latest retail inflation data

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Food Inflation and Control Measures

Why in the news? 

  • India’s retail inflation remained virtually unchanged at 5.09% in February, even as food prices paid by consumers resurged from 8.3% in January to 8.66% in February.

Context-

  • Most economists expect inflation to stay in the 5.1%-5.2% range in March as well, which would lift average inflation in the last quarter of this year over the 5% average projected by the RBI

The primary reason behind the food inflation in February-

  • Vegetable Prices Surge: Vegetables experienced a significant price surge, with a seven-month high pace of 30.25% in February. This spike in vegetable prices contributed significantly to the overall food inflation.
  • Rise in Egg and Meat Prices: Prices of eggs and meat/fish also rose at a faster pace in February compared to January. Eggs witnessed a notable increase from 5.6% to 10.7%, while meat and fish prices rose from 1.2% to 5.2%.
  • Deceleration in Pulses and Spices Prices: While there was a slight deceleration in the inflation rate of pulses and spices compared to the previous year, these items still experienced steep price increases. Pulses inflation stood at 18.5%, and spices recorded a 13.5% increase.
  • Regional Disparities: Food inflation varied across different states, with some states experiencing inflation rates above the RBI’s upper tolerance threshold of 6%. States like Odisha, Telangana, Haryana, and Assam recorded high inflation rates, while others like Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal had relatively lower inflation rates.
  • Seasonal Factors and Supply Chain Issues: Seasonal factors, along with supply chain disruptions, could have contributed to the rise in food prices. Factors such as adverse weather conditions, transportation constraints, and supply-demand imbalances may have affected the availability and prices of food items in the market.

To address inflation-related issues in the short term and long term, several measures can be considered:

[A] Short-Term Measures:

Supply-Side Interventions:

  • Increase the supply of essential commodities by releasing buffer stocks, if available.
  • Facilitate faster transportation of perishable goods through streamlined logistics and distribution channels.
  • Establish temporary market outlets to directly connect farmers with consumers, reducing intermediary costs and price hikes.

Import Policies:

  • Relax import restrictions on essential food items to augment domestic supply and stabilize prices.
  • Expedite customs clearance procedures to ensure timely availability of imported goods in the market.

Price Monitoring and Control:

  • Implement strict price monitoring mechanisms to prevent hoarding and profiteering.
  • Set up special task forces or committees to monitor price movements and take swift action against price manipulation.

Demand Management:

  • Promote alternative dietary choices to alleviate pressure on high-priced items.
  • Encourage conservation and rational utilization of essential commodities through public awareness campaigns.

[B] Long-Term Measures:

Investment in Agriculture Infrastructure:

  • Enhance investment in agricultural infrastructure, including irrigation systems, cold storage facilities, and transportation networks, to improve productivity and reduce post-harvest losses.

Crop Diversification and Technology Adoption:

  • Encourage farmers to diversify their crops to mitigate the impact of price volatility.
  • Promote the adoption of modern agricultural practices, including mechanization, precision farming, and biotechnology, to enhance crop yields and resilience to climate change.

Market Reforms:

  • Implement market reforms to create a more efficient and transparent agricultural marketing system.
  • Facilitate the establishment of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and agricultural cooperatives to empower farmers and strengthen their bargaining power in the market.

Food Processing and Value Addition:

  • Promote investment in food processing industries to add value to agricultural produce and reduce post-harvest losses.
  • Establish food processing clusters and agro-industrial parks to encourage entrepreneurship and create employment opportunities in rural areas.

Risk Management and Insurance:

  • Introduce crop insurance schemes and risk management tools to protect farmers from income volatility caused by price fluctuations and natural disasters.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to farmers to improve their risk assessment and management capabilities.

Sustainable Agriculture Practices:

  • Encourage the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices, including organic farming, agroforestry, and soil conservation, to ensure long-term environmental sustainability and food security.

Conclusion-

To mitigate food inflation, short-term measures such as supply-side interventions and price monitoring are essential, while long-term solutions like investment in agriculture infrastructure and market reforms are crucial for sustainable food security.

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Kerala to launch affordable ‘Sabari K-Rice ‘

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sabari K-Rice, Bharat Rice, Atta

Mains level: Food security, affordability

In the news

  • The Kerala government’s decision to introduce ‘Sabari K-Rice’ is seen as a response to the Union government’s distribution of ‘Bharat Rice.’

Bharat Rice and Other Commodities

 

  • ‘Bharat’ Rice refers to the retail sale of rice by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to the general public at a subsidized price.
  • Its primary objective is to stabilize markets and ensure affordability for consumers.
  • This rice is available in 5kg and 10kg packs priced at ₹29/kg.
  •  It is distributed through cooperatives such as Kendriya Bhandar, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India (NCCF).
  • Additionally, it can be purchased from mobile vans and physical outlets of these cooperative agencies.
  • Moreover, these agencies also offer ‘Bharat Atta’ (wheat flour) at Rs. 27.50 per kg in 5kg and 10kg packs.
  • Similarly, ‘Bharat Dal’ (chana dal / Chickpea) is available at Rs. 60 per kg for a 1kg pack and Rs. 55 per kg for a 30kg pack, along with onions priced at Rs. 25 per kg.

Sabari K-Rice

  • Objective: It aims to provide good quality rice at affordable rates, presenting an alternative to the existing subsidized rice scheme.
  • Distribution: K-Rice will be made available through Supplyco outlets, alongside the existing subsidized rice supply of 10 kg per card.
  • Quality and Pricing: K-Rice offers high-quality varieties at subsidized rates, contrasting with Bharat Rice sold by NAFED and NCCF at different prices.
  • Price Discrepancy: While Bharat Rice sells at ₹29 per kg, K-Rice aims to provide affordable rates, with the state government incurring additional costs to distribute it.

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FCI Capital raised from Rs 10,000 cr to Rs 21,000 cr

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Food Corporation of India (FCI): Major functions

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The government has raised the authorized capital of the state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) from ₹10,000 crore to ₹21,000 crore, marking a significant stride in bolstering its operational capabilities.
  • This initiative, announced by the Food Ministry, underscores the government’s commitment to strengthening FCI’s role in ensuring food security and safeguarding farmers’ interests.

About Food Corporation of India (FCI)

  • Establishment and Objectives: Founded in 1965 under the Food Corporation Act, 1964, FCI serves as a statutory body under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • Core Objectives: FCI is entrusted with the tasks of providing price support to farmers by
  1. Procuring grains at Minimum Support Prices (MSP),
  2. Supplying grains to Public Distribution System (PDS), and
  3. Maintaining strategic grain reserves.

Initiatives to Enhance FCI’s Efficiency

  • Integrated IT Systems: FCI is implementing integrated IT solutions and adopting e-office initiatives to transition towards a paperless work environment and streamline operational functions effectively.
  • Infrastructure Development: FCI is investing in infrastructure projects such as cement road construction, roof maintenance, and weighbridge modernization to enhance operational efficiency.
  • Quality Assurance: Efforts are underway to procure lab equipment and develop software platforms for quality assessment, ensuring adherence to stringent quality standards.

Significance of Increased Authorized Capital

  • Operational Strengthening: The augmentation of authorized capital aims to bolster FCI’s operational efficiency, reduce interest burdens, and positively impact government subsidies.
  • Modernization Imperative: In addition to financial infusion, the government emphasizes the modernization of storage facilities, transportation networks, and adoption of advanced technologies for enhanced performance.
  • Empowering Farmers: The government’s commitment to MSP-based procurement and investment in FCI’s operational capabilities reflects a collaborative approach towards empowering farmers, fortifying the agricultural sector, and ensuring nationwide food security.

Relevance of FCI

  • Bedrock of National Food Security: FCI plays a pivotal role in implementing the National Food Security Act, ensuring procurement and distribution to far-flung areas for national food security.
  • Response to Crisis: During crises such as the Covid pandemic and migrant crises, FCI has effectively tackled challenges of hunger and starvation.
  • Fight against Malnutrition and Poverty: FCI’s role in the Public Distribution System (PDS) contributes to combating malnutrition and poverty, promoting inclusive growth.
  • Support to Farmers: By purchasing crops at MSP, FCI provides financial security to farmers, making agriculture remunerative.

Challenges Faced by FCI

  • Limited Farmer Participation: Less than 10% of farmers can sell their produce to government agencies due to various factors such as lack of awareness or access to the MSP system, benefiting only large farmers in certain states like Punjab.
  • Storage Overload: FCI has stored double the grains than the prescribed buffer limits, leading to a shortage in the open market, inflation, and deterioration of grains due to limited storage capacity.
  • Leakages in Distribution: According to NSSO 2011, 40-60% of grains distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS) are siphoned off, highlighting significant challenges in distribution efficiency and governance.

Way Forward:

Shanta Kumar Committee (2014) Recommendations

  • The Shanta Kumar Committee proposed a comprehensive set of recommendations aimed at reforming the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and enhancing its efficiency in managing food systems.
  • The committee proposes designating FCI as an “Agency for Innovation in Food Management Systems” to foster creativity and efficiency in managing food resources.

[A] Procurement Stage

  • Outsourcing Procurement: Recommends outsourcing procurement activities in better-performing states like Punjab while centralizing procurement in states like Bihar, Assam, Bengal, and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • Cash Transfers to Farmers: Suggests exploring cash transfers to farmers as an alternative mechanism for procurement.
  • Buffer Stock Quotas: Advocates setting buffer stock quotas instead of open-ended procurement to optimize resource utilization.
  • Stringent Quality Checks: Emphasizes the need for stringent quality checks by third parties to ensure the quality of procured grains.

[B] Storage Stage

  • Outsourcing Stocking Operations: Recommends outsourcing stocking operations to various agencies such as the Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), State Warehousing Corporation (SWC), and the private sector under the Private Entrepreneur Guarantee (PEG) scheme.
  • Automatic Liquidation of Excess Stock: Proposes automatic liquidation of excess buffer stock in the open market to prevent overstocking and market distortions.
  • Maintaining Strategic Buffer Reserves: Suggests maintaining strategic buffer reserves to stabilize markets and address emergencies effectively.

[C] Distribution Stage

  • Expanding Coverage under NFSA: Recommends expanding coverage under the National Food Security Act 2013 to encompass 40% of the population, ensuring wider access to subsidized food grains.
  • End-to-End Computerization: Advocates for end-to-end computerization of the distribution system to enhance transparency, efficiency, and accountability.
  • Online Tracking: Proposes online tracking of the entire system from procurement to retail distribution to facilitate real-time monitoring and management.

[D] Transportation Improvements

  • Integration of Road and Rail Transport: Suggests integrating road transport along with rail to optimize transportation networks and reduce dependency on rail.
  • Containerization: Recommends using containers instead of gunny bags for efficient and hygienic transportation of food grains.
  • Utilization of Inland Waterways: Advocates utilizing inland waterways for transporting food grains, leveraging cost-effective and eco-friendly transportation modes.
  • Automation in Loading and Unloading: Proposes automation in loading and unloading processes to enhance efficiency and minimize manual labor.

[E] Operational Overhaul

  • Doing Away with FIFO Principle: Suggests doing away with the FIFO (first in, first out) principle to release hygienic food grains on time and prevent wastage.
  • Targeting Chronically Starved Areas: Recommends implementing a pre-positioning shipment policy to store food grains nearer to chronically starved areas, ensuring timely access to essential supplies during emergencies.
  • Ensuring Last-Mile Connectivity: Advocates leveraging a network of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) to ensure last-mile connectivity and efficient distribution of food grains.

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How to tackle malnutrition effectively

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Anaemia Mukt Bharat

Mains level: complexities of malnutrition, providing a comprehensive view of the two-way relationship between nutrition and health.

 

Urgent action needed as acute malnutrition threatens the lives of millions of vulnerable children

Central Idea:

The article discusses the intricate relationship between nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron deficiency, and certain disorders like anaemia. It emphasizes the two-way impact of nutrition and health, citing examples such as iron deficiency anaemia, Vitamin A, and zinc deficiency. The article highlights the challenges in addressing malnutrition and the importance of government interventions like Anaemia Mukt Bharat and Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF).

 

Key Highlights:

  • Nutritional deficiencies, especially iron deficiency, can result from both poor dietary choices and underlying health conditions like celiac disease or infections.
  • The article underscores the inter-generational impact of malnutrition, stating that anaemic mothers often give birth to anaemic babies.
  • Government programs such as Anaemia Mukt Bharat and the Mid-day Meal Scheme aim to address nutritional deficiencies, but effective implementation remains a challenge.
  • The shift from traditional, balanced diets to processed and sugar-laden alternatives is contributing to nutritional deficiencies.
  • About 46% of South Asia’s population lacks access to an affordable balanced diet, with India facing challenges in ensuring a nutrient-adequate diet for its citizens.
  • Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) is proposed as a crucial strategy to enhance ongoing efforts, aligning with micronutrient supplementation and behavioral change measures.

 

Key Challenges:

  • Effective implementation of government programs like Anaemia Mukt Bharat and the Mid-day Meal Scheme.
  • Lack of access to an affordable balanced diet for a significant portion of the population.
  • Misgivings and resistance among beneficiaries regarding the appearance and texture of fortified foods.
  • The need for an intensive information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign to address misconceptions and build trust.
  • India lags behind in adopting universal food fortification, despite success in iodised salt under the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme.

 

Key Terms:

  • Anaemia Mukt Bharat (AMB)
  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Large-Scale Food Fortification (LSFF)
  • Iodised salt
  • Nutrient-adequate diet
  • Information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign

 

Key Phrases:

  • “Two-way relationship between nutritional deficiencies and certain disorders.”
  • “Malnutrition caused by micronutrient deficiency has inter-generational impacts.”
  • “Challenges of effective implementation persist.”
  • “Dietary patterns have shifted from seasonal and varied foods to processed and sugar-laden alternatives.”
  • “46% of South Asia’s population lacks access to an affordable balanced diet.”

