This is unfortunate because the nutrition situation in India remains critical. Very few countries if any, had higher levels of child undernourishment in 2005-6, the last time India collected reliable nutrition statistics at the national level (under the third National Family Health Survey). What happened since then is hard to tell. Some surveys, including a government-sponsored UNICEF survey, suggest significant improvement. Others, notably the second India Human Development Survey, point to very limited progress. This statistical fog, largely due to the failure of the fourth National Family Health Survey, does not help matters. What is clear is that even if substantial progress took place since 2005-6, undernutrition levels in India remain higher than almost anywhere else in the world.
It is no one’s claim that the NFSA is an adequate answer to this problem. The Act has serious flaws, and leaves out some important requirements of good nutrition (e.g. sanitation). Still, effective implementation of NFSA would make an important contribution to food security and improved nutrition. Recent experience shows that a well-functioning PDS makes a big difference to people who live on the margin of subsistence. The Act is also an opportunity to strengthen valuable child nutrition programmes such as school meals and the Integrated Child Development Services.
Central and State governments are jointly responsible for the tardy implementation of the Act. In some respects, the blame clearly lies with the Central government. For instance, ever since July…continue reading
TEXT AND PICTURE FROM INDIAN EXPRESS FEBRUARY 23 2015 Gabrielle Kruks-Wisner
Chandibai is a rarity in Rajasthan, where women’s political participation is limited. As an ST woman with little formal education, she is all the more unusual. Chandibai’s story starts 10 years ago, when she was elected to a seat reserved for an ST woman. Her experience in the panchayat, coupled with support from an NGO working to empower female leaders, gave her skills and confidence that she took with her after leaving office. She explained, “I know the system. Even men, who did not think a woman could do this work, know that I can assist them.”
Last month, Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh issued two ordinances restricting who can run for local office that make the emergence of leaders like Chandibai less likely. First, he required that panchayat candidates have a “functional sanitary toilet” in their home — an almost laughable requirement in a state where, according to the National Sample Survey, 73 per cent of rural people lack access to a toilet. Second, he made it mandatory for candidates to be at least Class VIII pass. State-wide,…continue reading
TEXT AND PICTURE FROM THE HINDU FEBRUARY 17 2015 BY DEEPANKAR BASU AND DEBARSHI DAS
In the short run, the committee recommends that the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 be curtailed. In particular, the NFSA entails providing subsidised food to about 67 per cent of the population, and the committee recommends that the coverage be brought down to 40 per cent. In the medium run, the committee recommends that the current public distribution system (PDS) be replaced by a cash transfer system. This will mean that the state will no longer have to be responsible for distributing food to vulnerable sections of the population. Hence, the state will no longer need to procure food from farmers, and store it. Since the current system of procurement, storage and transportation is primarily managed by the FCI, the medium term vision of the HLC implies that the FCI can, in due course, be folded up.
The overall thrust of the HLC’s recommendations, if implemented, would whittle down the operation of the FCI in the short run and completely dismantle…continue reading