9th Five Year Plan (Vol-2)

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Agriculture, Irrigation, Food Security and Nutrition
Agriculture || Irrigation, Command Area Development and Flood Control || Food and Nutrition Security

4.3 Food and Nutrition Security

4.3.1 At the time of independence the country faced two major nutritional problems; one was the threat of famine and acute starvation due to lack of national and regional food security systems; the other was chronic under-nutrition due to low dietary intake because of lack of purchasing power among the poorer segments of the population.

4.3.2 One of the first efforts of the country was to build up a food security system to ensure that the threat of famine no longer stalks the country. Investment in agriculture and the green revolution have ensured that the food production has kept pace with the population growth and by and large India remained self sufficient in food. Establishment of adequate buffer stocks has ensured availability of food stuffs within affordable cost even during the times of drought. The fact that the country has not witnessed famine and acute starvation on a massive scale in the last five decades is the most eloquent testimony for the success of these efforts.

4.3.3 Even though self sufficiency in food production has been achieved, the population still lacks access to balanced food. It is a matter of concern that the even though cereal production has kept pace with the increasing requirements and average percapita intakes of cereal have remained satisfactory, there has been a fall in the percapita consumption of pulses. It is important not only to improve pulse production but also make them available at affordable cost. The production and consumption of vegetables and fruits continue to remain low. Specific efforts have to be made to improve production and improved access to vegetables especially green-leafy vegetables at affordable cost both in rural and in urban areas.

4.3.4 Poverty and lack of purchasing power have been identified as two major factors responsible for low dietary intake. The concern over the economic factors resulting in chronic undernutrition led to the use of calorie intake as the basis of estimating poverty and the development of food for work programmes as one of the remedial measures to alleviate this problem. The food for work programme and employment assurance scheme are aimed at improving household food availability in Below Poverty Line (BPL) families especially in seasons during the employment and food availability in rural areas are low. To some extent these measures have helped in improvement in the household food availability but the problem of equitable distribution of available food and need based intrafamilial distribution of food persisted.

4.3.5 Public Distribution System (PDS) providing foodgrains at affordable prices is one of the key elements of the Government's Food Security system. In spite of obvious limitations PDS did play a role improving in regional food security specially in drought prone areas. In an attempt to improve availability of food to population living in most vulnerable areas (remote, tribal and drought-prone regions) the revamped public distribution system gave priority for establishment of PDS in such vulnerable areas. In spite of mounting food subsidies evaluation studies indicate that supply of subsidised food given through PDS has not resulted in improvement in household level food security. Self-sufficiency of foodgrains at national level and availablility of foodgrains at affordable cost at local level have not got translated into household level food security for the poor. In an attempt to limit the mounting cost of food subsidy and at the same time ensure that people below poverty line do get subsidised foodgrains the targetted public distribution system providing food grains at subsidised cost only the people below poverty line was initiated. If susscesfully implemented the targetted PDS is expected to achieve better household food security for families living below poverty line without substantially increasing food subsidy costs.

4.3.6 Inter-relationship between undernutrition and ill health has been well documented. Low dietary intake and continued heavy physical activity lead to negative energy balance resulting in chronic undernutrition. Chronic undernutrition may be associated with reduction in the work capacity and increased susceptibility to infections. Infections in turn can further worsen the existing undernutrition. Undernutrition and its adverse health consequences are more often seen in pregnant and lactating women, infants and preschool children .

4.3.7 In an effort to reduce chronic undernutrition and its health hazards, food supplementation programmes to identified vulnerable groups such as women and children were taken up initially by the Deptt of Social Welfare and later Deptt. of Women and Child Development ; in the Integrated Child Development Scheme an attempt was made to provide essential health and nutrition inputs to the women and children and pre-school education to children both in urban and rural areas. Food supplementation to the school children in the form of Mid day meal programmes were taken up in many states. Programmes for prevention of iodine deficiency disorders, anaemia and blindness due to Vit A deficiency were initiated by the Deptts of Health and Family Welfare.

4.3.8 A review of the of nutritional scenario in the eighties showed that there has been a marked reduction in the severe grades of undernutrition and mortality due to severe undernutrition; however the existing food supplementation programmes failed to achieve significant reduction in proportion and number of persons with mild and moderate degrees of chronic under-nutrition, because the programmes tried to provide food supplements to the identified segments of the community and not to identified person/ family of persons suffering undernutrition. Specific micro-nutrient deficiencies as such anaemia (due to deficiency of iron, folic acid), iodine and vitamin A deficiencies continued to remain major public health problems because they cannot be tackled through food supplementation programmes and the propylaxis programmes were not aimed at detection and correction of the deficiency in the individuals. With the alteration dietary intakes and life styles newer problems such as obesity and noncommunicable diseases has surfaced especially among the urban middle and upper income groups during the last decade. Tackling all these problems through intersectoral cooperation between the concerned Departments including Deptts. of Health, Family Welfare, Women and Child Development, Education, Agriculture, Food Processing, Rural and Urban Development will receive due attention during the Ninth Plan period.

4.3.9 The present chapter has two sections . The sections on the food security deals with the perspectives, problems and proposed initiatives to ensure food adequacy at the national, regional and household level. The section on Nutrition deals with the nutritional problems due to lack or excess of macro and micro nutrients especially among infants, women and children, the health consequences of these and the efforts to combat them.

Food Security


4.3.10 The National Agenda for Governance of the new Government has promised to ensure food security for all, create a hunger free India in the next five years and reform and improve the PDS so as to serve the poorest of the poor in rural and urban areas. The concept of food security includes peoples' access to basic food products, both physically and economically. The problem of access to basic foods is particularly acute for the vulnerable sections of the society and in the deficit and inaccessible regions of the country.