 

Key Quotes:

  • “The burden of malnutrition is complex and needs to be addressed through multiple interventions.”
  • “The onus seems to be on people to recognize that reducing consumption of processed foods is a crucial step towards ensuring better health outcomes.”
  • “Food fortification may not be the ideal remedy. However, it is a vital first step.”
  • “Awareness is critical to the acceptance of fortified foods among the targeted beneficiaries.”

 

Key Statements:

  • “Consistent intake of food lacking in essential micronutrients can lead to iron deficiency anaemia and impair immunity.”
  • “LSFF, when aligned with micronutrient supplementation programs, diet diversity promotion, and measures to induce behavioral change has immense potential.”

 

Key Examples and References:

  • Adoption of iodised salt under the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme in 1992.
  • The success of LSFF in other countries with universal food fortification.
  • Government programs like Anaemia Mukt Bharat and the Mid-day Meal Scheme as interventions.

 

Key Facts and Data:

  • About 46% of South Asia’s population lacks access to an affordable balanced diet.
  • 74% of India’s population could not afford a healthy diet, and 39% fell short of a nutrient-adequate one.
  • The article mentions data from The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2023.

 

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively highlights the complexities of malnutrition, providing a comprehensive view of the two-way relationship between nutrition and health. It emphasizes the need for multifaceted interventions and addresses challenges in implementation and awareness. The proposal of LSFF as a strategy is substantiated by referencing successful past programs like iodised salt. The article uses clear language, making it accessible to a wide audience.

 

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening implementation of existing government programs.
  • Increasing awareness through intensive IEC campaigns.
  • Focusing on the affordability and accessibility of a balanced diet.
  • Emphasizing the importance of reducing the consumption of processed foods.
  • Urging timely adoption and alignment of Large-Scale Food Fortification to enhance ongoing initiatives.

 

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Sourcing FCI rice under OMSS to impact retail prices

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution has proposed a plan to source rice from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) for consumer sales.
  • The FCI is providing quality rice under OMSS at a reserve price of ₹29 per kg.

About Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)

Details
Purpose of OMSS To sell government-owned food grains (wheat and rice) in the open market to enhance supply and moderate prices, especially during lean seasons and in deficit regions.
Implementing Agency Food Corporation of India (FCI)
Components of OMSS 1. Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.

2. Sale of wheat through e-auction by dedicated movement.

3. Sale of Raw Rice Grade ‘A’ to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.

Method of Selling Through e-auction for transparency, conducted weekly using the platform of NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited).
Participants State Governments/Union Territory Administrations and private entities can participate in the e-auction.

States procure additional food grains through OMSS for distribution under the National Food Security Act,2013 (NFSA).

Impact on Rice Inflation

  • Current Inflation Rate: The annual inflation rate of rice has been around 12% for the past two years, accumulating over time and raising concerns.
  • Objective: The department aims to reduce this inflation rate and make rice more affordable for consumers.

Significances of OMSS

  • Enhance the supply of food grains: The OMSS helps to enhance the supply of food grains, especially wheat, during the lean season and moderates the open market prices, especially in deficit regions.
  • Prevent wastage and deterioration of food grains: The OMSS also helps to prevent wastage and deterioration of food grains in FCI godowns due to a lack of storage space and proper maintenance.
  • Provides an alternative source of food grains: The OMSS provides an alternative source of food grains for bulk consumers, state governments, UTs and private parties who participate in various schemes and programmes such as ethanol production under biofuel policy.
  • Generates revenue for the FCI: The OMSS generates revenue for the FCI and reduces its subsidy burden on the central government. The FCI sells food grains under OMSS at pre-determined prices which are higher than the minimum support prices (MSPs) paid to farmers for procurement.

Challenges faced by OMSS

  • Low demand from the buyers: The OMSS faces low demand from buyers due to high reserve prices fixed by the FCI, which are often above the market prices.
  • Logistical challenges: The OMSS also faces logistical challenges such as transportation, handling and quality issues of food grains, which affect the timely delivery and customer satisfaction
  • Limited impact on stabilizing the market prices: The OMSS has a limited impact on stabilizing the market prices as it accounts for a small share of the total food grain supply and demand in the country. 
  • Does not address the structural problems: The OMSS does not address the structural problems of food grain management such as procurement, distribution and buffer stocking policies, which need to be reformed to ensure food security and fiscal prudence. 

Way forward

  • Revise the reserve prices of food grains: The FCI should revise the reserve prices of food grains under OMSS based on the prevailing market conditions and demand-supply situation to attract more buyers and clear the excess stocks.
  • Improve logistics and quality management: The FCI should improve its logistics and quality management system to ensure timely delivery and good quality of food grains under OMSS
  • Diversify product portfolio: The FCI should diversify its product portfolio under OMSS to include coarse grains, pulses and oilseeds, which are also essential for nutrition security and have a higher demand in the market.
  • Coordinate with state governments: The FCI should coordinate with state governments, UTs and other stakeholders to ensure effective implementation and monitoring of OMSS and address any grievances or complaints arising from it. 

Back2basics

Food Corporation of India (FCI)

  • It is a statutory body set up in 1965 (under the Food Corporation Act, 1964) under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It was set up against the backdrop of a major shortage of grains, especially wheat, in the country.
  • Currently, FCI is mandated with three basic objectives:
  1. To provide effective price support to farmers;
  2. To procure and supply grains to PDS for distributing subsidised staples to economically vulnerable sections of society; and
  3. Keep a strategic reserve to stabilise markets for basic foodgrains.

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Bharat Atta: Subsidized Wheat Flour Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bharat Atta

Mains level: Not Much

Bharat Atta

Central Idea

  • In a bid to maintain stability in food prices during the festive season, the Indian government has unveiled a subsidized packaged wheat flour initiative accessible to all consumers.
  • Termed “Bharat Atta,” the scheme aims to release a quarter of a million tonnes of state-owned wheat to various cooperative outlets and federations.

Bharat Atta

  • Distribution Channels: The government has chosen Kendriya Bhandar, a network of cooperative general stores, along with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation, as the primary channels for distributing Bharat Atta.
  • Reduced Price: Bharat Atta is offered at a reduced price of ₹27.50 per kilogram, which is lower than the earlier rate of ₹29.50 at Kendriya Bhandar.
  • Expansion: To ensure accessibility, the subsidized flour will be available at Kendriya Bhandar, NAFED, NCCF, government cooperative outlets, and food vans operated by NAFED and NCCF.
  • Government Support: The government is facilitating this scheme by milling the wheat through firms selected through a tender process, thereby minimizing the milling cost, which is approximately ₹1.80 per kilogram for large wheat millers.

Why such move?

  • Free Cereals: PM recently announced that cereals would be provided free of cost to 800 million beneficiaries entitled to subsidized food for the next five years.
  • Price Controls: The government has implemented various measures such as banning wheat and rice exports, setting a floor price for onion exports, and reducing import duties on pulses to combat rising food prices.
  • Election Context: These anti-inflation measures come as India faces key assembly elections in five states and a general election in the near future.

Challenges in implementation

  • Cereal Inflation: Despite a significant wheat harvest, India continues to grapple with high cereal inflation, which has persisted for over a year, reaching double digits.
  • Record Foodgrain Production: The fourth and final round of estimates for the 2022-23 crop output indicates a record high in foodgrain production. However, wheat production slightly decreased from initial estimates.
  • Positive Outlook: Despite minor fluctuations, wheat production remains higher than the previous year, reflecting a positive outlook for addressing food price concerns.

Conclusion

  • The government’s subsidized wheat flour initiative, Bharat Atta, exemplifies its dedication to ensuring that the joy of the festive season is not marred by soaring food prices.

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PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) extended for 5 Years

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PMGKAY

Mains level: No

Central Idea

What is PMGKAY?

  • PMGKAY is a food security welfare scheme announced by the GoI in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.

Targets of the scheme

  • To feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System to all the priority households (ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana scheme).
  • PMGKAY provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person/month and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.

At what rate are food grains provided under the NFSA?

  • NFSA beneficiaries are entitled to receive food grains at highly subsidised rates.
  • Under the food law, rice is provided at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grains at Re 1 per kg.

Success

  • Pandemic mitigation: It was the first step by the government when pandemic affected India.
  • Wide section of beneficiaries: The scheme reached its targeted population feeding almost 80Cr people.
  • Support to migrants: It has proven to be more of a safety net to migrant people who had job and livelihood losses.
  • Food and Nutrition Security: This has also ensured nutrition security to children of the migrant workers.

Limitations of the scheme

  • Corruption: The scheme has been affected by widespread corruption, leakages and failure to distribute grain to the intended recipients.
  • Leakages: Out of the 79.25 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), only 55 crore have so far received their 5 kg.
  • Inaccessibility: Many people were denied their share due to inability to access ration cards.
  • Low consumption: Livelihood losses led to decline in aggregate demand and resulted into lowest ever consumption expenditure by the people owing to scarcity of cash.
  • Resale of subsidized grains: This in turn led to selling of the free grains obtained in the local markets for cash.

Back2Basics: National Food Security (NFS) Act

  • The NFS Act, of 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the GoI.
  • It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme and the ICDS are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.

Key provisions of NFSA

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive food-grains at a subsidised price.
  • It includes rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).

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India’s record Food Production

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Food Production stats

Mains level: Read the attached story

Food Production

Central Idea

  • Recent data from the agriculture ministry has revealed that India achieved record-high food production in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
  • However, this surge in production appears to be at odds with the government’s decision to restrict the export of key staples like wheat and rice, as well as the persistent trend of rising food inflation.

Food Production Statistics

  • Record-High Food Production: The agriculture ministry estimates food production for 2022-23 at a historic 329.7 million tonnes, marking a 4.5% increase from the previous year.
  • Cereal Production: Major cereal production, including rice and wheat, rose by 4.9% and 2.6%, respectively. Coarse grain production surged by 12%, while pulses production experienced a 4.4% year-on-year decline but remained 6% higher than the five-year average.
  • Challenges Faced: These estimations were made despite adverse conditions such as subpar monsoons affecting rice output and late rains causing damage during crop harvesting.

Inconsistencies in the Data

  • Export Curbs: In September 2022, India imposed export curbs on broken rice and imposed a 20% duty on certain varieties due to expected domestic production challenges. These curbs have since intensified.
  • Wheat Export Ban: Last year, a miscalculation of wheat harvest, primarily due to a heatwave, led to export bans in May 2022, despite promises to bridge global supply gaps after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Rising Food Prices: Despite record production and export restrictions, retail prices for cereals have continued to surge. Wheat and rice prices have been in double digits, with consumer cereal prices up by 11% year-on-year, and pulses registering a 16.4% increase. As of October 21, retail prices for rice and wheat flour were 12.7% and 5% higher year-on-year, respectively.

Prospects for 2023-24

  • Kharif Production Estimate: The first advance estimate for kharif production, typically released in September, is yet to be published. This year’s monsoon, with the lowest rainfall in five years and uneven distribution, is expected to impact rice production, the main kharif crop.
  • Pulses and Oilseeds: Additionally, reduced rainfall in several states may affect pulses and oilseeds production. Retail prices for specific pulse varieties like tur (pigeon peas) have already surged by 38% compared to the previous year.

Challenges in Robust Crop Estimations

  • Reliability of Data: National crop yield estimates rely on crop-cutting experiments conducted by state revenue and agriculture departments, raising concerns about the accuracy of data collection, particularly in understaffed state departments.
  • Remote Sensing: India is using remote sensing to cross-verify the data, yet reliability remains a challenge, especially for crops with multiple harvests.
  • Horticulture Crops: Estimating yield for horticulture crops, which are harvested in stages, is even more complex than for food grains.

Conclusion

  • India’s agricultural landscape presents a perplexing scenario with record-high food production, export restrictions, and stubborn food inflation.
  • The government’s efforts to stabilize prices through export curbs have not yielded the expected results.
  • As India navigates the complexities of its agricultural sector, it must address the discrepancies in data collection and explore innovative approaches to ensure accurate estimates and sustainable food security.

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Ridding India of food insecurity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Food-price inflation in India, food security, impacts and solutions

What’s the news?

  • India, touted as the world’s fastest-growing large economy, is grappling with a formidable challenge: soaring food-price inflation.

Central Idea

  • The rise in the price of food first accelerated sharply in 2019 and has climbed in most years thereafter. In July this year, annual inflation exceeded 11%, the highest in a decade. An implication of continuing high food-price inflation is that a section of the population could face hardship in consuming food of adequate nutritional value.

The grim reality

  • The FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report reveals a staggering figure: an estimated 74% of India’s population cannot afford a healthy diet as of 2021, encompassing roughly one billion individuals.
  • Given a population of 1,400 million, this makes for approximately one billion Indians.

Factors contributing to the failure to control food-price inflation in India

  • Supply-side Challenges: Weather disruptions, infrastructure gaps, and supply chain inefficiencies hinder food production and distribution.
  • Rising Input Costs: Increased expenses for fertilizers, pesticides, and labor raise production costs, leading to higher food prices.
  • Government Policies: Distortionary policies like minimum support prices (MSPs) and export restrictions affect market dynamics and prices.
  • Ineffectiveness of Macroeconomic Policy: Traditional macroeconomic policies, which have been relied upon to control inflation, have proven ineffective in addressing food-price inflation.
  • Failure of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI): The RBI, responsible for monetary policy in India, has consistently failed to control inflation, with rates exceeding the target for four years.
  • Inadequacy of Inflation Targeting: The RBI’s approach of “inflation targeting,” involving output contraction during inflation spikes, is considered misleading and unsuitable for managing food inflation driven by supply-side issues.
  • Limitation of Central Banks: Central banks, including the RBI, are perceived as incapable of effectively addressing the problem of food-price inflation, particularly within a reasonable time frame.

