Food Security in India

Green Revolution was started with an aim to achieve food security in India. Since the launch of the Green Revolution in 1970s, there has not been a single case of famine in spite of adverse weather conditions in several years. Foodgrain production increased from about 70 million tonnes in 1960-61 to about 252 million tonnes in 2015-16. The foodgrain production in 2016-17 was 275 million tonnes.

Buffer Stock

The stock of foodgrains (wheat and rice) procured by the government through FCI (Food Corporation of India) makes the buffer stock. The FCI purchases wheat and rice from farmers in those states which have surplus production. The government fixes an MSP (Minimum Support Price) to buy the foodgrains. MSP is revised from time to time. A part of this buffer stock is utilised to supply foodgrains to poor people at subsidized rates. This is done through the PDS (Public Distribution System). The rest of the stock is maintained to meet any eventuality in any part of the country.

Public Distribution System (PDS)

This is a chain of fair price shops (ration shops) through which subsidized food, sugar and kerosene are given to the poor people. A family needs to have a ration card to avail the facility of PDS. A family with a ration card can buy 35 kg of grains, 5 litres of kerosene, 5 kg of sugar, etc. Items and quantities can vary from one state to another.

Rationing was introduced in India in the backdrop of the Bengal famine. This system was again revived in the 1960s to tackle acute shortage of food.

In the 1970s, three important food intervention progammes were introduced to tackle the shortage of food:

  1. Public Distribution System (PDS): This system was made to ensure smooth supply of subsidized food items to the poor.
  2. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS): These services were introduced to provide proper nutrition to poor children.
  3. Food for Work (FFW): This programme was introduced to help the poor to earn food in lieu of some work.

Similarly, many Poverty Alleviation Programmes (PAPs) have been introduced from time to time to tackle the food shortage. Mid Day Meal scheme was launched in government schools to provide freshly cooked lunch to poor children.

Current Status of PDS in India

At present, there are 550,000 ration shops in India; which makes it the largest distribution network in the world.

Some Important Features of PDS
Name of SchemeYear of IntroductionCoverage Target GroupLatest VolumeIssue Price (Rs. per kg)
PDSUp to 1992UniversalW(2.34), R(2.89)
RPDS (Revamped Public Distribution System)1992Bakcward blocks20 kg of foodgrainsW(2.80), R(3.77)
TPDS (Targeted PDS)1997Poor and non poor35 kg of foodgrainsBPL: W(2.50), R(3.50), APL: W (4.50), R(7.00)
AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana2000Poorest of the poor35 kg of foodgrainsW(2.00), R(3.00)
APS (Annapurna Scheme)2000Indignant senior citizens10 kg of foodgrainsFree
National Food Security Act2013Every eligible person5 kg per person per monthW(2.00), R(3.00), Grains(1.00)

The PDS has proved to be quite effective in helping the poor people. However, there have many instances of poor management and corruption. Many people complain that after the segregation of APL and BPL, people holding the APL card seldom go to the ration shops because of minor variations with the market prices. The ration shopkeepers often siphon off the foodgrains into open market and sell poor quality foodgrains through the ration shop. The shopkeepers are also erratic in their behaviour because of which many people suffer.

In July 2002, FCI had 63 million tonnes of rice and wheat. This stock was much higher than the minimum buffer norms of 24.3 million tonnes. When relief operation were carried out in 2002-03 because of drought, the stock with FCI eased somewhat. The high level of buffer stock has created its own problems. The foodgrains rot in many FCI godowns and are eaten away by rats.

The practice of providing MSP for wheat and rice has also created various problems. Many farmers have concentrated on wheat and rice to get the MSP and have diverted the land use from other crops. This has created a shortage for coarse foodgrains; like millets and maize.

Intensive cultivation of rice and wheat has also proved a drain on groundwater because these crops need more irrigation.

At many places cooperatives have come up and they are managing the PDS in a better way.

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