4.3.11 Food security implies a situation where everyone has access, at all times, to the food needed for an active and healthy life. Thus, the essential elements of food security are (a) adequate availability of food, (b) efficient distribution through trade and / or public distribution system, and (c) availability of adequate purchasing power in the hands of the people.

4.3.12 A judicious combination of domestic production and food trade can provide a reasonable degree of stability in food availability, especially in a situation where food production is characterised by seasonal and annual fluctuations. Seasonal and annual instability in domestic supplies can also be reduced through buffer stocking operations involving accummulation and offloading of public stocks of foodgrains in years of good and bad harvests respectively.

4.3.13 An approach to national food security, which relies largely on domestic production of food needed for consumption as well as for building buffer stocks, can be described as a strategy of self-sufficiency. However, a strategy for food security should not preclude external trade in food. Trade may take place on the margin and according to need: exports in surplus situations and imports in deficit periods.

4.3.14 At the household level, food security implies having physical and economic access to foods that are adequate in terms of quantity, quality and affordability. Thus defined, household food security depends on an adequate income and assets, including cultivable land - owned and/or leased - which ensure that each household is able to produce or procure the food it needs. The root cause of household food insecurity is poverty. Poverty may be chronic, seasonal or transitory. These situations differ only in degrees. All the poor have inadequate access to natural resources, jobs, incomes or social support.

4.3.15 A strategy for food security based largely on self sufficiency in food production has the advantage of promoting both productivity and purchasing power among small peasants and agricultural labourers. In general, policies for improving household food security should include: (i) development strategies and macro-economic policies that would create conditions for growth with equity; (ii) accelerating growth in the food and agricultural sectors which provide direct sources of food and income with which to buy food; (iii) promoting rural development that focuses on the poor; (iv) improving access to land and other natural resources; (v) providing cheap credit for poor households; (vi) increasing employment opportunities; (vii) introducing income transfer scheme, including provision of public distribution of subsidised cheap food; (viii) stabilising food supplies and food prices; (ix) improving emergency preparedness planning for providing food aid during natural disasters like drought, flood, earthquakes etc.

India's Food Security System

4.3.16 Ensuring food security for the country has been a major pre-occupation of the Government since independence. Over the last five decades, policies and programmes have been designed to ensure availability of foodgrains to all sections of the society, particularly the weaker sections. The basic food security system currently consists of, apart from policies to promote domestic foodgrains output, minimum support prices, procurement and storage, public distribution, maintenance of buffer stock and open market sales. Trade in foodgrains, which is highly regulated even now, was never a strategic instrument of food security system in India. Nevertheless, trade in cereals did take place on the margin depending on the extent of domestic shortages/surpluses in a particular year. With few exceptions, net imports of cereals have either been negative or negligibly positive since the 1970s. These policies have been successful to a large extent in ensuring food security for the country. The country has succeeded in achieving self- sufficiency in the production of foodgrains. The food economy by and large remained insulated from the very large fluctuations in the world food prices. For example, in the 1970s fluctuations in world prices of wheat and rice as represented by their respective coefficient of variations (CV) of indices of prices were almost double than those of India. In the 1980s, though the difference of values of CVs narrowed down considerably, the Indian CVS were still lower than those of the world. In the 1990s so far, fluctuations in Indian foodgrains prices appear to be larger than those of the major producing countries, largely due to sustained acceleration in Indian prices. Overall, both the farmers and the consumers have benefited considerably from the relative price stability.

4.3.17 The successes in terms of self-sufficiency in production and relative price stability have not however, been without significant costs to the economy. The system of food security, as it evolved over time, has tended to consume substantial budgetary resources on account of high levels of subsidies. Food subsidy, which was less than Rs.20 crore in 1970-71 rose to Rs.662 crore in 1980-81, accounting for about 0.5% of GDP. By 1996-97, food subsidy bill jumped by a multiple of ten to over Rs.6000 crore (0.5% of GDP) . A significant proportion of food subsidy represents the cost of carrying buffer stocks. The cost of carrying buffer stocks in recent years has been on an average about 25% of the food subsidy bill. However, these costs have to be seen against the cost of food insecurity which is incalculable.

4.3.18 The Ninth Plan will lay emphasis on developing strategies integrating the food production and distribution systems with the employment and poverty alleviation programmes. In particular, the Public Distribution System (PDS) will be restructured in order to provide foodgrains at substantially lower prices to the poor in a targeted manner and to ensure availability of such commodities in the remote and deficit areas of the country. The structure of incentives for the producers of food would be reviewed. While incentive pricing would continue to remain an important element of the policy for boosting agricultural production in general, and foodgrains production in particular, the focus would be more on devising cost-saving and yield - raising technologies and on creating rural infrastructure. This will require increased investments in research, extension and infrastructure, which might involve reduction and diversion of resources away from subsidies.

4.3.19 Self-sufficiency in production of foodgrains is often advocated as a first step towards attaining food security for a country of India's size for a number of reasons. First, the world foodgrains market is narrow as compared to India's domestic production and consumption. For example, the size of the international rice market is about 12-13 million tonnes. Though the world wheat market is comparatively large at 110-120 million tonnes, it is cartelised. India produces about 65 million tonnes of wheat and 80 million tonnes of rice. Under such a situation, large scale imports of say 10% of its requirements can make India vulnerable to sharp rises in world prices of foodgrains. Second, the strategy of self-sufficiency in food subserves the goals of national security Dependence on food aid or largescale imports may entail unacceptable compromises on national security policies. Third, the country is thickly populated and food production is the predominant means of livelihood for a large section of peasant cultivators and agricultural labourers, who are not easily shiftable to other occupations, at least for quite sometime. The process of production of food in this predominantly small-holding agricultural economy ensures employment, income as well as food security simultaneously. Last, but not the least, the country continues to produce most of the times cheaper foodgrains, particularly cereals, as compared to CIF cost of imports. So, except during the years of severe shortfall in production , imports could not be a normal supplement to domestic supplies. On the other hand, there have been hardly a few years of surplus production supporting a sustained level of exportable supplies.