A study report: Trend in the price of food in Mumbai over 2018–2023

  • Rising Food Prices: The primary factor behind food price inflation is the significant increase in the cost of food items. Specifically, the cost of preparing a traditional thaali meal at home in Mumbai has risen by 65% from 2018 to 2023.
  • Wage Growth Lag: Although there has been wage growth for both manual and salaried workers, with manual workers’ wages increasing by 38% and salaried workers’ wages increasing by 28% during the same period, these wage increases have not kept pace with the rapid rise in food prices.
  • Purchasing Power Erosion: The households in Mumbai have experienced a substantial reduction in purchasing power. As food prices have risen considerably, households are forced to allocate a larger portion of their income to food expenses, which leaves less for other essential needs and discretionary spending.
  • Nutritional Consequences: Food price inflation has led to adverse nutritional consequences, particularly an increase in the prevalence of anemia, especially among adult women in Mumbai. This rise in anemia cases is primarily attributed to nutrient deficiencies caused by reduced access to nutritious food due to escalating prices.
  • Validity of the FAO’s Estimate: The FAO’s estimates that over half of India’s population may struggle to afford a healthy diet. Even in the event of a potential 100% overestimation by the FAO, it would still leave a staggering 500 million people in this category, surpassing the populations of most countries globally except China.

The significance of the Green Revolution

  • Food Self-Sufficiency:
  • At the time of the Green Revolution, India was grappling with severe food shortages due to consecutive droughts.
  • The government’s supply-side response, which included providing farmers with high-yielding seeds, affordable credit, and guaranteed prices through procurement, was highly successful.
  • Within a few years, India achieved self-sufficiency in food production and was no longer dependent on food imports.
  • Economic and geopolitical significance:
  • While some mistakes were made during the Green Revolution, such as the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and a focus on cereals over pulses, the program’s success had significant economic and geopolitical implications.
  • It allowed India to assert self-reliance in a polarized Cold War era, a vital geopolitical consideration.
  • Poverty Alleviation: The Green Revolution played a pivotal role in reducing poverty in India by increasing agricultural productivity and farm incomes. The increased food production also benefited the poor, as it made food more accessible and affordable.
  • Lessons for the Future: While acknowledging past mistakes, the article suggests that the Green Revolution’s lessons can be applied to address the current challenges of food price inflation. Specifically, the focus should be on correcting past errors and launching a second agricultural revolution to lower the cost of food production while ensuring sustainability.

Proposed initiatives to combat food price inflation and ensure access to nutritious food for all

  • Increase Public Investment in Irrigation: Address inefficiencies in public expenditure on irrigation to expand irrigated land.
  • Facilitate Land Leasing: Lift restrictions on land leasing to encourage productivity-enhancing capital investments.
  • Revitalize Agricultural Research: Reinvigorate India’s network of agricultural research institutes to harness innovation.
  • Reinstate Extension Services: Restore and strengthen agricultural extension services to disseminate best practices.
  • Focus on Protein Production: Develop a program to substantially increase protein production to address India’s protein deficiency.

Conclusion

  • Taming India’s food-price inflation crisis demands immediate and concerted efforts. Our past achievements, such as the Green Revolution, serve as a testament to our capabilities when we address food security head-on. Let us seize this moment to launch a second agricultural revolution, ensuring that every Indian has access to affordable, nutritious food and once again reducing poverty and malnutrition on a massive scale.

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Annapurna Food Packet Scheme in Rajasthan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Annapurna Food Packet Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

Central Idea

  • Rajasthan’s government launched the Annapurna food packet scheme as part of its welfare initiatives, aiming to support 1.10 crore people, especially those hit hard by the pandemic.

Annapurna Food Packet Scheme

  • The scheme primarily benefits families identified through the National Food Security Act (NFSA) survey, encompassing poor and destitute families.
  • It also extends beyond NFSA beneficiaries to encompass families that received ₹5,500 pandemic assistance, totalling around 1.05 crore beneficiaries.

Benefits and Contents

  • Monthly Distribution: Eligible beneficiaries can collect Annapurna food packets monthly from fair price shops (FPS) at no cost.
  • Content Details: Each packet contains essential items – 1 kg gram pulses, sugar, and iodized salt, 1 litre soybean refined edible oil, 100 grams each of chilli powder and coriander powder, and 50 grams of turmeric powder.
  • Commission to FPS: FPS will receive a ₹10 commission per packet distributed, incentivizing their participation.

Back2Basics: National Food Security Act (NFSA)

  • The NFS Act was enacted on 12th September 2013, with retrospective effect from 5th July 2013.
  • It integrates legal entitlements for prevailing food security initiatives of the GoI, encompassing the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • The NFSA enshrines a legal right for individuals belonging to “eligible households” to acquire food grains at subsidized rates.

Features

  • Recognizing Maternity: The NFS Act acknowledges the importance of maternal health by incorporating maternity entitlements within its provisions.
  • Coverage Spectrum: While the Midday Meal Scheme and ICDS are accessible to all, the PDS caters to about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Special Benefits: Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and specific categories of children enjoy the privilege of daily free cereals, enhancing their nutritional security.
  • Subsidized Rates: The act establishes central issue prices (CIPs) for food grains, offering rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grains at Rs 1/kg through the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

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Cash Transfers vs Foodgrain Distribution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Implications of cash transfers instead of grains

Central idea

  • Three years ago, financial constraints prevented the Centre and states from providing cash transfers to vulnerable households during pandemic lockdowns. However, there was an abundance of wheat and rice in FCI’s warehouses, allowing distribution to 813.5 million people. However, the current scenario has reversed, with governments having funds but limited grain stocks, raising concerns for future provisions.

Grain Distribution and Export Scenario

Grain Distribution:

  • During the pandemic-enforced lockdowns the government distributed 10 kg of grain per month practically free to 813.5 million people from April 2020 to December 2022.
  • This distribution was made possible through the public distribution system (PDS) and aimed to support poor and vulnerable households suffering from job and income losses.

Offtake of Grains:

  • 2020-21 (April-March): The offtake of wheat and rice totalled 92.9 million tonnes, surpassing the annual average of 62.5 million tonnes during the first seven years after the National Food Security Act (NFSA) implementation.
  • 2021-22: The offtake further increased to 105.6 million tonnes.
  • 2022-23: The offtake remained high at 92.7 million tonnes.

Grain Exports:

  • Rice: In 2021-22, India exported 21.2 million tonnes of rice, valued at $9.66 billion. In 2022-23, rice exports reached 22.3 million tonnes, valued at $11.14 billion.
  • Wheat: Wheat exports accounted for 7.2 million tonnes ($2.12 billion) in 2021-22 and 4.7 million tonnes ($1.52 billion) in 2022-23

Karnataka Case: Shift from Grain to Cash Transfers

  • Change in Financial Situation: As economic activities resumed, the financial situation improved for both the Centre and the states. Gross GST revenues grew, indicating increased financial resources available to the governments.
  • Reduction in Grain Quota: From January 2023, the monthly grain quota under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was reduced from 10 kg to 5 kg per person.
  • Additional grain demand: The government in Karnataka sought additional grain from the FCI to fulfill its election promise of providing 10 kg of free rice per month to all members of below-poverty-line (BPL) households.
  • Centre’s Refusal: The Centre did not allow the state government to distribute the extra rice beyond the 5 kg provided under the National Food Security Act (NFSA)
  • Resort to Cash Transfers: As a result the Karnataka government started giving cash transfers instead. They started transferring Rs 170 to the bank accounts of the BPL family heads in lieu of the extra 5 kg of rice

Implications of cash transfers 

  • Inflationary Pressures:
  • When households receive cash instead of free grain, they have the flexibility to use the money for various purposes, including purchasing rice or other goods.
  • Increased demand for rice in the market can lead to higher prices, potentially contributing to inflationary pressures.
  • Deflationary Impact of Free Grain Distribution:
  • When surplus grains are distributed without a monetary transaction, it can help stabilize or reduce the prices of grains in the market.
  • This can mitigate inflationary pressures and ensure affordable access to essential food items for vulnerable populations.
  • Budgetary Considerations:
  • This allocation needs to be carefully managed to ensure that it aligns with overall fiscal goals and priorities.
  • The availability of adequate financial resources for cash transfers can be a determining factor in choosing between cash transfers and free grain distribution.
  • Flexibility for Beneficiaries:
  • Instead of receiving a predetermined amount of grain, households can decide how to allocate the cash according to their priorities.
  • This flexibility allows households to address their unique requirements beyond food, such as healthcare, education, or other essential expenses.
  • Market Dynamics:
  • Cash transfers can stimulate economic activity by injecting money into local markets. This can have positive multiplier effects, benefiting various sectors and local businesses.
  • On the other hand, free grain distribution may limit the market demand for grains, potentially affecting the livelihoods of farmers and traders.

Depleted grain stocks and uncertain monsoon

  • Depleted Grain Stocks:
  • The total stocks of wheat and rice in the Central pool today stands at a five-year-low.
  • While these stocks are still above the normative minimum required, there are concerns about the monsoon and its impact on this year’s rice crop, which may affect procurement and future stocks.
  • Monsoon Impact on Production:
  • The poorly distributed rain has resulted in lower-than-usual rice cultivation, with farmers having planted only 123.18 lakh hectares out of the normal total of 399.45 lakh hectares under rice during the monsoon season. Additionally, the cumulative area sown is 6.1% lower than the previous year.
  • Insufficient rainfall in the monsoon’s second half can impact not only the kharif rice but also the upcoming rabi wheat crop.

The Export conundrum

  • Record Export Quantities: Despite the imposition of restrictions on grain exports, India witnessed record-breaking exports of rice, wheat, and other cereals. Specifically, total exports amounted to 32.3 million tonnes in 2021-22 and 30.7 million tonnes in 2022-23, valued at $12.87 billion and $13.86 billion, respectively.
  • Inflationary Pressures:  The rising demand for rice, coupled with reduced domestic availability due to exports, can lead to higher prices for consumers within the country.
  • Limited Import Capability for Rice: As India is the world’s largest rice exporter, importing rice in case of domestic production shortfalls becomes challenging. Unlike wheat, which can be imported due to ample global supplies, rice imports are restricted.
  • Price Volatility and Potential Export Restrictions: The rising rice prices globally, indicating potential price volatility. Given concerns over depleted grain stocks and uncertainties related to the monsoon, the government is considering additional export restrictions.

Way forward: A balanced approach

  • Targeted Cash Transfers: Implement focused cash transfer programs to support the most vulnerable households affected by economic hardships.
  • Optimal Grain Procurement: Strengthen grain procurement mechanisms to ensure an adequate supply of grains for the Public Distribution System (PDS) and strategic reserves.
  • Strategic Stock Management: Develop effective strategies to balance grain distribution for immediate consumption while maintaining sufficient reserves for emergencies.
  • Diversify Food Sources: Explore diverse food options, such as millets, pulses, and vegetables, to reduce reliance on a single crop and enhance food and nutritional diversity.
  • Enhance Food System Resilience: Improve supply chain efficiency, reduce food waste, and enhance coordination among stakeholders for a resilient food system.
  • Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish robust monitoring and evaluation systems to track the effectiveness of cash transfer programs, grain procurement strategies, and food security initiatives.

Conclusion

  • The current state of depleted grain stocks, coupled with the uncertainties surrounding monsoon performance and global market dynamics, presents a significant challenge for the government. Balancing the need for cash transfers to alleviate the plight of vulnerable households while ensuring adequate grain reserves to sustain the country’s food security is a delicate task.

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Annapurti: The grain ATM

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Annapurti

Mains level: Not Much

annapurti

Central Idea

  • The recent demonstration of the Automated Multi-Commodity Grain Dispensing Machine, Annapurti, during the ‘National Conference of Food Ministers of States/UTs,’ showcased an innovative solution developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) India.

What is Annapurti?

  • Annapurti, also known as the Grain ATM, offers a fast, clean, and precise method of providing subsidized grains to beneficiaries through the Public Distribution System.
  • Developed by WFP India, it is an automated multi-commodity dispensing solution that ensures efficient access to commodities like rice, wheat, and grains.
  • Beneficiaries can securely access their entitlements through Annapurti following biometric authentication.

Key Features

  • Annapurti offers 24×7 access to full entitlements, eliminating spillage, waste, and inaccurate weighing.
  • The machine can dispense one or two grain commodities, up to 50 kilograms, within five minutes, with a minimal error rate of 0.01 percent.

Advantages and Potential Applications

(1) Ensuring Food Security:

  • Annapurti has significant potential for food-based safety nets, ensuring beneficiaries receive their monthly subsidized grains promptly.
  • The machine’s precision and reliability prevent losses and ensure individuals receive their entitled portions.

(2) Emergency Food Grain Distribution:

  • During emergencies, such as natural disasters or humanitarian crises, Annapurti can facilitate efficient and timely distribution of food grains to affected populations.
  • Its automated system streamlines the process, reducing dependency on manual labor and minimizing errors.

(3) Market Access for Smallholder Farmers:

  • Annapurti can play a crucial role in expanding market access for smallholder farmers.
  • By offering a reliable and efficient distribution channel, farmers can sell their produce directly to Annapurti, ensuring fair prices and reducing intermediaries.

