Reforming the PDS for better nutrition -Surabhi Mittal
India ranked 107th out of 121 assessed countries on the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI). Although there are some measurement issues in the GHI, the report says there is high malnutrition in India due to rice-wheat biased policies. Malnutrition in India manifests itself in terms of triple burden – underweight especially among poor, hidden hunger (deficiency in micronutrients), and overweight.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) was introduced to ensure access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people. Under the act, 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population is entitled to a certain quantity of wheat, rice and/or coarse grains (in selected states) at subsidized rates through Public Distribution System (PDS). PDS is cereal-based and has been successful in reducing hunger, but the problem of malnutrition is not addressed within its ambit.
Central government in the recent past has provided flexibility to the state governments to include additional commodities in PDS based on the local needs. For example, pulses procured under Price Stabilisation Buffer and Price Support Scheme are made available to states/ Union Territories (UTs) for distribution under the PDS. In 2019-20 Central government started a pilot project on fortification of rice to distribute under the PDS in 11 districts and found it can be scalable across India to reduce micronutrition deficiencies of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.
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Hindustan Times, 7 November, 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/ht-insight/public-health/reforming-the-pds-for-better-nutrition-101667826489737.html