4.3.20 Significant strides have been made in domestic production of foodgrains and towards ensuring self-reliant food security. During the last decade (1986-87 to 1996-97), foodgrains production registered an annual compound growth rate of over 3 percent. During the Eighth Plan period, production of foodgrains increased by about 30 million tonnes, that is from about 168 million tonnes in 1991-92 to about 199 million tonnes in 1996-97, representing an annual compound growth rate of over 3.4 percent. The Sub Group on Demand Projections for the Ninth Plan has estimated that the per capita consumption elasticity for foodgrains is about 0.3. Assuming 7% of growth of GDP and using estimated elasticity of private consumption with respect to GDP at 0.88 and annual population growth of 1.7%, the per capita final consumption growth rate works out to be 4.5% (0.88 X 7-1.7). Based on these parameters, the annual growth of demand for foodgrains during the Ninth Plan is expected to be around 3% (4.5X0.3+1.7). This means that growth in domestic production of foodgrains during the Ninth Plan will have to be maintained at the rate achieved during the Eighth Plan.

4.3.21 Much of the high growth in the output of agriculture in general, and foodgrains in particular, experienced during the Eighth Plan was the outcome of successive good monsoons in a row, a circumstance which cannot be assumed to obtain in the longer run. Fundamentally, Indian agriculture continues to remain vulnerable to weather-induced aberrations. Determined efforts would have to be made to reduce this vulnerability. This cannot be achieved without accelerating agricultural investment, which has not witnessed significant growth in real terms since the beginning of the 1980s. For example, fixed capital formation in agriculture which was Rs.4537 crore in 1980-81 increased in real terms to only Rs.6133 crore in 1995-96, representing an annual compound growth of about 2.0 percent . Public investment in agriculture actually declined in real terms from Rs.1796 crore in 1980-81 to Rs.1329 crore in 1994-95. Secondly, in view of the constant, and perhaps even declining, areas available for cultivation, agricultural growth in general and growth of foodgrains output in particular, can come about only through rapid increases in productivity. These require substantial investments in water and land improvement, besides technology development and its dissemination.

4.3.22 Provided the required investments are made and adequate credit availability ensured, the country's agro-climatic situation and the present stage of agricultural development do provide opportunities for substantial increases in the production of foodgrains, even without expanding the net sown area under foodgrains. For example, it is possible to increase the intensity of farming and achieve higher yields on current land under foodgrains in the Eastern States of the country, where the use of HYV seeds, irrigation and fertilizer has been less than their potential. Currently, about 65% of the area devoted to foodgrains are cultivated under rain-fed conditions. These areas have the potential to double their yields under appropriate dry farming technologies and extension of irrigation facilities.

4.3.23 In the Ninth Plan, with the GDP expected to grow by about 6.5%, the population growing by about 1.7% and the per capita final consumption by about 4.%, the demand for foodgrains is expected to grow by 2.5 to 3.0% per annum. Therefore, efforts will need to be made to achieve a secular growth rate of output of foodgrains of over 3% in order to prevent large-scale imports during the years of weather - induced shortfalls in production, and also to plan for regular exports in normal years. It will be feasible to realise this target growth rate through a well-designed regionally differentiated strategy based on agronomic, climatic and environmental conditions and supported by research efforts in the areas of bio-technology, micro-biology, plant genetics etc.

4.3.24 While an annual 3% growth of foodgrains output should be enough to feed the growing population, the new Government has formulated an Action Plan for doubling of food production (cereals, pulses, oils and fat, sugar, fruits and vegetables, milk, meat and fish) in order to make India hunger free in the next 10 years. This means that growth of food production will have to be accelerated at a compound rate of over 7 per cent per annum.

4.3.25 Availability of foodgrains through increased production is a necessary condition for food security but not a sufficient one. In order to ensure access to food for all, the prices must be affordable. Prices are determined by demand- supply balance and price stability over time is conditioned by sustained balance between demand and supply. Such a balance may be disturbed for two reasons. First, there could be occasional weather-induced declines or stagnation in the production of foodgrains. Second , in a growing economy with rising per capita income, the growth of demand for foodgrains could incipiently outstrip the growth of domestic supply. In the first situation, the prices would witness a sudden rise. In the absence of any in-built corrective mechanism, the prices may even spiral due to speculation by the traders and panic buying by the consumers. In the second situation, the prices of foodgrains will have the tendency to rule higher than normal. Both the situations are liable to erode food security, particularly of the poor.

4.3.26 In order to combat the sudden spurt in prices arising out of occasional weather-induced declines in production, it is essential to design an effective buffer stocking programme. While a buffer stocking programme with a large public storage system exists in the country, it is essentially designed to safeguard the floor prices of the farmers during bumper harvests.It has rarely been used successfully to contain the spurts in open market prices, which have followed occasional harvest failures. With some re-orientation the existing buffer stocking programme can be utilised not only to smoothen the year-to- year fluctuations in production, but also to curb speculative spurt in prices that occasionally afflicts the foodgrains market. Towards this end, the current practice of restrictive and discretionary open market sales out of the public stocks needs to be reviewed. The correct policy to combat speculation by the traders and panic buying by the consumers should be for the Government to be ready at all times to intervene in the market. Instead of holding back the stocks, which the Government. often does for fear of depleting the stocks meant for public distribution, the Government should release the stocks in adequate quantities at market related prices. Simultaneously, the Government should replenish the stocks, or at least announce its intention to do so, through imports. If too little quantities are released for open sales at much below the market-rates, which is the current practice, these are likely to be cornered by the hoarders. As far as possible, open sales should be conducted through auction instead of the present practice of sales to a chosen few. Close monitoring of prices should obviously be an important element of this strategy.