Sustainable and Modular Design

(1) Energy Efficiency:

  • Annapurti is designed to prioritize food security while ensuring efficient energy consumption.
  • With a consumption rate of only 0.6 Watt per hour, it offers an environmentally friendly solution.

(2) Modular Design:

  • Annapurti’s modular design allows for flexibility and scalability based on available space.
  • The storage unit and components can be easily assembled and customized to suit different requirements.

(3) Integration with Renewable Energy:

  • Annapurti can be integrated with solar panels, inverter batteries, and elevators for automatic refilling.
  • This integration enhances the sustainability of the system by reducing dependency on conventional energy sources.

 

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The Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) for wheat and rice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) and its relevance

Central Idea

  • States across India are exploring alternative avenues for procuring wheat and rice due to the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) recent quantity restrictions and denial of permission to participate in the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS). While the Centre claims that these measures are aimed at curbing inflation and regulating supply, critics argue that they prioritize political interests over the welfare of marginalized beneficiaries.

Relevance of the topic:

*According to a 2020 estimate by The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, more than 38,000 metric tonnes (MTs) of food grains got damaged in the five years leading upto 2020, including wheat, rice and pulses.

*According to the BCG report, around 2.1 billion tonnes of food grains will be wasted by the time we reach 2030.

*Amidst the challenge of food grain wastage, hunger and food security, the initiatives related to management of food grains becomes significant

What is Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)?

  • The OMSS is a program implemented by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to sell surplus food grains, primarily wheat and rice, from the central pool in the open market
  • The scheme allows the FCI to sell these food grains to traders, bulk consumers, retail chains, and other entities at pre-determined prices through e-auctions.
  • Through e-auctions, interested bidders can purchase specific quantities of food grains. Additionally, states have the option to procure grains through the OMSS, beyond their allocation from the central pool, to distribute among beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA)

Key changes in the OMSS implementation

  • Quantity Restrictions: The Centre decided to restrict the quantity that a single bidder can purchase in a single bid under the OMSS. Previously, the maximum quantity allowed per bid was 3,000 metric tonnes (MT). However, the revised OMSS now sets a range of 10 to 100 metric tonnes for the maximum quantity per bid. This change aims to accommodate more small and marginal buyers and promote wider participation in the scheme.
  • Suspension of Sales to State Governments: In a notification sent to the states on June 13, the Centre stopped the sale of rice and wheat from the central pool under the OMSS to state governments. This means that state governments can no longer procure these food grains directly from the FCI through the OMSS. Additionally, private bidders are also disallowed from selling their OMSS supplies to state governments.

Significance of OMSS in India’s food grain management system

  • Surplus Management: The OMSS enables the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to effectively manage surplus food grains, primarily wheat and rice, from the central pool. By selling these surplus grains in the open market, the FCI can prevent wastage and maintain optimal stock levels.
  • Price Stability: The OMSS plays a crucial role in maintaining price stability in the market. By periodically selling surplus grains at pre-determined prices, the scheme helps regulate food grain prices, preventing excessive fluctuations and ensuring affordability for consumers.
  • Market Competition: The OMSS promotes market competition by allowing various entities, including traders, bulk consumers, and retail chains, to participate in e-auctions and purchase food grains. This fosters a more competitive market environment, preventing the concentration of purchasing power in the hands of a few entities and encouraging fair market practices.
  • Additional Procurement Avenue for States: States in India can procure food grains through the OMSS beyond their allocated quantities from the central pool. This provides an additional avenue for states to meet their food grain requirements, particularly for implementing welfare schemes such as the National Food Security Act (NFSA). It allows states to supplement their allocations and ensure the availability of essential food grains for marginalized beneficiaries.
  • Small and Marginal Buyers: The recent revisions in the OMSS implementation, including the reduction in the maximum quantity per bid, aim to accommodate more small and marginal buyers. By encouraging their participation, the scheme aims to promote inclusivity, empower smaller market participants, and prevent monopolies held by bulk buyers. This supports the growth and sustainability of small businesses and helps distribute the benefits of the scheme more evenly.

How states are reacting to the changes?

  • Karnataka: In Karnataka, the Anna Bhagya scheme, which aims to provide rice to marginalized families, was a significant electoral promise of the Congress government. They argue that the changes in the OMSS hinder the implementation of the welfare scheme and are politically motivated.
  • Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu has also been affected by the changes in the OMSS. The state government has sought alternative sources to purchase 50,000 tonnes of rice, as the Union government has stopped the supply of rice under the OMSS. The state used to buy rice through the scheme and then subsidize it for ration card holders.
  • Criticism of Centre’s Politics: States like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, as well as other states, have criticized the Centre for engaging in politics at the expense of marginalized beneficiaries of state welfare schemes. They argue that the restrictions and changes in the OMSS implementation are driven by political considerations rather than prioritizing the welfare of vulnerable sections of society.

How OMSS contributes to food security?

  • Distribution to National Food Security Act (NFSA) Beneficiaries: The OMSS allows states to procure additional food grains beyond their allocated quantities from the central pool for distribution to beneficiaries under the NFSA. This ensures that the eligible population, particularly marginalized sections of society, has access to an adequate supply of essential food grains, such as wheat and rice, at affordable prices.
  • Price Stabilization: By periodically selling surplus food grains through the OMSS, the scheme helps stabilize prices in the market. The availability of surplus stocks from the central pool prevents excessive price fluctuations and ensures that food grains remain affordable for consumers.
  • Market Competition and Inclusivity: The OMSS promotes market competition by allowing various entities, including traders, bulk consumers, and retail chains, to participate in e-auctions and purchase food grains. This diversifies the buyer base and prevents monopolistic practices, fostering fair market competition. Moreover, recent revisions in the OMSS implementation, such as the reduction in the maximum quantity per bid, aim to encourage the participation of small and marginal buyers, promoting inclusivity and empowering smaller market participants.
  • Surplus Management: The OMSS helps manage surplus food grains held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in the central pool. By selling these surpluses in the open market, the FCI avoids wastage and ensures efficient utilization of available resources.
  • Additional Procurement Avenues for States: The OMSS provides states with an additional avenue to procure food grains beyond their allocated quantities from the central pool. This helps states meet their food grain requirements for welfare schemes and other initiatives aimed at ensuring food security at the state level.

Challenges faced by OMSS

  • Low buyer demand due to high reserve prices: The OMSS faces a challenge of low demand from buyers, primarily because of the high reserve prices set by the FCI. These reserve prices, which include various costs like procurement, storage, transportation, and handling charges, are often higher than the prevailing market prices.
  • Logistical hurdles affecting timely delivery: Transportation, handling, and quality issues of food grains pose logistical challenges for the OMSS. These challenges can result in delays and impact customer satisfaction. The heavy reliance on railways by the FCI for grain movement can lead to congestion and further exacerbate the logistical problems.
  • Limited impact on market price stabilization: The OMSS has a limited impact on stabilizing market prices as it represents only a small share of the overall food grain supply and demand in the country. The FCI sells only a fraction of its total stocks through the OMSS, while the majority is distributed through the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) and other welfare schemes (OWS).
  • Inadequate addressing of structural issues: The OMSS fails to adequately address the structural problems associated with food grain management, including procurement, distribution, and buffer stocking policies. Reforms in these areas are necessary to ensure food security and fiscal prudence. The excessive procurement by the FCI, beyond the requirements of TPDS and OWS, leads to surplus stocks and high carrying costs.

Way forward: Steps to enhance its effectiveness

  • Stakeholder Consultation: The Centre should engage in meaningful consultations with states, policymakers, experts, and relevant stakeholders to understand the diverse perspectives and concerns related to the OMSS. This will help in developing a more inclusive and comprehensive approach that considers the welfare of marginalized beneficiaries, the interests of states, and the broader macroeconomic considerations.
  • Review and Reconsideration of Changes: The Centre should review and reconsider the recent changes made to the OMSS, taking into account the feedback and concerns raised by states. This could involve revisiting the quantity restrictions and exploring alternative ways to achieve the objectives of curbing inflation, promoting market competition, and ensuring wider participation of small and marginal buyers.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Ensuring transparency in the functioning of the OMSS is crucial. The Centre should provide clear guidelines, transparent processes, and timely information regarding the e-auctions, pricing, and availability of food grains through the scheme.
  • Strengthening State-Level Procurement: Alongside the OMSS, efforts should be made to strengthen state-level procurement mechanisms for food grains. This will enable states to meet their requirements for welfare schemes more effectively and reduce their dependence on central schemes like the OMSS.
  • Integrated Approach to Food Security: Food security is a multi-dimensional issue that requires an integrated approach. The Centre should work in collaboration with states to develop comprehensive strategies that address not only the availability and accessibility of food grains but also factors such as storage, transportation, nutrition, and agricultural productivity.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of the OMSS and its impact on food security outcomes are essential. This will help identify any shortcomings, assess the effectiveness of the scheme, and make necessary adjustments to improve its functioning. Data-driven analysis and feedback mechanisms should be put in place to ensure evidence-based decision-making and continuous improvement.

Conclusion

  • The Centre’s recent restrictions on the OMSS have sparked a political controversy, with states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu accusing the government of prioritizing politics over the welfare of marginalized beneficiaries. As the Centre aims to curb inflation and regulate supply, it must consider the potential impact on state welfare schemes and ensure the availability of essential food grains to those in need.

Also read:

Managing Inflation and Ensuring Food Security in India

 

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Anna Bhagya Scheme of Karnataka

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Annna Bhagya Scheme

Mains level: Not Much

anna bhagya

Central Idea

  • The government in Karnataka is facing challenges in procuring rice for its ambitious Anna Bhagya scheme.
  • However, there is a ray of hope as Punjab has agreed in-principle to supply the required quantity of rice.

What is Anna Bhagya Scheme?

  • The state government plans to enhance the free rice allocation per person in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) card from 5 kg to 10 kg.
  • The scheme is estimated to cost the exchequer ₹840 crore monthly and ₹10,092 crore annually.
  • It is scheduled to be launched on July 1.

Challenges Faced

  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI) initially agreed to provide the required 2.28 lakh tonnes of rice but later refused to do so.
  • Telangana and Andhra Pradesh expressed inability to supply, while Chhattisgarh government offered to supply 1.5 lakh tonnes.
  • Karnataka is now searching for rice in other states and aims to purchase it at ₹34 per kg.

Consideration of Alternative Grains:

  • If needed, the state may provide 2 kg of either ragi or jowar, which would last for six months.
  • However, the government still needs to supply an additional 3 kg of rice on top of the existing 5 kg allocation.

Punjab’s Offer

  • The Punjab government expressed willingness to supply rice to Karnataka in the federal spirit.
  • Punjab has enough rice and wants to help mitigate the problems faced by the poor across the country.

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Centre Discontinues Sale of Rice and Wheat under OMSS

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)

Mains level: Read the attached story

wheat omss

Central Idea

  • The Centre has discontinued the sale of rice and wheat from the central pool to State governments under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS).
  • This move is aimed at controlling price inflation and stabilizing food prices, but it may have an impact on states like Karnataka that offer free grains to the poor.

What is Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)?

  • The OMSS refers to the government’s selling of food grains, such as rice and wheat, in the open market at predetermined prices.
  • The scheme aims to enhance grain supply during the lean season and moderate open market prices.
  • It consists of three components:
  1. Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.
  2. Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction by dedicated movement.
  3. Sale of Raw Rice Grade ‘A’ to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.

Working of OMSS

  • To ensure transparency, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has adopted e-auction as the method for selling food grains under the OMSS (Domestic).
  • Weekly auctions are conducted on the NCDEX platform.
  • State governments and Union Territory Administrations can participate in the e-auction if they require wheat and rice outside TPDS & OWS (Targeted Public Distribution System & Other Welfare Schemes).

Reasons for Discontinuation of OMSS:

  • Controlling price inflation: Discontinuing OMSS helps regulate the supply of rice and wheat to prevent price hikes.
  • Ensuring price stability: By limiting the availability of grains through OMSS, the government aims to maintain stable market prices.
  • Balancing stock levels: Discontinuation allows for better management of grain stock in the central pool.
  • Streamlining distribution channels: OMSS discontinuation enables a more focused and efficient distribution of grains through targeted welfare schemes.
  • Efficient utilization of resources: By discontinuing OMSS, resources can be allocated more effectively to optimize procurement and distribution efforts.
  • Flexibility in response to market conditions: The discontinuation provides flexibility to adjust grain supply based on market demands and conditions.
  • Promoting market competition: The absence of OMSS encourages the participation of private traders and bulk consumers, fostering a competitive market environment.

Concerns and Production Challenges

  • Adverse weather conditions: Unseasonal rains, hailstorms, and higher temperatures have posed challenges to wheat production.
  • Lower production and higher prices: The adverse weather conditions may lead to reduced wheat production and subsequent price increases.
  • Rice price fluctuations: Rice prices have already increased by 10% at the mandi level in the last year.
  • Dependence on monsoon rains: Monsoon rains are crucial for rice production, as 80% of the country’s total rice production occurs during the kharif season.
  • Potential impact on food security: Lower production and price fluctuations can affect food security, particularly for vulnerable sections of society.
  • Procurement challenges: Slow wheat procurement and increased prices create difficulties in achieving procurement targets and maintaining stock levels.
  • Potential impact on overall agricultural output: Production challenges in wheat may have a ripple effect on the overall agricultural sector and farm incomes.
  • Need for stabilizing measures: Measures to stabilize supply, improve agricultural practices, and manage weather-related risks are crucial to address these concerns.

Efforts to Stabilize Supply and Stock Levels

  • Food Corporation of India: FCI plays a vital role in ensuring the availability of food grains at reasonable prices to vulnerable sections of society through the Public Distribution System.
  • Increased Procurement: The government has set a procurement target of 341.5 lakh metric tonnes of wheat for the ongoing Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2023-24.

