Overflowing granaries can give food to India’s most poor; here’s what govt must do

In this situation when the whole country has been put under a lockdown for 21 days, the condition of the country’s poor is even dire as whatever income sources they had might have dried up as well.

informal economy, migrant workers, unorganised sector, economic crisis, KPMG, lockdown

While India has overflowing granaries containing large amounts of food stock, there are still millions who go to sleep hungry. In this situation when the whole country has been put under a lockdown for 21 days, the condition of the country’s poor is even dire as whatever income sources they had might have dried up as well. The natural solution has escaped many observers, Jean Dreze, visiting professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University, wrote in The Indian Express. With an increase in procurement levels, the food stock has also increased but the condition has not much changed for the nation which ranks very low on the global hunger index indicating serious hunger levels in the country. 

India has done some work in the past in the direction to mitigate the problems. Important food security initiatives such as mid-day meals, public distribution system (PDS) reforms, and later on, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) have been implemented. Even then, the foodgrain stocks of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) have grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years. Last year in June the stocks had crossed 80 million tonnes, which is more than three times the buffer-stock norms. This year, the stock has already reached 77 million tonnes in March. “Public food storage on this scale has never happened in India before. Meanwhile, the shadow of hunger looms large as the lockdown devastates people’s livelihoods,” Dreze wrote.

While the finance minister has announced food ration for the most vulnerable section of the society as a part of relief measure, a more serious approach will require releasing of the excess stocks to the states in large quantities. Even when the government has also announced monetary help, releasing food is more important as the proposed amount of Rs 500 per month to Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana accounts held by women, is a small amount. There is also the question of those who do not have an operational PMJDY account. 

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