4.3.27 In the second situation where the prices of foodgrains rule higher than normal in a sustained manner and which indicates a trend of demand outstripping domestic supply, it may be necessary to relax the policy of self-sufficiency. It should be realised that by allowing grain prices to rule higher than normal, consumption can be curtailed, production can be stimulated and the requirements of imports foreclosed. Achievement of self-sufficiency in this manner would clearly not be consistent with the aim of ensuring affordability. Sacrificing food imports on the altar of self-sufficiency will do nothing to guarantee that the poor have enough to eat. Banning food imports may even be counter productive. An engineered terms of trade, favorable to foodcrops, may result in a loss of acreage under non-food crops. In such an event, the country may end up spending more foreign exchange on the import of, say, cotton or sugar. Similarly, there is a strong case for libralising export of foodgrains, especially when there are surpluses and public stocks pile up. Restricting exports as a matter of policy may be counter productive in terms of depressed prices and lower production, eventually forcing the Government to incur larger expenditure on higher support prices. As a matter of fact, import and export of foodgrains and other agricultural commodities should be allowed as a normal market operation.

4.3.28 In general, there is a strong case for liberalising the trade not only in foodgrains but also in all other agricultural commodities. The virtually closed nature of Indian agricultural trade, on both import and export side, has led to high protection for the oilseeds and sugar subsector and taxation of foodgrains and cotton. On the import side, opening up India's agriculture to more competition would result in important efficiency gains for all crops and improve incentives to producers of foodgrains and cotton. On the export side, opportunities of exports of foodgrains and other rainfed agricultural products such as cotton and fruits will open up. Measures of opening up should include shifts from the use of quotas and restrictions to appropriate import tariffs and export taxes, maintaining consistent export policies to allow the development of overseas markets, ending "stop and go" restrictions and eliminating domestic market and price controls. Though India is unlikely to be more than a marginal importer/exporter of basic agricultural commodities, greater openness will increase India's efficiency and competitiveness, particularly in the foodgrains sector. This will strengthen the food security system.

4.3.29 Thus the objective of ensuring access to food, embodied in the concept of affordability, involves convergence of polices on at least four fronts: production, buffer stock operation imports and exports of foodgrains. While the importance of production and trade in ensuring food security is easily understood, the complementary role of a strong buffer stock management system is not.

4.3.30 Fluctuating foodgrains production is a world-wide phenomenon and therefore, shortages and surpluses are the recurring themes for individual countries. Facing a shortage situation at home, many countries desperately buy in a rising market, thus pushing the prices higher. Similarly, facing a surplus situation at home, many countries try to sell aggressively in a soft market in the fear that prices will fall further. Because of the cumulative actions of several countries, particularly if their requirements are large, prices do fall or rise violently. This kind of market behaviour tends to inflate the import bill or to deflate the export earnings. In order to avoid paying more than necessary for import and receiving less than due on export, it is essential to build up sufficient capacity to hold back from purchases or sales for a short period. This capacity is essentially a derivative of a strong buffer stock management system. However, it needs to be pointed out that too large a buffer stock can be expensive since it involves costs in the form of interest payments, storage charges and storage losses. Excessive stocking can also be harmful since stocks beyond a limit may constrict the supply stream and thereby trigger an unwarranted spurt in prices. Hence, keeping the buffer stock down to a minimum size and relying on imports in the years of lean output and exports in the years of excess production appears to be a less costly option.

4.3.31 Several Committees, set up by the Government in the past, have tried to determine the levels of stocks in India for minimising the fluctuations in supply arising out of uncertainity in production. A Technical Group set up by the Government in 1975 recommended a buffer stock of 12 million tonnes of foodgrains over and above the operational stocks which should range between the minimum of 3.5 to 3.8 million tonnes on the 1st April of the year and maximum of 8.2 to 8.8 million tonnes on the 1st July. In 1981, another Technical Group reviewed the buffer stocking policy. On the basis of this Group's report, the Government in 1984 took the decision to maintain public buffer stocks of 10 million tonnes, in addition to the operational stocks which, on different dates of the year, were to range between the lowest figure of 6.5 million tonnes on 1st April and the highest figure of 11.4 million tonnes on 1st July. Yet another Technical Group set up in 1988 recommended minimum levels of stocks on different dates of a year to be maintained by public agencies during the Eighth Plan. This Group was of the opinion that the buffer stocks and the operational stocks cannot, in practice, be maintained as separate physical entities. According to this Group's recommendations which were accepted by the Government and which are still in force, the total stocks to be maintained are 14.5 Million Tonnes on 1st April, 22.3 Million Tonnes on 1st July, 16.6 Million Tonnes on 1st October and 15.4 Million Tonnes on 1st January. The assumption behind the stocks recommended by all these Technical Groups was that shortfalls in normal supply would be met entirely out of the stocks. Needless to say that the prescribed volume of stocks would get reduced to the extent that the country decides to import foodgrains during scarcity.

4.3.32 As a matter of fact, the Government can take advantage of the international 'futures' in foodgrains, primarily rice and wheat, as a medium of buffer stock management at a relatively low volume. The 'futures' can ensure a stable equilibrium in the prices of foodgrains even in a situation of low domestic stocks. For example, if the domestic situation demands physical imports of foodgrains, the agent of the Government (FCI, STC or MMTC) having a futures contract can exercise appropriate option and arrange for taking delivery of foodgrains for actual shipments. If the physical imports are not necessary, the agent can exercise the option for not taking delivery by paying the required fees. However, to be effective, the Government through its agencies must have a sustained presence in the international futures market.