Conclusion

  • The Centre’s decision to discontinue the sale of rice and wheat to states under the OMSS aims to control price inflation and stabilize food prices.
  • Exceptions have been made for regions facing specific challenges.
  • The imposition of stock limits and offloading through the OMSS demonstrates the government’s efforts to manage overall food security and prevent hoarding.
  • However, concerns remain regarding lower wheat production due to adverse weather conditions, highlighting the need for measures to stabilize supply and stock levels.

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India’s Ambitious Grain Storage Plan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Need for integrated grain storage plan

grain storage

Central Idea

  • India, with its massive population of 1.4 billion people, faces the challenge of ensuring food security for its citizens.
  • To address this issue, the Centre has approved the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) to facilitate the implementation of the “world’s largest grain storage plan in the cooperative sector.”
  • This article explores the key aspects of the plan and its potential impact on food security in India.

Need for Grain Storage Network

(1) Population vs. Arable Land

  • India constitutes 18% of the global population but has only 11% of the arable land.
  • The country’s vast population necessitates a robust network of food-grain storage facilities.

(2) Current Storage Gap

  • India’s current foodgrain storage capacity is 145 million metric tonnes (MMT).
  • However, the total food production stands at 311 MMT, resulting in a storage gap of 166 MMT.
  • Insufficient storage facilities often lead to open storage, causing damage to food grains.

(3) Global Storage Capacities

  • Countries like China, USA, Brazil, Russia, Argentina, Ukraine, France, and Canada have better storage capacities than their foodgrain production.
  • For instance, China, with a foodgrain production of 615 MMT, has a storage capacity of 660 MMT.

(4) Regional Disparities in India

  • In India, the storage capacity varies across regions.
  • Some southern states have a storage capacity of 90% and above, while northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have capacities below 50%.

Understanding the ‘World’s Largest Grain Storage Plan’

(1) Role of Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS)

  • The Ministry of Cooperation plans to establish a network of integrated grain storage facilities through PACS.
  • PACS are widely spread across India, with over 1,00,000 societies and more than 13 crore farmers as members.
  • Leveraging the existing PACS network is a crucial aspect of the plan.

(2) IMC Composition

  • The IMC, constituted under the chairmanship of Minister of Cooperation , includes three other ministers and secretaries from relevant ministries.
  • The IMC will modify guidelines and implementation methodologies of schemes to facilitate the storage plan.

(3) Budgetary Allocation

  • The plan will be implemented through the convergence of 8 existing schemes, eliminating the need for a separate allocation.
  • Schemes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, and Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution will be utilized.

Benefits of the Grain Storage Plan

(1) Multi-Purpose Benefits:

The plan aims to establish godowns at the PACS level, enabling them to serve multiple functions:

  1. Procurement centres for state agencies and Food Corporation of India (FCI)
  2. Fair Price Shops (FPS)
  3. Custom hiring centres
  4. Common processing units for agricultural produce

(2) Other benefits

  1. Reduction in post-harvest losses
  2. Decreased foodgrain handling and transportation costs
  3. Enhanced market flexibility for farmers, reducing distress sales

Key issues addressed

grain storage food

  • Infrastructure Address: The establishment of godowns at PACS level will address the shortage of agricultural storage infrastructure, increasing India’s foodgrain storage capacity by 700 lakh tonnes.
  • Diversification of PACS: PACS will be empowered to undertake various activities such as procurement centers, fair price shops, and setting up custom hiring centers, enhancing farmer incomes.
  • Reduced Food Grain Wastage: Decentralized storage at PACS level will minimize grain wastage, contributing to improved food security.
  • Prevention of Distress Sales: Farmers can store their produce in PACS facilities and access loans of up to 70%, preventing distress sales and enabling better prices.
  • Cost Reduction: Local storage facilities will significantly reduce transportation costs of food grains to procurement centers and fair-price shops.

Design and Features of Integrated Storage Facilities

food grain storage

(1) Facility Layout

  • Spread over 1 acre of land, the integrated modular PACS will have various components.
  • These include a custom hiring center, a multi-purpose hall, primary processing units, storage sheds, and container storage and silos.

(2) Financing and Capacity:

  • The cost of establishing the facility is estimated at Rs 2.25 crore.
  • A subsidy of Rs 51 lakh will be provided, with the remaining amount as margin money or a loan.
  • The PACS is projected to earn Rs 45 lakh per year.
  • The hub and spoke model will be implemented, with 55,767 PACS functioning as spokes and 7,233 PACS as hubs.
  • The combined storage capacity of all 63,000 PACS will be 70 million tonnes.

(3) Technological Advancements:

  • The modern silos will be equipped with computerized real-time monitoring systems.
  • These facilities can be rented out to the FCI and other private agencies.

Conclusion

  • India’s ambitious grain storage plan in the cooperative sector, facilitated by the IMC, aims to bridge the storage gap and ensure food security for its billion-plus population.
  • By leveraging the vast network of PACS and implementing an integrated storage model, the plan seeks to reduce losses, transportation costs, and distress sales.
  • With proper execution and allocation of resources, this transformative initiative can have a significant and positive impact on India’s food security landscape.

Back2Basics: Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS)

  • PACS are the lowest tier of the Short-Term Cooperative Credit (STCC) structure in India directly dealing with Farmers.
  • The first PACS was established in 1904.
  • They are headed by the State Cooperative Banks (SCB) at the state level.
  • Credit from the SCBs is transferred to the District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs) which operate at the district level.
  • PACS directly work with farmers and play a crucial role in providing short-term lending.
  • PACS provide credit to farmers at the beginning of the cropping cycle to meet their needs for seeds, fertilizers, and other requirements.

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Debate over Fortified Rice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Fortified Rice

Mains level: Food fortification and related concerns

fortified rice

Central Idea

  • The Union Food Ministry refuted the allegations made by the Opposition regarding the distribution of Fortified Rice through fair price shops.

What is Fortified Rice?

  • Fortified rice refers to the process of enhancing regular rice with essential nutrients to address nutritional deficiencies in populations that heavily rely on rice as a staple food.
  • These added nutrients aim to improve the nutritional value of rice and combat specific deficiencies prevalent in certain regions or population groups.
  • The fortification process involves coating the rice grains with a nutrient-rich powder or premix.
  • The specific nutrients added to fortified rice can vary, but commonly include:
  1. Iron: Iron is often added to fortified rice to address iron deficiency anaemia, a widespread nutritional problem globally.
  2. Vitamins: Essential vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B-complex (including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid), and vitamin D may be included in fortified rice to address specific vitamin deficiencies prevalent in target populations.
  3. Minerals: Other minerals like zinc, calcium, and iodine may be incorporated into fortified rice, depending on the specific nutritional needs and deficiencies of the target population.

Need for fortification

  • Data from the National Family Health Survey 2019-21 shows that 57 per cent of women in the reproductive age group (15-49) are deficient in iron.
  • Moreover, studies have shown that about a fifth of the children (0-5 years) who do not have access to a nutritious and diversified diet suffer from vitamin-A deficiency.
  • Vitamin D deficiency has been termed a silent epidemic.

Advantages offered

  • Health: Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near-natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.
  • Taste: It provides nutrition without any change in the characteristics of food or the course of our meals.
  • Nutrition: If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittently supplement.
  • Economy: The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.
  • Society: It upholds everyone’s right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.

Issues with fortified food

  • Against nature: Fortification and enrichment upset nature’s packaging. Our body does not absorb individual nutrients added to processed foods as efficiently compared to nutrients naturally occurring.
  • Bioavailability: Supplements added to foods are less bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient your body is able to absorb and use.
  • Immunity issues: They lack immune-boosting substances.
  • Over-nutrition: Fortified foods and supplements can pose specific risks for people who are taking prescription medications, including decreased absorption of other micro-nutrients, treatment failure, and increased mortality risk.

Possible health hazard

  • Thalassemia, sickle cell anaemia and malaria are conditions where there is already excess iron in the body, whereas TB patients are unable to absorb iron.
  • Consumption of iron-fortified foods among patients of these diseases can reduce immunity and functionality of organs.

Ministry’s justification of Fortified Rice

  • The Ministry cited various studies to support the assertion that consumption of fortified rice leads to a significant improvement in haemoglobin levels and a reduction in the prevalence of anaemia.
  • Rice fortification has been adopted by seven countries, including the U.S., since 1958, highlighting its effectiveness as a public health intervention.
  • Ongoing evaluation, conducted by NITI Aayog in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, is being carried out to assess the impact and effectiveness of fortified rice.
  • Evaluation studies focusing on pilot districts are currently underway to gather comprehensive data and insights.

Way Forward

  • Collaborative efforts between the Ministry, NITI Aayog, and other relevant institutions should be prioritized to conduct a thorough and independent evaluation of the fortified rice program.
  • Transparent communication of evaluation results and findings is crucial to foster trust and address any potential shortcomings or areas of improvement.
  • Incorporating feedback and recommendations from stakeholders will be valuable in enhancing the implementation and impact of the fortified rice distribution program.
  • Continuous monitoring and assessment of the program’s effectiveness should be a priority, enabling necessary adjustments and improvements to be made in a timely manner.

 

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Declining Allocations for Welfare Schemes: Neglecting India’s Social Fabric

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Key welfare schemes

Mains level: Child health and nutrition programms, Welfare schemes and challenges

Central Idea

  • The Union Budget of the current year has faced widespread criticism for its dwindling allocations towards welfare schemes, undermining the importance of social spending in the post-COVID-19 recovery phase. Over the years, central allocations for welfare schemes and sectors ensuring basic rights have steadily decreased as a proportion of GDP. This alarming trend raises concerns about the government’s commitment to addressing crucial issues such as child malnutrition, hunger, and education.

Key Welfare Programs

  • Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0: These programs aim to address child malnutrition and hunger. Starting from 2021-22, the Anganwadi program (Integrated Child Development Services – ICDS) was merged with POSHAN Abhiyaan and a nutrition scheme for adolescent girls.
  • Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme: The MDM scheme provides nutritious meals to approximately 12 crore children in schools. The program has shown positive outcomes, including improved attendance, learning outcomes, and reduced stunting among children.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): MGNREGA guarantees 100 days of employment per rural household and plays a vital role in providing income support to rural households.
  • National Food Security Act (NFSA): NFSA aims to provide subsidized grains to over 80 crore people, ensuring food security.
  • National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP): NSAP provides pensions and monetary assistance to vulnerable sections such as the elderly, widows, and disabled individuals below the poverty line.
  • PM Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY): The scheme provides conditional cash transfers to women in the unorganized sector, aiming to cover all eligible women and births as per the NFSA mandate

Concerns regarding their resource allocations

  • Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0: The allocation for these programs has decreased from 0.13% of GDP in 2014-15 to 0.07% in 2023-24. This decline in budgetary support raises concerns about the programs’ ability to effectively address child malnutrition and hunger.
  • MDM Scheme: The budget allocation for the MDM scheme has decreased by 50% as a share of GDP, from 0.08% in 2014-15 to 0.04% in 2023-24. This reduced allocation poses challenges in providing nutritious meals to children and improving their overall health outcomes.
  • MGNREGA: The MGNREGA expenditure as a share of GDP has declined from 0.26% in 2014-15 to 0.20% in 2023-24. This decrease in allocation raises concerns about the program’s ability to provide sufficient employment opportunities to rural households.
  • National Food Security Act : The expenditure on NFSA as a share of GDP has decreased from 0.94% in 2014-15 to 0.65% in 2023-24. This reduction in allocation poses challenges in ensuring food security for a significant population.
  • National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP): The allocation for NSAP as a share of GDP has declined from 0.06% in 2014-15 to 0.03% in 2023-24. This decrease raises concerns about the adequacy of pensions and monetary assistance provided to vulnerable sections.
  • PM Matru Vandana Yojana: The PMMVY budget falls significantly short of the required amount, hindering its effectiveness in providing adequate maternity benefits.

Why these is distress among the working class?

  • Low Wages and Income Inequality: Many workers, particularly those in the informal sector, earn low wages that are insufficient to meet their basic needs. Income inequality further exacerbates the disparity between the wages of the working class and the higher-income groups, leading to financial distress.
  • Lack of Job Security: Many working-class individuals, especially those in the informal economy, face precarious employment conditions without job security or benefits. Uncertainty regarding employment continuity, lack of social protection, and limited access to formal labor rights contribute to their distress.
  • Limited Access to Social Protection: A significant portion of the working-class lacks access to adequate social protection mechanisms, such as health insurance, pension schemes, and unemployment benefits. This leaves them vulnerable to economic shocks and reduces their resilience in times of crises.
  • Declining Real Wages: Despite economic growth, the growth in real wages has not kept pace, resulting in stagnation or minimal growth in purchasing power for many workers. This phenomenon limits their ability to improve their living standards and contributes to distress.
  • Exploitative Working Conditions: The working class often faces exploitative working conditions, including long working hours, unsafe work environments, lack of breaks, and limited rights to collective bargaining. These conditions can negatively impact physical and mental well-being, contributing to distress.
  • Lack of Skill Development and Upward Mobility: Limited opportunities for skill development and upward mobility can trap workers in low-wage jobs with limited prospects for advancement. This lack of upward mobility can lead to frustration and distress among the working class.
  • Inadequate Social Services: Insufficient access to quality healthcare, education, and affordable housing places an additional burden on the working class. The lack of affordable and accessible services exacerbates their financial stress and limits their ability to meet essential needs.

