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What are the current issues in India

India is the second most populous country in the world with an estimated 1.2 billion people and the third-largest economy by GDP. Thanks to steady economic growth over the past decade, India was classified as a (lower) middle-income country by the World Bank in 2012. However, despite economic growth and self-sufficiency in food grains production, high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition persist in India. An estimated 32.7 percent of the Indian population lives on less than US$ 1.25 per day. The country is home to a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide. Any global impact on hunger requires progress in food and nutrition security in India.

India is a democratic republic with a federal structure consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. While the central government is responsible for policy formulation, the states are largely responsible for implementation of national policies, such as the various food security and nutrition programmes under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

India ranks 135th out of 187 countries in the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index and 55th out of 76 countries in the Global Hunger Index. While per capita income in India has more than tripled in the last two decades, the minimum dietary intake reduced during the same period. Levels of inequality and social exclusion are very high. The bottom 10 percent of the population account for only 3.6 percent of the total consumption expenditure and the top 10 percent accounts for 31 percent; the gap between the rich and the poor has increased during the high economic growth phase.

Key priorities of the Government of India under the current Five-Year-Plan (2013 – 2017) are ensuring ‘Faster, more Inclusive and Sustainable Growth’. This includes improving the performance of agriculture and diversifying produce as well as reducing vulnerabilities of small and marginal farmers with special focus on women and other disadvantaged groups. It also includes improving targeting, cost efficiency and nutrition effectiveness of the nationwide food-based social safety nets, namely the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS), which is targeting mothers and young children and the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme (MDM).

In addition, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) passed in 2013 is a milestone in the history of India’s fight against hunger and malnutrition, as it empowers more than 800 million Indians (75 percent of the rural and 50 percent of the urban population living below and just above the national poverty line) to legally claim their right to highly subsidised staple foods.

WFP’s engagement in India is guided by the commitment to support the Government of India through capacity development and technical assistance in order to improve the efficiency and nutritional effectiveness of their food-based social safety nets. In close collaboration with government institutions, partner UN agencies and wider stakeholders, WFP develops models that address the shortcomings in existing food-based safety nets with a view to making successful pilot projects scalable and adaptable for replication across the diverse conditions found in different parts of India. The UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge provides a meaningful framework for WFP and all stakeholders for the comprehensive and multi-sectoral approach needed to fight hunger and malnutrition in India.

What the World Food Programme is doing in India

WFP in India is driven by the vision to help address the current paradox that despite economic growth, self-sufficiency in food grains production, a sound legal framework and policies, the country remains home to a huge concentration of malnourished and food-insecure people.

  • Targeted Public Distribution System 3S Model

India’s subsidised food distribution system, the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), currently serves around 65 million of the poorest families across India with monthly supplies of wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene oil. The TPDS itself is one of the world’s largest food distribution systems with a long and complex supply chain including procurement, transportation, storage and distribution through 500,000 Fair Price Shops across the country.

WFP India signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in April 2012 to support the efficiency of the existing TPDS, which was suffering from poor targeting, inefficient supply chain management and large scale leakage of commodities. WFP led the development of the TPDS 3S (Secure, Strengthen, Save) model, based on thorough research of reform initiatives across states and on-ground experience with TPDS reforms.

The Model serves as a technology-led, best practice solution for subsidised food delivery under the TPDS and can be fully adapted to specific state and district contexts. It is linked to the biometrics-based authentication service provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Additional features of the 3S model include a sound grievance redressal and exception management system, improved mechanisms to facilitate transactions at Fair Price Shops, supply chain management and concurrent monitoring to enhance the accountability of the TPDS.Recommendations based on the 3S Model are currently being implemented in the states of Odisha and Kerala.

WFP is advocating for the substantial savings generated due to the efficiency brought in by the 3S Model to be re-invested in improving the nutritional value of the TPDS food basket.

  • Targeted Public Distribution System – nutritional effectiveness

WFP is encouraging the IndianCentral and State Governments to use the Targeted Public Distribution System for fighting under-nutrition among the poorest households and households with pregnant women and children under the age of two.

Based on extensive research, WFP has developed an innovative and targeted strategy for reducing the levels of under-nutrition among these priority groups. WFP recommends that the TPDS food basket be enhanced to include pulses, edible oil and iodised salt in addition to the cereals currently provided.

  • Rice Fortification

WFP is working on nutrition enhancement approaches through fortification addressing micronutrient deficiencies in school children in the context of the national Mid-Day-Meal (MDM) school feeding programme. In a pilot project, state-of-the-art technology is applied to produce ‘fortified rice kernels’, which are blended with the rice provided by the Government of Odisha for the MDM in Gajapati district of Odisha. The WFP project assists in providing more than 100,000 school children with freshly prepared hot school meals made from rice enriched with iron. The objective is to decrease the current prevalence of anaemia among elementary school children by at least five percent.

This unique pilot aims at devising a scalable model for application in multiple districts and eventually across state borders in other parts of India as well. It includes supply chain improvements as well as training and advocacy to raise awareness on child nutrition among caregivers and school administrators.

  • Food Insecurity Mapping And Monitoring

Through Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM), WFP identifies the most food insecure areas and population groups in India. In close collaboration with the Institute for Human Development (a research organisation recognised by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India), WFP’s VAM analysis is focusing on eight priority states with either high overall prevalence of food insecurity or where WFP has ongoing projects. The findings inform progamme design and response in the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In 2012 WFP and the Institute jointly published district level food security atlases for these states.

In addition to the collaboration with the Institute of Human Development, WFP has been partnering with the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation for more than a decade, to advocate and bring nutrition and food security to the forefront of the Government of India’s policy consideration. The research and need based studies undertaken by WFP on exclusion and impact of high food prices on the poor informed the Government’s food and nutrition strategies.

Featured India publications

  • India: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 394 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

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