Integrating Production and Distribution Systems

4.3.33 Adequate availability of food at the national level does not necessarily lead to adequate availability in all the regions, especially in the deficit and inaccessible regions, of the country. Market imperfections (due to lopsided availability of credit and insurance, transport bottlenecks, inadequate storage capacities etc) and governmental restrictions hamper free movement of foodgrains across intra-national borders. These explain the regional scarcities and large regional spreads in foodgrains prices. Regional spreads of prices of cereals in major markets could be as high as 25% , which cannot be fully accounted for by the transport cost differentials. Minimising the restrictions, such as stock limits and penal provisions of the Essential Commodities Act and introduction of 'futures' in grain trade would greatly facilitate the development of a common market in the country. A common market is the best guarantee for establishing an efficient distribution network.

4.3.34 Apart from strengthening and expanding the market, there is a need to disperse the foodgrains production base in the deficit regions in order to ensure physical access to food for all at affordable prices. The association between regional self-sufficiency in production and the level of regional prices is quite strong. This means that the consumers in the deficit regions have to pay substantially higher prices for foodgrains than those in the surplus regions. The data on per capita consumption of cereals and the corresponding values reported in the NSS 43rd Round Quinquennial Survey on Consumer expenditure show that the consumers in the rural areas of many deficit States paid significantly higher unit prices than their counterparts in the surplus States (Table 4.3. 1). For the poor consumers in the deficit regions higher prices of foodgrains may imply lower consumption of food and consequent poor intake of nutrition. While these problems will get minimised over time with greater market integration, in the short run an important element of food security strategy should be to expand food production in the deficit regions which, otherwise, would remain as pockets of food deprivation amidst plenty at the national level.

		Table 4.3.1
Monthly Per Capita Consumption and Unit price of
Cereals in Rural areas of Selected States - 1987-88
         States     Attribute   Monthly Per Capita   Price
                                Consumption (Kg)     (per kg)
        -------  ----------   ------------------  ------------
         Haryana    Surplus          15.02             2.2
         H P        Surplus          16.06             2.65
         J  and  K      Deficit          17.26             2.95
         Punjab     Surplus          12.41             2.15
         U. P.      Surplus          15.32             2.35
         Gujarat    Deficit           12.00            2.6
         M . P.     Surplus           15.39            2.6
         Mahara-    Deficit           13.03            2.35
         Rajasthan  Surplus           16.62            2.3
         Assam      Deficit            14.23           3.7
         Bihar      Deficit            15.39           3.4
         Orissa     Surplus            15.72           3.35
         W. Bengal  Deficit            15.12           3.65
         A . P.     Surplus            14.35           2.75
         Karnataka  Surplus            13.25           2.65
         Kerala     Deficit            10.36           3.65
         T. Nadu    Deficit            12.24           3.5
         Notes:1 The attribute of surplus/deficit is based on the 
                 comparison Of State specific annual production and
                 annual consumption.

Highlights of the system of Payment of wages in the form of foodgrains to JRY/EAS workers

  • Foodgrains to the beneficiaries of EAS/JRY will be specially subsidised. The issue price will be roughly half the market price.
  • 1 kg of rice or wheat, as desired, will be issued for each manday's work.
  • A beneficiary under EAS/JRY, will be entitled to get 10 to 15 Kgs of specially subsidised foodgrains per month.
  • Since only the really poor offer themselves for work under EAS/JRY, it is a good self- targeting measure.
  • The entitlement of specially subsided foodgrains under EAS/JRY is in addition to 10 kgs of foodgrains a poor family is entitled to get per month under the restructured PDS.
  • In addition to the price incentive, the Government has proposed to make the system administratively more attractive. The proposal is to give the workers food coupons which they can exchange for foodgrains at the Fair Price Shops to which their normal family card is attached.
  • Since the scheme of food coupons is meant only for JRY/EAS workers and is optional, it will be small in size. Because of smallness of size it will be administratively feasible to operate.

4.3.35 The strategy of dispersal of production base has several other spin-off benefits. First, hitherto deficit regions will increasingly contribute to incremental production, since yield rates in the traditional surplus regions have plateued. Second, large transaction costs involved in transporting foodgrains from a few surplus pockets to all corners of the country can be avoided. For example, distribution cost consisting of handling and storage charges, freight, interest, transit and storage losses and administrative overheads typically constitute about 20% of the pooled economic cost of foodgrains. Freight charges alone account for about 8% of economic cost . Rail freight ex-North to the Southern States typically accounts for 10% of the economic cost. Third, widely dispersed employment and income effects, implicit in such a trategy, will subserve the objective of poverty alleviation.

Linking Production and Distribution Systems with Employment and Poverty Alleviation Programmes

4.3.36 Increasingly higher production of food and its dispersal through an efficient marketing infrastructure, including the Public Distribution System ,is no guarantee for ensuring the food security of the poorest segments of the population. The poor must have adequate entitlements to access food either from the market or through the PDS. Entitlements are better created and preserved through employment programmes such as JRY, or income generation schemes such as IRDP, since these are less prone to leakages. These programmes, which already exist and will continue during the Ninth Plan, can be increasingly linked to creation of rural assets such as, irrigation and drainage channels, wells and tanks, check dams and bunds, roads and mandis etc. These will strengthen the production base and enhance productivity of the agricultural sector.

4.3.37 A system of payment of wages in the form of foodgrains to JRY/EAS workers already exists in the country. However, for various reasons, partly administrative and partly behavioural, the system did not become popular with the workers. As a part of the restructuring exercise regarding PDS, the Government has proposed to make the system of payment of wages in the form of foodgrains more attractive to the workers. The highlights of the restructured system are given in Box.