Way Ahead

  • Prioritize Social Spending: The government should prioritize social spending, especially in the post-COVID-19 recovery period, to ensure adequate resources for welfare schemes. Allocating sufficient funds to programs addressing child nutrition, working class welfare, social assistance, and education is essential to uplift vulnerable sections of society.
  • Increase Budget Allocations: The budget allocations for child nutrition and hunger programs, such as Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0, and the mid-day meal scheme need to be increased to effectively tackle malnutrition and improve children’s health outcomes. Adequate funding will ensure the successful implementation and expansion of these programs.
  • Strengthen MGNREGA and NFSA: Recognizing the importance of MGNREGA and NFSA in providing rural employment and food subsidies, the government should prioritize and enhance the budget allocations for these schemes. This will support the livelihoods of the rural population and alleviate poverty and distress.
  • Focus on Wage Growth: To address the distress among the working class, there should be a focus on policies that promote wage growth. This can be achieved through skill development programs, labor reforms, and measures to improve the employment ecosystem, ensuring better wages and improved livelihoods.
  • Enhance Social Security Programs: The government should consider increasing allocations for social security programs, such as the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP), to provide adequate support to the elderly, widows, and disabled individuals. Raising the pension amounts and expanding the coverage will help alleviate financial hardships among vulnerable sections of society.
  • Allocate Sufficient Funds for Education and Healthcare: Given the importance of education and healthcare, the government should allocate adequate funds for school education and healthcare infrastructure. This will help improve access to quality education, reduce dropout rates, and ensure affordable and accessible healthcare for all.
  • Improve HDI and Social Indicators: To uplift India’s Human Development Index (HDI) rank and address rising malnutrition levels, it is crucial to increase social expenditure in proportion to the country’s GDP growth. This can be achieved by redirecting revenue foregone due to tax concessions and adopting efficient fiscal management practices.
  • Strengthen Monitoring and Evaluation: Effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that allocated funds are utilized efficiently and reach the intended beneficiaries. Regular assessment of the impact and outcomes of welfare schemes will help identify areas of improvement and enable evidence-based policy decisions.

Facts for prelims

Prevalence of Iron deficiency anemia in India

  • Iron deficiency anemia is a significant public health concern in India. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-2020, the prevalence of anemia among women aged 15-49 years is 53%, while among children aged 6-59 months, it is 41%.
  • Iron deficiency anemia affects both rural and urban populations, with higher rates observed in certain regions and vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and young children.

What is Iron deficiency anemia?

  • It is a common type of anemia that occurs when there is a lack of iron in the body. Iron is an essential mineral needed for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues throughout the body.
  • When iron levels are insufficient, the body is unable to produce enough healthy red blood cells, leading to a decrease in oxygen-carrying capacity and resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Iron deficiency anemia can be caused by inadequate dietary intake of iron, poor iron absorption, chronic blood loss, or certain medical conditions.

Conclusion

  • The decline in allocations for welfare schemes in the Union Budget raises concerns about the government’s commitment to social development, impacting crucial areas such as child nutrition, working-class welfare, and access to education and healthcare. To foster inclusive growth, there is an urgent need to prioritize social expenditure, increase budget allocations, and address the pressing issues facing vulnerable sections of society.

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Also read:

A reality check on Nutrition programs

 

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Leveraging PDS to Improve Nutrition Security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Food procurement

Mains level: Nutritious food through PDS

PDS

Central Idea

  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution (DoF&PD), in particular the Food Corporation of India (FCI), must have heaved a sigh of relief that the procurement of wheat so far has crossed 20 million tonnes (MT), a notch higher than last year. Three states Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have contributed more than 98 per cent to the central pool.

Wheat production estimates

  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) had earlier estimated the wheat production for this year to be 112 MT. However, the impact of unseasonal rains on wheat production has made the revised estimate uncertain.
  • Punjab: Punjab, one of the largest contributors to wheat procurement, is also in the process of estimating losses due to rough weather just before the harvest time. Despite the unseasonal rains, interactions with Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), market functionaries and farmers suggest that the production of wheat this year is higher than last year.
  • Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh produces almost double the amount of wheat (about 35 MT) than Punjab (about 18 MT). UP is estimated to procure 3.5 MT of wheat, but so far it has procured a meagre 0.12 MT. Unless it brings a surprise in May and June, the overall wheat procurement may stop well short of even 30 MT.

Facts for prelims

The benefits of Mulching of paddy straw

  • Increases organic carbon in the soil: Mulching of paddy straw increases the organic carbon content of the soil. It helps in retaining moisture in the soil and improves soil health.
  • Helps in reducing weed growth: Mulching acts as a magic as it helps in reducing the weed growth, conserves soil moisture, and provides essential nutrients to the soil.
  • Increases crop productivity: It helps in improving the fertility of the soil and in turn increases the productivity of the crops.
  • Reduces soil erosion: Mulching of paddy straw protects the soil from wind and water erosion.
  • Decreases the use of fertilizers: It helps in reducing the use of fertilizers as the organic matter from the mulch provides essential nutrients to the soil.
  • Promotes sustainable agriculture: Mulching promotes sustainable agriculture practices as it is an eco-friendly and cost-effective way of managing agricultural waste.

PDS

Challenges for providing nutritious food through PDS

  • Infrastructure and supply chain: There is a lack of proper infrastructure and supply chain to transport and store nutritious food items such as millets, pulses, and oilseeds. This leads to spoilage, wastage, and ultimately affects the quality of food provided through PDS.
  • Cost: Providing nutritious food items through PDS may increase the cost of the program, which can be a challenge for the government to sustain in the long run.
  • Awareness and demand: There is a lack of awareness among the general public about the benefits of nutritious food items and the need to include them in their diet. Also, there may not be enough demand for these items, leading to poor offtake and wastage.
  • Operational challenges: There are several operational challenges such as sourcing, storage, and distribution of nutritious food items, which need to be addressed for an effective PDS program.
  • Political interference: There may be political interference in the selection of food items to be included in PDS, leading to a focus on populist measures rather than on nutritious food items. This can undermine the effectiveness of the program.

agriculture

Nutrition security through PDS and a help to climate resilient agriculture

  • Introducing more nutritious food: The introduction of more nutritious food, such as millets, pulses, and oilseeds, in PDS can help achieve the twin objectives of nutrition and climate resilience.
  • Encouraging climate-resilient food: Encouraging the production of climate-resilient food crops like millets, pulses, oilseeds, etc., can help create a steady flow of nutritious food.
  • Upgrading fair price shops to Nutritious Food Hubs: At least 10% of fair price shops can be upgraded and declared as Nutritious Food Hubs (NFHs). These NFHs can have fortified, including bio-fortified, rice and wheat, millets, pulses, oilseeds (especially soyabean products with 40% protein), fortified milk and edible oils, eggs, etc.
  • Electronic vouchers for targeted beneficiaries: Consumers of PDS list may be given electronic vouchers (like an e-food coupon in a food court) that can be charged by the government three or four times a year.
  • Government assistance for upgrading NFHs: The NFHs can be upgraded with government assistance, creating demand for more diversified and nutritious food from the masses.
  • Capping the procurement of rice: The procurement of rice would have to be capped, starting with districts where the water table has been depleting alarmingly.
  • For example, Sangrur in Punjab has witnessed a fall of groundwater level by more than 25 meters during 2000-2019. Farmers of such districts could be incentivized to grow millets, pulses, oilseeds, etc., that are climate smart, use much less water and fertilizers, thus saving power and fertilizer subsidies.
  • Giving a special package for carbon credits: The Centre and the states need to join hands to give a special package for carbon credits for growing such crops. Farmers can be rewarded about Rs 10,000/acre (to be shared equally by the Centre and the state), as these crops would save that much fertilizer subsidy of the Centre and power subsidy of the state.

Conclusion

  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution’s Chintan Shivir on leveraging PDS to offer more nutritious food is a great vision, but there are several operational challenges to provide a steady flow of these foods. Upgrading at least 10% of the fair price shops as Nutritious Food Hubs could create a demand for more diversified and nutritious food from the masses. However, capping the procurement of rice and incentivizing farmers to grow millets, pulses, and oilseeds that are climate-smart and use less water and fertilizers is necessary.

Mains Question

Q. How PDS can be leveraged to provided nutritious food and also help make Indian agriculture more climate resilient? Discuss along with the challenges

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Food Security and Energy Crisis In The South Asian neighbourhood

 

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Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

India-UAE Food Security Partnership Stands to Benefit From Multiple Points of Convergence

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Food security measures, India's millets mission

Mains level: India-UAE food security partnership nad benefits

Food Security

Central Idea

  • The UAE, heavily dependent on food imports, has set the goal of achieving food access and supply chain crisis readiness. India is a key partner in the UAE’s efforts to strengthen food security, given India’s status as the world’s second-largest food producer. The India-UAE food security partnership stands to benefit from multiple points of convergence.

India’s Capabilities in the Global Agri-Export Market

  • Global agri-export powerhouse: India has become a global agri-export powerhouse thanks to its vast arable land, favourable climate, and growing food production and processing sector
  • India’s role in global food security: India has demonstrated its evolving role in advancing regional and global food security by serving as a humanitarian provider of food to developing countries
  • Global food marketplace: India has invested in massive food parks and placed its food sector to benefit from bilateral trade agreements, reflecting a strong and sustained intent to make the most of its agri-capabilities in the global food marketplace

India’s Domestic Food Security Measures

  • World’s largest food subsidy programme: India runs the world’s largest food subsidy programme, the Public Distribution System, providing nearly 800 million citizens with subsidised grains for daily, affordable meals
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan: India’s Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) Abhiyaan is the world’s largest nutrition programme for children and women
  • 3 C’s for instance: India promotes the consumption and farming of millets as part of its G-20 presidency, demonstrating its resilience focus to address the three Cs of Covid, Conflict, and Climate issues pernicious to food security in India and across the globe

Facts for prelims: Food security measures

Scheme Description Target Beneficiaries
Public Distribution System (PDS) World’s largest food subsidy program providing subsidized grains to nearly 800 million citizens BPL (Below Poverty Line) and APL (Above Poverty Line) families
National Food Security Act (NFSA) Provides legal entitlement to subsidized food grains to two-thirds of India’s population Priority households and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households
Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) Provides cooked meals to children in primary and upper primary schools Children in primary and upper primary schools
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme Provides supplementary nutrition to children under six years of age, pregnant women, and lactating mothers Children under six years of age, pregnant women, and lactating mothers
Annapurna Scheme Provides 10 kg of food grains per month free of cost to senior citizens who are not covered under the NFSA or PDS Senior citizens who are not covered under the NFSA or PDS
Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) Abhiyaan World’s largest nutrition program for children and women Children under six years of age, pregnant women, and lactating mothers
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) Provides free food grains to around 80 crore beneficiaries for a period of 8 months to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 Migrant workers, urban and rural poor, and other vulnerable groups
Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) Provides highly subsidized food grains to the poorest of the poor families identified by the government Poorest of the poor families identified by the government

Food Security

The India-UAE Food Security Partnership

  • UAE’s Commitment to Food Security: The UAE is focusing on the twin objectives of food access and readiness to confront supply chain crises
  • Food corridor: The food corridor could potentially commence a route for foods made and processed in India, beginning their outbound journey on the Indian coast of the Arabian Sea, passing through the UAE, and towards major international markets
  • Agri-trade for India: The corridor stands to emerge as a world-class template of successful agri-trade for India, while also unlocking greater productivity, efficiency, and growth for its millions of workers and employees
  • Boost to food processing sector: The UAE’s private sector projects spanning its agricultural and food processing sector will generate lakhs of non-farm agri-jobs while enabling farmers to discover better prices for their products.
  • Diversified pathways to the global marketplace: Bolstered by the UAE’s infrastructural capabilities, India’s agricultural products will have more resilient and diversified pathways to the global marketplace

Food Security

Facts for prelims

Millet production and food security

  • Largest producer: India is the largest producer of millet in the world with a share of 41% in 2020, as per FAO. Nine types are grown as kharif crops in over 20 States in the country.
  • Major millets include: finger millet (ragi or mandua), pearl millet (bajra) and sorghum (jowar) and minor millets include foxtail millet (kangani or kakun), barnyard millet (sawa or sanwa, jhangora), little millet (kutki), kodo millet (kodon), proso millet (cheena) and browntop millet.
  • Leading producers: Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are leading producers.
  • India is also among the top five exporters: India exported millets worth $64.28 million in 2021-22 and $59.75 million in 2020-21, according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority.

In depth: The Benefits of India-UAE food security partnership for India and the UAE

For India

  • Investment in Food Parks: During the I2U2 summit in July 2020, the UAE committed $2 billion in investment towards constructing food parks in India. This investment will generate lakhs of non-farm agri-jobs, while enabling farmers to discover better prices for their products.
  • Access to Global Markets: The food security corridor established on the sidelines of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with logistics partner DP World takes forward India’s envisioned presence on the global food value chain, beyond the UAE. The corridor has the potential to establish a route for foods made and processed in India, beginning their outbound journey on the Indian coast of the Arabian Sea, passing through the UAE, and towards major international markets.
  • Direct Access to UAE’s Food Ecosystem: The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, the UAE’s largest free trade zone, launched Agriota, an agri-trading and commodity platform to link Indian farmers to food companies in the UAE. This platform will give millions of Indian farmers the opportunity to directly reach out to the entirety of the UAE’s food ecosystem (processing companies, traders, wholesalers) and stock their products in Emirati stores.
  • Infrastructure Development: Several UAE-based companies have expressed interest in constructing a supporting logistics and infrastructure pipeline to accelerate trade and reinforce the food corridor. A consortium of UAE-based entities are investing up to $7 billion in mega food parks, contract farming, and the sourcing of agro-commodities in India. This initiative will include mega food parks, logistics and warehouse hubs, and fruits and vegetable hubs, which will bolster India’s agricultural products’ resilient and diversified pathways to the global marketplace.