Restructuring Public Distribution System

4.3.38 A well targeted and subsidised Public Distribution System (PDS) is an important constituent of the strategy for poverty alleviation. A subsidised PDS should essentially be viewed as a mechanism for income transfer to low income segments of the population. While conceptually the function of income transfer to the low income groups can be better performed by food coupons, for several reasons it may not be workable in the Indian situation. First, dismantling of the PDS implicit in food coupons system may not be acceptable. Second, PDS is linked to the system of support prices and procurement operations as a part of the current agricultural price policy. The time is not yet ripe to disband the price support operations and therefore, the PDS. which provides an outlet for offloading the foodgrains procured from surplus areas to deficit areas. Third, food coupon system is fraught with unmanageable administrative problems associated with security printing of coupons, fraud prevention, fresh issue of stamps due to periodic indexation etc. Fourth, food coupons have characteristics similar to cash and are liable to be misused. Fifth, and more important, it has been argued that coupons (equivalent to cash) would typically enhance the demand for highly subsidised foodgrains (due to shift in the demand curve to the right) while the supply remains the same. This will cause food prices to rise. Increase in food price would mean deterioration in the well being of those who are left out of the coupon programme. Under the circumstances, a poverty-based targeting of PDS is a better option from the point of view of ensuring the food security of the poor. The PDS that existed till recently has been widely criticised for its failure to serve the population below the poverty line (BPL) , its urban bias, inequitous distribution as reflected in the poor coverage in the States with the highest concentration of the poor, lack of transparent and accountable arrangements for delivery and the consequent heavy leakages. Realising this, the Government has streamlined the PDS by targeting it to the BPL population at specially subsidised prices and with better monitoring of the delivery system. The new system, named Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), has come into operation with effect from 1st June, 1997.

4.3.39 The principles of TPDS was spelt out earlier in the Report of the Working Group (WG) on National Policy on Public Distribution system (June, 1996) set up in the Planning Commission in August, 1995,. In view of the fact that the poor devote a substantial part of their expenditure on foodgrains, it is essential to protect them from a continuous upward pressure on foodgrains prices, a phenomenon in-built in our system of procurement prices, which need an annual increase as an incentive for increasing production. If the poor are not protected from the impact of ever increasing prices of foodgrains, the effects of many of the poverty alleviation measures and programmes would get neutralised. In other words, a system of food subsidy becomes an essential element of food security. The challenge, however, is to contain the total food subsidy to the minimum necessary through a system of targeting, so that the subsidies benefit only those sections whom the State wants to protect.

4.3.40 The Working Group after discussing various forms and experiences of targeting, such as, through wage employment programmes (JRY, EAS etc), area based targeting (ITDP, RPDS), exclusion of non-poor and the system of food coupons prevalent in some countries, suggested a scheme of allocation of foodgrains out of the Central Pool to the States at two sets of prices, namely, a highly subsidised price for the poor (BPL) and near open market prices for the non-poor (APL).

4.3.41 Based on detailed calculation, the Working Group in effect recommended an issue price for the poor at half the normal Central Issue Price (CIP). The Working Group hoped that over a period of time, the absence of appreciable difference between the open market prices and the near open market prices for the non-poor would reduce the demand for increased allocations over and above those meant for the poor. Detailed calculations showed that a scale of 20 kgs of foodgrains per BPL family per month and priced at half the normal CIP could be accommodated within a sustainable limit of annual subsidy and within historically available quantity of foodgrains.

4.3.42 The principles enunciated by the Working Group were adopted by the Government while implementing the TPDS. However, by the time TPDS was implemented the numbers (population, BPL population, economic costs etc) underwent substantial escalation. As a consequence, the Government had to reduce the scale of allocation to BPL families. Under the TPDS, a quantity of 10 kgs of foodgrains per family per month is being issued to the States on the basis of the number of BPL families. The number of BPL families has been determined on the basis of provisional estimates for 1993-94 made by the Planning Commission, based on the methodology of the Expert Group under Professor Lakadawala. Poverty-based targeting under TPDS is a major improvement over the erstwhile PDS.

4.3.43 While the objective of TPDS is to restrict the benefits of subsidised foodgrains to the poor, allocations of foodgrains out of the Central Pool is being continued for the above poverty line (APL) population. who were the beneficiaries of the erstwhile PDS. This is a transitory measure to soften the shock of sudden withdrawal of entrenched benefits of the erstwhile universal system. However, the transitory allocations have been restricted to the past 10 years' average lifting which is in excess of the requirement of the BPL population in each State. The unit subsidy for APL has also been substantially reduced.

Innovative features of the TPDS

  • Allocation of 10 kgs per month, per BPL family is on an entitlement basis and is guaranteed by the Centre. No such guarantee has been given to the APL families with regard to either entitlement or scale of ration.
  • The Centre has committed to provide 10 kgs of foodgrains per BPL family per month at about half the Central Issue Prices (CIP), which has been linked to economic cost.
  • Allocations to the APL families will be at full CIP.
  • The States have been asked to keep the end retail price at the Fair Price Shop level for the BPL population at no more than 50 paise per kg. over the issue price for the BPL population. In otherwords, expenses towards transport and retailers' margin cannot exceed 50 paise per kg for the BPL population. For the APL population, no such limit has been prescribed and the States have been given the freedom to fix the margin.

4.3.44 A number of innovative features have been introduced in the TPDS in order to provide differential treatment to the BPL population vis-a-vis the APL population.

4.3.45 In order to make the TPDS transparent and accountable and thereby plug the leakages, a number of steps have been taken. These include: (a) release of foodgrains to the States subject to satisfactory completion of identification of eligible families; (b) involvement of the Panchayats/Nagar Palikas in the identification exercise as well as for supervision of the work of the Fair Price Shops, (c) constitution of Vigilance Committees at FPS, Taluk, District and State level and (d) a system of monitoring and reporting on the working of TPDS.