For UAE

  • Diversification of food reserves: UAE heavily relies on food imports to feed its population. The partnership with India will help UAE diversify its food reserves and reduce its dependence on a few countries for its food security.
  • Strategic location: UAE’s strategic location between Asia and Europe can be leveraged to serve as India’s food export gateway to West Asia and Africa region, and beyond. This could enhance the UAE’s position as a hub for food trade in the region.
  • Investment opportunities: The partnership could open up investment opportunities for UAE-based companies to invest in India’s food and agriculture sector, including mega food parks, contract farming, and sourcing of agro-commodities.
  • Better access to Indian products: The partnership could give UAE better access to India’s diversified agri-produce, enabling them to benefit from India’s large and growing food production and processing sector.
  • Infrastructural capabilities: The UAE’s infrastructural capabilities could strengthen India’s agricultural products’ pathways to the global marketplace, providing more resilient and diversified routes to the global food value chain.

Value addition box

India’s efforts to promote millet:

  • The Union government promoted millets under the Initiative for Nutritional Security through Intensive Millets Promotion (INSIMP), as a sub-scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) between 2011 and 2014.
  • In the following years, NITI Aayog worked on a framework to introduce millets under the public distribution system for nutritional support.
  • The government declared 2018 as the ‘national year of millets’ to trigger an increase in demand.
  • The programme under INSIMP was merged with the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) as NFSM-Coarse Cereals and implemented in 14 States. Several States led separate missions to promote millets.
  • In 2021, the Centre approved the Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) and advised State governments to include millets in the midday meal menu to enhance the nutritional outcome.
  • India’s efforts to promote the consumption and production of millet got a boost when the UNGA accepted the country’s proposal and dedicated 2023 to spreading awareness about these grains. It is instrumental for PM’s vision to make IYM 2023 a people’s movement and positioning India as the ‘global hub for millets’.

Conclusion

  • The India-UAE food security partnership stands to benefit both countries, and the collaboration between the two nations can offer solutions to address food security issues in the Global South. With the UAE’s infrastructural capabilities and India’s agricultural capabilities, the partnership can create diversified pathways to the global marketplace, generate non-farm agri-jobs, and enable farmers to receive better prices for their products.

Mains Question

Q. Explain the India-UAE food security partnership and enumerate the mutual benefit of the food security partnership.

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SMART-PDS: The Transformative Potential Beyond Food Security

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: TPDS Schemes, SMART-PDS

Mains level: TPDS, Challenges and Initiatives

Central Idea

  • India’s National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) governs the largest beneficiary-centric program, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), providing food security to 81.35 crore persons every month. The government is now implementing the Scheme for Modernisation and Reforms through Technology in Public Distribution System (SMART-PDS). This initiative generates vast amounts of data, which can be leveraged to improve the delivery of other central schemes and welfare programs.

Existing challenges for TPDS

  • Leakage and diversion of food grains: One of the most pressing issues in the TPDS is the leakage and diversion of food grains meant for beneficiaries, leading to corruption and losses in the system. This problem is primarily due to poor monitoring, lack of transparency, and weak enforcement mechanisms.
  • Inaccurate targeting of beneficiaries: The TPDS often suffers from errors in identifying eligible beneficiaries, resulting in the exclusion of deserving households and the inclusion of ineligible ones. This misidentification can be attributed to outdated data, lack of verification mechanisms, and manipulation of records.
  • Inefficient supply chain management: TPDS faces logistical challenges in transporting, storing, and distributing food grains across the vast country. Inadequate storage facilities, poor transportation infrastructure, and delays in procurement and distribution contribute to wastage and inefficiencies in the system.
  • Limited portability of benefits: Until recently, the TPDS lacked portability, which meant that beneficiaries could only access their food grains from designated Fair Price Shops (FPS) in their home states. This restriction made it difficult for migrant workers and their families to access their entitled benefits.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability: Corruption, fraud, and manipulation of records are pervasive issues in the TPDS, partly due to the lack of transparency and accountability in the system. The absence of real-time monitoring and the reliance on manual record-keeping exacerbate these problems.
  • Technological constraints: Many states and union territories in India face technological constraints in implementing IT-based solutions for TPDS operations. Limited access to IT hardware, software, and technical manpower can hinder the adoption of technology-driven reforms, such as electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices and biometric authentication systems

What is SMART-PDS?

  • SMART-PDS (Scheme for Modernisation and Reforms through Technology in Public Distribution System) is an initiative by the Indian government aimed at improving the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the country’s Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

The key objectives of the SMART-PDS initiative

  • Preventing leakage of food grains: By leveraging technology, SMART-PDS aims to reduce diversion and pilferage of food grains, ensuring that the intended beneficiaries receive their due share of food subsidies.
  • Enhancing efficiency in the distribution chain: The initiative focuses on streamlining the supply chain from procurement to distribution by incorporating technology-driven solutions, such as electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices, real-time monitoring, and tracking systems.
  • Data-driven decision-making: Data Analytics on the TPDS ecosystem generates critical information about beneficiaries, food security needs, and migration patterns, addressing the long-standing challenge of credible and dynamic data for efficient delivery of central welfare schemes to vulnerable sections of society.
  • Convergence and integration with AI: The national leadership’s push for trans-ministerial convergence and AI integration can be a game-changer for both people and governments, bringing accountability across all programs.
  • Technology-led PDS reforms: The Centre plans to use data analytics, BI platforms, and ICT tools to standardize PDS operations through technology integration with FCI, CWC, transport supply chain, Ministry of Education, Women and Child Development, and UIDAI. This is expected to overcome state-level technological limitations in PDS operations and institutionalize an integrated central system for all PDS-related operations across states/UTs.
  • Aadhaar authentication and ePoS devices: With 100% digitization of ration cards and the installation of ePoS devices, nearly 93% of the total monthly allocated foodgrains are distributed through Aadhaar authentication mode.

Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS)

  • The government has launched the IM-PDS to implement One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC), create a national-level data repository, and integrate data infrastructure/systems across ration card management, foodgrain supply chain, and FPS automation.
  • The ONORC plan has recorded over 100 crore portability transactions since its inception in 2019.

SMART-PDS benefits beyond ration distribution

  • The data generated by SMART-PDS has become a tool for central ministries and state governments, benefiting initiatives like e-Shram Portal, Ayushman Bharat, and PM-SVANidhi Yojana.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoAFW) plans to use ONORC/ration card data to map beneficiaries, and seamless tracking of nutrition from ICDS centers to PM Poshan will become a reality with Aadhaar numbers for the newly born.

Conclusion

  • The transformative potential of SMART-PDS goes beyond food security, enabling data-driven decision-making, convergence, and integration with AI for improved delivery of central schemes and welfare programs across India.

Mains Question

Q. Despite several efforts taken by the government the Targeted Public Distribution System still faces various challenges. In this backdrop discuss the new initiative of SMART-PDS and its key features

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What is Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: OMSS, PDS

Mains level: Food inflation control measures

market

The government has announced its plan to sell 20 lakh tonnes of wheat from its buffer stock in the market under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS).

Why such move?

  • The purpose of the move is to cool down the surge in wholesale prices of grain.
  • It will be sold in the open market to stabilize grain prices.

Do you know?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Indian government increased the allocation of rice and wheat for the OMSS to ensure that the supply of food grains remained stable and that people had access to affordable food.

Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)

  • OMSS refers to the selling of food grains by the government/government agencies at predetermined prices in the open market from time to time.
  • This scheme aims to enhance the supply of grains, especially during the lean season and thereby to moderate the general open market prices, especially in the deficit regions.
  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI) on instructions from the Government, sells wheat and rice in the open market from time to time.
  • This enhances the supply of wheat and rice especially during the lean season and moderates the open market prices, especially in the deficit regions.

Components of the scheme

The present form of OMSS comprises 3 schemes as under:

  1. Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.
  2. Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction by dedicated movement.
  3. Sale of Raw Rice Grade ‘A’ to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.

Selling through a transparent process

  • For transparency in operations, the Corporation has switched over to e-auction for sale under Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic).
  • The FCI conducts a weekly auction to conduct this scheme in the open market using the platform of commodity exchange NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited).
  • The State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations are also allowed to participate in the e-auction if they require wheat and rice outside TPDS & OWS.

 

Answer this PYQ in the comment box:

Q.The economic cost of food grains to the Food Corporation of India is Minimum Support Price and bonus (if any) paid to the farmers plus:

(a) Transportation cost only

(b) Interest cost only

(c) Procurement incidentals and distribution cost

(d) Procurement incidentals and charges for godowns

 

Post your answers here.
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MIIRA: India readies plan to popularise millets on world stage

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Millets, MIIRA, Shree Anna

Mains level: Millets consumption

On the premises of G20, India is planning to propose the launch of a global initiative ‘MIIRA’ to encourage the consumption and production of millets.

What are Millets?

millet

  • Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses that are commonly cultivated and consumed as staple foods in many parts of the world, including Africa and Asia.
  • Millets are highly nutritious, gluten-free, and have a low glycemic index, making them an ideal food for people with various dietary requirements and health conditions.
  • They are cereals such as sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), foxtail millet (kangni/ Italian millet), little millet (kutki), kodo millet, finger millet (ragi/ mandua), proso millet (cheena/ common millet), barnyard millet (sawa/ sanwa/ jhangora), and brown top millet (korale).

What is MIIRA?

  • “MIIRA” or Millet International Initiative for Research and Awareness will be aimed at coordinating millet research programmes at the international level.
  • For MIIRA to take off, India will contribute the “seed money” while each G20 member will later have to contribute to its budget in the form of a membership fee.
  • The secretariat will be in Delhi, the sources said, adding that this will, with India being a major producer of millets, ensure a flow of investment from the country’s industry and research bodies.
  • It is in line with the UN declaring 2023 as the International Year of Millets and the Centre’s plan to make India a global hub for millets.
  • It is launched keeping in mind the nutritional value and the climate-resilient nature of millets.

Key objectives

  • MIIRA will aim to connect millet research organisations across the world while also supporting research on millet crops.
  • Besides setting up a web platform to connect researchers and holding international research conferences, the plan is also to promote millet consumption by raising awareness.

Ecological significance of millets

  • Drought resistance: Millets are drought-resistant crops, which means that they can grow in areas with low rainfall and are less susceptible to the effects of drought. This makes them an ideal crop for farmers in regions that are prone to drought and other climate-related risks.
  • Soil health: Millets have shallow roots and can grow in poor soil, which means that they can be cultivated in marginal lands that are unsuitable for other crops. Millets also improve soil health by enhancing soil organic matter, reducing soil erosion, and improving soil structure and fertility.
  • Low carbon footprint: Millets have a low carbon footprint compared to other crops because they require less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. They are also less energy-intensive to produce and transport.
  • Resilience to climate change: Millets are known for their resilience to climate change and extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. By promoting the cultivation and consumption of millets, countries can build resilience to the impacts of climate change and ensure food security in the face of these challenges.
  • Biodiversity conservation: Millets are often grown in mixed cropping systems, which promote biodiversity and can help conserve natural resources. The cultivation of millets also supports the conservation of traditional knowledge and local agricultural practices, which can be important for the resilience of rural communities in the face of climate change.

Recent initiatives to promote Millets

  • Finance Minister described various types of millets as ‘Shree Anna’ in her budget speech.
  • To make India a global hub for Shree Anna, the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad will be supported as the Centre of Excellence.
  • In 2018, the Agriculture Ministry declared some millets as ‘Nutri Cereals’ for their “high nutritive value”.

How popular are millets globally?

  • Now grown in more than 130 countries, millets are the traditional food for more than half a billion people in Asia and Africa.
  • Gobally, jowar is the most widely grown millet crop; its major producers are the US, China, Australia, India, Argentina, Nigeria, and Sudan.
  • Bajra, another major millet crop, is mainly grown in some African countries and India, where millets are mainly a kharif crop.

 

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Pulses: The sustainable crops

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pulses, cropping patterns and characteristics

Mains level: Pulses production and consumption In India

sustainable

Context

  • The United Nations General Assembly endorsed the request made by the Government of Burkina Faso regarding the annual observance of World Pulses Day on 10 February at its 73rd session in December 2018, building on the success of the 2016 International Year of Pulses, with Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) playing a leading role in the campaign.

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sustainable

Theme for World pulses day 2023

  • The 2023 World Pulses Day’s theme is Pulses for a Sustainable Future, which underlines the significance of pulses in fostering equity and generating chances for livelihood, both of which are essential elements of sustainable agrifood systems.

sustainable

In short: All you need to know about Pulses

  • Major pulses that are grown in India: Tur, urad, moong, masur, peas and gram.
  • Chief Characteristics:
  • Pulses are the major sources of protein in a vegetarian diet.
  • Being leguminous crops, all the above-mentioned pulses (except tur) help in restoring soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air.
  • These crops are mostly grown in rotation with other crops.
  • Pulses need less moisture and survive even in dry conditions.
  • Important Producing Areas: The major pulse producing areas are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka. It is grown on about 11% of the total sown area in India.
  • India is largest producer and consumer: India is the largest producer as well as consumer of pulses in the world. About 25% of the pulses of the world are produced here.

sustainable

In Depth: Why pulses are important?