4.3.46 At the time of Independence the country faced two major nutritional problems - one was the threat of famine and acute starvation due to low agricultural production and lack of appropriate food distribution system. The other was chronic energy deficiency due to poverty, low-literacy, poor access to safe-drinking water, sanitation and health care; these factors led to wide spread prevalence of infections and ill health in children and adults. Kwashiorkor, marasmus, goitre, beri beri, blindness due to Vitamin- A deficiency and anaemia were major public health problems. The country adopted multi-sectoral, multi-pronged strategy to combat the major nutritional problems and to improve nutritional status of the population.

4.3.47 Green revolution resulted in increased food production sufficient to meet the needs of growing population; establishment of adequate buffer stocks and PDS have ensured adequate per capita food availability and distribution at the national level. Improvement in per capita income, poverty alleviation programmes including food for work and Employment Assurance Scheme have resulted in improvement of purchasing power and household food availability. Food supplementation programmes were initiated to meet the extra food requirement of vulnerable groups namely pregnant and lactating mothers and preschool children. Programmes for prevention of iodine deficiency disorders, anaemia and blindness due to Vit. A deficiency was initiated by the Deptts. of Health and Family Welfare.

4.3.48 During the last 50 years considerable progress has been achieved in many of these programmes. Famines no longer stalk the country. There has been substantial reduction in moderate and severe undernutrition in children and some improvement in nutritional status of all segments of population. Kwashiorkor, marasmus, beri beri and blindness due to Vitamin-A deficiency have become rare. However, it is a matter of concern that milder form of chronic energy deficiency (CED) continues to be widely prevalent in adults and children. Undernutrition continues to be a major problem in pregnant and lactating women; over one-third of the new-borns still weigh less than 2.5 kg at birth. Even though there has been a marked reduction in blindness due to Vitamin-A deficiency, the less severe forms of Vitamin-A deficiency persist. Universal access to iodised salt has not been achieved and there has not been marked reduction in iodine deficiency disorders. There is no decline in prevalence or severity of anaemia and its health consequences. During the last two decades, there had been major alterations in the life styles and dietary intake especially among urban middle and upper income group population. As a result newer problems such as obesity in adolescents and adults and increased risk of non-communicable diseases are emerging.

4.3.49 India is currently undergoing demographic, economic, social, educational, agricultural and health transition. These factors individually and collectively can bring about substantial alteration in health and nutritional status of the population. If through effective planning and inter-sectoral coordination, appropriate synergy is brought about, it will be possible to achieve substantial improvement in nutritional and health status of the population.

Major Nutritional Problems of Public Health Importance are:
  • Chronic energy deficiency and undernutrition
  • Chronic energy excess and obesity
  • Micro-nutrient deficiencies:

(a) Anaemia due to iron and folate deficiency
(b) Vitamin -A deficiency and
(c) Iodine deficiency disorders

4.3.50 Achievement of Food and Nutrition Security is one of the nine major objectives of the Ninth Plan. The strategy for achieving improvement in Nutritional Status during the Ninth Plan period will be through effective implementation of the National Nutrition Policy and National Nutritional Action Plan with emphasis on inter-sectoral coordination.

4.3.51 The Special Action Plan has accorded high priority to increasing food production and making India hunger free in ten years; it envisages a mission mode approach for planning and implementation, with appropriate co-ordination between Centre, State and Panchayati Raj institutions so that set goals are achieved within the defined time frame.

Objectives during the Ninth Plan

4.3.52 Objectives during the Ninth Plan are to achieve :

  • Freedom from hunger through increase in food production, effective distribution, improvement in purchasing power of the population;
  • Reduction in undernutrition and its health consequences through: universalisation of ICDS, screening `at risk groups’, growth monitoring, better targeting of food supplements to those suffering from undernutrition, close monitoring of under-nourished persons receiving food supplements; effective intersectoral coordination between health and nutrition workers to ensure early detection and management of health problems associated with or leading to undernutrition;
  • Prevention, early detection and effective management of micronutrient deficiencies and the associated health hazards.

Review of Nutrition Programmes during the Earlier Eight Plan Periods

4.3.53 Nutritional status of the population is affected by a wide variety of factors. Coordinated interventions from all the sectors are required for improving the nutritional status and reducing the disease burden due to nutritional problems. Interventions to improve nutritional status can be classified as direct and indirect interventions. Planners, economists, and agricultural scientists drew up indirect interventions to improve nutritional status, such as programmes to improve the per capita income, food production, purchasing power, equitable distribution of food and income and poverty alleviation. The Nutritionists, Health and Family Welfare professionals focussed their attention on direct interventions such as:

  • Tackling adverse health consequences of nutrition-infection and nutrition-fertility interactions.
  • Programmes for prevention, early detection and effective management of health problems associated with nutritional deficiencies.
  • Detection, correction and prevention of micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Food supplementation to specifically identified vulnerable segments of population to prevent or correct chronic energy deficiency.

Nutrition Intervention Programmes (1951-1992)


Nutrition Situation

Nutrition Services


Food Shortages

Food Production Phase:

Technological advancement to improve food production

Food fortification measures to improve nutritive value.


Malnutrition most prevalent in lower economic strata.




IDD as a Public Health problem

Community Development Phase:

Launching of Applied Nutrition Programme

Mobile Food and Nutrition Extension Services

Iodisation of salt

1970s - early

Recognition of Chronic Energy Deficiency Anaemia, Vitamin A deficiency and IDD as major nutritional problems of public health importance

Direct Nutritional Interventions:

Special Nutrition Programme

Prophylaxis against Anaemia and Vitamin A deficiency

Mid 1970s

Recognition that infection and undernutrition were major causes of morbidity and mortality among infants and children

Multi Sectoral Indirect Interventions Phase:

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP)

Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT)

Nutrition Promotion through poverty alleviation, Public Distribution of Food, Health and Family Welfare measures, Adult Education.