  • Pulses withstand drought: Pulses have a lower water footprint than other food crops and are better able to withstand drought and climate-related calamities making them a crucial tool for adjusting to and reducing climate change.
  • Help farmers in water scarce region: They also help farmers in water-scarce regions have a better quality of lives.
  • Can help to increase productivity and livelihood: In a number of farming systems, including agroforestry, intercropping, and integrated farming systems, pulses can help to increase productivity and improve the resilience of agricultural livelihoods.
  • Pulses ensures wholesome food and sustainable use of natural resources: The global pulses industry which deals with the production and trade of pulses also demonstrates to be a beneficial force in ensuring the stability of regional and global supply chains, enabling consumers to access wholesome foods, and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Most Valuable Player for Health: Pulse grains have been acknowledged as being a “Most Valuable Player” in preventing obesity, lowering chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and fostering a varied microbiome in children who are at risk of stunting during the first 1,000 days of their life.
  • Two to three times as much protein as cereals: Pulses are a great choice for populations with diets low in protein because they contain two to three times as much protein as cereals.
  • Pulses provide a number of other assets to the climate change battle: They lessen the requirement for fertiliser throughout the entire crop cycle and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by fixing atmospheric nitrogen.
  • Help to achieve SDG’s: A significant advantage in a changing climate is that many pulse crops are evolved to grow in arid circumstances and can withstand drought stress better than most other crops. Thus, achieving Sustainable Development Goals 2, 3, and 13 which call for improved human health, sustainable agriculture, food security, and climate action.

sustainable

Pulse consumption in India

  • Imports are necessary because of insufficient production: India is currently the world’s largest producer and consumer of pulses, but because production is insufficient to meet demand, imports are necessary.
  • India’s demand for pulses has steadily increased: In keeping with the government’s measures to expand pulse production to meet domestic demand, the volume of imports has consistently decreased since 2014-15.
  • National Food Security Mission-Pulses programme: To increase the production of pulses, the Government of India is implementing National Food Security Mission-Pulses programme across 644 districts of 28 States and Union Territories (UTs) of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • In Indian diets, pulses are a crucial source of protein: Children, adolescent girls, and pregnant and lactating women receive half of the recommended dietary requirement of protein through the Government of India’s food security programmes.

Way ahead

  • Pulses to combat malnutrition: Pulses can be included to cereal-based meals to help combat malnutrition. There is evidence to support the fact that people who eat pulses more frequently are more nutrient-secure.
  • For example: During the pandemic, 5 kg of rice/wheat and 1 kg of selected pulses were provided to the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
  • PDS can be utilised for better accessibility and affordability: As a matter of policy, the PDS should offer pulses at discounted prices to increase their accessibility and affordability to vulnerable population.
  • For instance: Some states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh, have been successful in distributing pulses under the Public Distribution System (PDS).

Conclusion

  • India is moving closer to Aatmnirbharta on pulses with consistent efforts by the government. It is vital to raise awareness about the benefits of eating pulses that are high in macronutrients for both sustainability and dietary needs.

Mains question

Q. India is expanding its pulse production to meet domestic demand. In this light discuss what makes pulses a significant crop?

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Free foodgrain scheme named ‘PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NFSA, PMGKAY

Mains level: Schemes related to food security

The Centre has named its new free foodgrain scheme under the National Food Security Act, 2013, as ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)’.

PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

  • PM had approved the new integrated food security scheme for providing free foodgrains for a year beginning January 1, 2023 to beneficiaries under the NFSA –
  1. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)
  2. Primary Household (PHH)

How is it different from earlier scheme?

  • The difference between the two schemes is that about 81 crore NFSA beneficiaries were entitled to get free of cost 5 kg foodgrain per person in a month over and above their monthly entitlements.
  • However, they were required to pay the subsidised rate of foodgrains (Rs 3 per kg rice, Rs 2 per kg wheat and Rs 1 per kg coarse grains) to purchase the quantity for which they were entitled–35 kg per Antyoday Anna Yojana Household and 5kg per person to a Priority Household in a month.
  • In the new scheme, the government has done away with the subsided prices and is providing foodgrains free of cost for a year.
  • Now the additional quantity, which was available during the Covid pandemic, will not be provided to these beneficiaries.
  • They will receive as much quantity of foodgrains, for which they are entitled under the NFSA.

Implementation strategy

  • For effective and uniform implementation of NFSA 2013, PMGKAY will subsume the two subsidy schemes of Department of Food & Public Distribution –
  1. Food Subsidy to FCI and
  2. Food Subsidy for decentralized procurement states dealing with procurement, allocation and delivery of free foodgrains to the states under NFSA

National Food Security (NFS) Act

  • The NFS Act, of 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • It converts into legal entitlements for the existing food security program of the GoI.
  • It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme and the ICDS are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.

Key provisions of NFSA

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains at a subsidized price.
  • It includes rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).

 

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Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

81 crore people to get free foodgrains for one year under NFSA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NFSA, PMGKAY

Mains level: Schemes related to food security

The government discontinued the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) and has decided to provide free foodgrains to all 81 crore beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for one year.

About PMGKAY

  • PMGKAY is a food security welfare scheme announced by the GoI in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
  • The program is operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • The scale of this welfare scheme makes it the largest food security program in the world.

Targets of the scheme

  • To feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System to all the priority households (ration card holders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana scheme).
  • PMGKAY provides 5 kg of rice or wheat (according to regional dietary preferences) per person/month and 1 kg of dal to each family holding a ration card.

Success of the scheme

  • Pandemic mitigation: It was the first step by the government when pandemic affected India.
  • Wide section of beneficiaries: The scheme reached its targeted population feeding almost 80Cr people.
  • Support to migrants: It has proven to be more of a safety net to migrant people who had job and livelihood losses.
  • Food and Nutrition security: This has also ensured nutrition security to children of the migrant workers.

Limitations of the scheme

  • Corruption: The scheme has been affected by widespread corruption, leakages and failure to distribute grain to the intended recipients.
  • Leakages: Out of the 79.25 crore beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), only 55 crore have so far received their 5 kg.
  • Inaccessibility: Many people were denied their share due to inability to access ration cards.
  • Low consumption: Livelihood losses led to decline in aggregate demand and resulted into lowest ever consumption expenditure by the people owing to scarcity of cash.
  • Resale of subsidized grains: This in turn led to selling of the free grains obtained in the local markets for cash.

Back2Basics: National Food Security (NFS) Act

  • The NFS Act, 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013.
  • It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the GoI.
  • It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and the Public Distribution System (PDS).
  • Further, the NFSA 2013 recognizes maternity entitlements.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme and the ICDS are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about two-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.

Key provisions of NFSA

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains at a subsidised price.
  • It includes rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).

 

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Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Tamil Nadu’s CM Breakfast Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CM Breakfast Scheme

Mains level: Mid-day meal program

This newscard talks for replicating Tamil Nadu’s CM breakfast scheme in other states.

CM’s Breakfast Scheme

  • The scheme covers around 1.14 lakh students in 1,545 schools which include 417 municipal corporation schools, 163 municipality schools and 728 taluk and village panchayat-level schools.
  • The inauguration of the scheme marks an important milestone in the State’s history of providing free meals to school students.

How has the idea evolved?

(a) Pre-independence

  • In November 1920, the Madras Corporation Council approved a proposal for providing tiffin to the students of a Corporation School at Thousand Lights at a cost not exceeding one anna per student per day.
  • Theagaraya Chetty, the then President of the Corporation and one of the stalwarts of the Justice Party, said the boys studying at the school were poor, which affected the strength of the institution ‘greatly’.
  • The scheme, which was extended to four more schools and facilitated higher enrollment of students.

(b) Post-independence

  • The concept saw a Statewide application in 1956 when the then CM K. Kamaraj decided to provide free noon meal to poor children in all primary schools across the State.
  • The Budget for 1956-57 contained a provision for supplying mid-day meals to schoolchildren for 200 days a year, initially covering 65,000 students in 1,300 feeding centres.
  • In July 1982, it was left to the then CM MG Ramachandran to extend the programme to children in the 2-5 age group in Anganwadis and those in 5-9 age group in primary schools in rural areas.
  • Subsequently, the scheme now called Puratchi Thalaivar MGR Nutritious Meal Programme — was extended to urban areas as well.
  • Since September 1984, students of standards VI to X have been covered under the scheme.

Beneficiaries of the programme

  • As of now, there are nearly 7 lakh beneficiaries spread over 43,190 nutritious meal centres.
  • This includes around 3,500 students of National Child Labour Project (NCLP) special schools.
  • Besides, as a consequence of the collaborative implementation of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the nutritious meal programme, around 15.8 lakh children in the age group of 2+ to 5+ years receive nutritious meals.

Impact on school education

  • Rise in enrolment: After the improved version of the mid-day meal scheme in 1982, the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) at primary level (standards I to V) went up by 10% during July-September, 1982 as compared to the corresponding period in 1981.
  • Girls’ enrolment: The rise in boys’ enrollment was 12% and in the case of girls, 7%, according to a publication brought out by the Tamil Nadu government on the occasion of the launch of the Scheme.
  • Increase in attendance: Likewise, attendance during July-September 1982 rose by 33% over the previous year’s figure.

Focus areas programme

  • Anaemia is a major health problem in Tamil Nadu, especially among women and children, says the 2019-21 National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5’s report.
  • From 50% during the period of the 2015-16 NFHS-4, the prevalence of anaemia in children now went up to 57%.
  • This and many other health issues can be addressed through the combined efforts of the departments of School Education, Public Health and Social Welfare and Women Empowerment.
  • Besides, a continuous and rigorous review of the progress of the scheme and nutritious meal programme should be carried out in a sustained manner.

Why it can be implemented in other states?

  • An interesting feature of this scheme is the cost-effective delivery of the service as it is complementary to the existing schemes.
  • Further, the income of the Anganwadi workers substantially increased on account of multiple roles played by them.
  • In the same way, the morning breakfast scheme makes use of the physical infrastructure (like cooking place and utensils) built for mid-day meals scheme.

Conclusion

  • In other words, with small additional expenditure, the government is able to provide substantial benefits to the children
  • The scheme must be extended to all the schools in the state.
  • Further, the scheme is worth replicating in other states in India.

 

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Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Need to expand the food safety net

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National food security Act (NFSA)

Mains level: Food security, public distribution system and the problem

food

Context

  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, through the Public Distribution System (PDS), provides a crucial safety net for roughly 800 million people. Even critics of the PDS appreciated its services during the COVID-19 lockdown.

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Background: COVID-19 lockdown and policy gaps in ensuring food security

  • Too many still excluded from the PDS: The humanitarian crisis resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown, made it apparent that too many were still excluded from the PDS.
  • Governments decision: In response to the humanitarian crisis, the Government made one sensible policy decision swiftly. It doubled the entitlements of the 800 million who were already covered by the PDS (from five kilograms per person per month, to 10kg). But that does nothing for those without ration cards.

National food security Act (NFSA)

  • Aims to provide subsidized food grains: The NFS Act, 2013 aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • Legal entitlements for existing food security programs: It was signed into law on 12 September 2013, retroactive to 5 July 2013. It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the GoI.
  • Integrating various government schemes: It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme and the Public Distribution System (PDS). The Midday Meal Scheme and the ICDS are universal in nature whereas the PDS will reach about wo-thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
  • It recognizes maternity entitlement: Pregnant women, lactating mothers, and certain categories of children are eligible for daily free cereals.
  • Key provisions: The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains at a subsidised price. It includes rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). These are called central issue prices (CIPs).

How Public Distribution System (PDS) is determined?

  • PDS coverage is determined by Section 3(2) of the NFSA 2013.
  • It states that the entitlements of eligible households “shall extend up to seventy-five per cent of the rural population and up to fifty per cent of the urban population.”
  • Section 9 of NFSA required that the total number of persons to be covered “shall be calculated on the basis of the population estimates as per the census of which the relevant figures have been published.”

food

What are the exclusion problems?

  • Coverage ratio is too low: The exclusion problem could be because the NFSA coverage ratios were too low to start with, or due to the ‘freeze’ in coverage in absolute terms (around 800 million).
  • Population increase has not been accounted: Between the last Census in 2011 and today, population increase has not been accounted for in determining the number of ration cards. No one could have anticipated that the 2021 Census would be postponed indefinitely. This means that even a decadal update has not happened.
  • Lack of sensitivity to understand the problem: There is no attempt at understanding or addressing the hardships of people who are deprived of the food security net that the PDS provides.
  • Court’s observation and a suggestion: Government inaction led to the matter being taken to the Supreme Court of India in the Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers case. The Court agreed that the prayer to increase coverage “seems to be genuine and justified”. It directed the Union of India to “come out with a formula and/or appropriate policy/scheme, if any, so that the benefits under NFSA are not restricted as per the census of 2011 and more and more needy persons/citizens get the benefit under the National Food Security Act”. Going further, the Court said that the Government could consider “projection of population increase” to resolve this issue.
  • Burdening the states: In its response, the Government attempts repeatedly to shift the blame to State governments. But States are responsible for identifying people for PDS ration cards, once they are given the numbers to be covered by the central government.

Way ahead

  • Several State governments have used their own resources this includes poor States such as Chhattisgarh and Odisha to expand coverage beyond the centrally determined quotas.
  • Robust procurement trends and a comfortable food stocks position are what make an expansion affordable.
  • Adjusting for population increase, as directed by the Supreme Court, will increase coverage by roughly 10% (from 800 million to 900 million).
  • Any sensible policy should have an in-built mechanism for updating coverage annually to account for population increase.

Conclusion

  • Instead of allowing the Government to delay this any further (the matter has been in Court since 2020), the Supreme Court should be firm, directing the Government to get on with apportioning the additional coverage of roughly 100 million across States, so that the States can start identifying new ration card beneficiaries.

Mains Question

Q. What is food security? What is National food security Act? There is number some problems for expanding food security net through PDS. Analyse and suggest way forward.

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