Felt need for nutritional bias in sectoral policies and programmes

Efforts for adoption of a National Nutrition Policy


Recognition that Malnutrition is an impediment to national development; its use as indicator of Development Process

Finalisation of the National Nutrition Policy

Source: Department of Women and Child Development, Government of India, New Delhi.

Major initiatives to improve nutritional status during last fifty years were:
  • Increasing food production
  • Improving food distribution
  • Increasing household food availability through:
  1. Food subsidy direct or indirect
  2. Improving purchasing power
  • Efforts of health sector to tackle:
  1. Micronutrient deficiencies
  2. Infection and unwanted fertility which increases CED

4.3.54 The initiatives and programme taken up during the last fifty years by the centre and state for improving nutritional status are described in detail in the respective chapters; to avoid duplication these are not discussed in this section. The major focus of discussion in this section will be on food supplementation programmes, which have been initiated at the state and national level to combat chronic energy deficiency especially in women and children.

Prevention and management of chronic energy deficiency (CED)

4.3.55 It has long been recognized that pregnant and lactating women and pre-school children are nutritionally the most vulnerable segments of the population and undernutrition in them is associated with major health problems. Small-scale research studies in India and elsewhere had shown that food supplementation is a feasible and effective method of improving nutritional and health status of these groups. Based on these findings, India and many developing countries initiated food supplementation programmes. A number of different programmes have been in operation either exclusively as feeding programmes such as mid day meal programme or as integrated health and nutrition package for vulnerable groups (such as expectant and nursing mothers and under-five children) as in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

The Applied Nutrition Programme (ANP)

Major Food Supplementation Programmes are :
  • Applied Nutrition Programme
  • Special Nutrition Programme
  • Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project I
  • Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project II
  • Integrated Child Development Services Scheme
  • Mid – day Meal Programme

4.3.56 ANP was started in 1963 to promote production of protective food such as vegetables and fruits and ensure their consumption by pregnant or nursing mothers and children. Nutrition education was the main focus and efforts were directed to teach rural communities through demonstration how to produce food for their consumption through their own efforts.

The Special Nutrition Programme (SNP)

4.3.57 This was started in 1970; the objectives was to provide 500 K Cal and 25 g of protein to expectant and nursing mothers and 300 K Cal and 10 g of protein to children six days a week. The programme was taken up in rural areas inhabited predominantly lower socio-economic groups, in tribal areas and urban slums.

Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project

4.3.58 The Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition Project (TINP) was an externally assisted health and nutrition intervention that offered a package of health and nutrition services to young children and pregnant and lactating women in rural Tamil Nadu.

4.3.59 TINP-I was targeted at 6-36 month old children, and pregnant and lactating women. Project activities were started in October 1980 in one pilot block and extended gradually to cover 177 out of a total of 385 rural blocks in the State, by 1989/90. Of these, 31 rural blocks have been subsequently converted to ICDS blocks, so that a total of 146 blocks were covered by TINP-I. The poorest districts not covered by ICDS were selected for coverage under TINP-I

TINP's main goals were:

  • to halve malnutrition among children under four years of age;
  • to reduce infant mortality by 25%;
  • to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the under fives from about 27% to about 5%; and
  • to reduce anaemia in pregnant and nursing women from about 55% to about 20%.

4.3.60 The project had four major components: nutrition services, health services, communications, and monitoring and evaluation. The main strategies were to provide food supplements, nutrition education and primary health care to pregnant and lactating women and children (6-36 month); to monitor the growth of children in this age group through monthly weighing and growth charting; and to provide supplementary feeding and health checks to children with growth faltering, as well as intensive counselling to their mothers. To provide these services, nutrition centres staffed by part-time women community nutrition workers were set up in about 9000 villages. They were assisted by local women's groups created under the project; in addition outreach and referral services for health care was improved.


4.3.61 TINP-II was designed to cover in a phased manner, 316 of the total 385 rural blocks in Tamil Nadu, with an estimated total population of 32.8 million. The target population was children from birth until six years of age (as against 6-36 month old children in TINP I) and pregnant and lactating mothers. The goals of TINP-II include:

  • increasing the proportion of children classified as "nutritionally normal" by 50% in new and 35% in TINP-I areas;
  • reduction in infant mortality to 55 per thousand live births;
  • 50% reduction in incidence of low birth weight.

With the universalisation of ICDS all the TINP blocks will be converted into ICDS blocks.

The Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS)

4.3.62 Experience gained from ANP and SNP showed that it is important to provide health and nutrition inputs and health and nutrition education as an integrated package of services. Therefore, the ICDS programme was initiated in 1975 with the following objectives: -

  • To improve the health and nutrition status of children 0-6 years by providing supplementary food and by coordinating with state health departments to ensure delivery of required health inputs;
  • To provide conditions necessary for pre-school children’s' psychological and social development through early stimulation and education;
  • To provide pregnant and lactating women with food supplements;
  • To enhance the mother's ability to provide proper child care through health and nutrition education;
  • To achieve effective coordination of policy and implementation among the various departments to promote child development.

4.3.63 The anganwadi workers (AWN) provide supplementary food to children under 6 years of age, pregnant and nursing women, pre-school education to children between 3 and 6 years of age and health and nutrition education. Health and family welfare workers (ANM) deliver a package of services including immunization, health check-up, and organise referral services.

4.3.64 The target group receiving food supplementation is children between the age of 6 months to 6 years and pregnant and lactating mothers. Efforts are made to provide 300 calories and 10 grams of proteins per child, 500 calories and 15 to 20 grams proteins for pregnant/nursing women and 600 calories and 20 grams of proteins to severely malnourished children as food supplements. It is expected that about 40% of the target population will utilise the services. It was believed that the programme will be self-targetting and the poorest and the most needy will access the benefits. Experience gained during the last two decades indicate that the most needy may not access the facility and even when they do the food provided acts more as a substitute than as a supplement. The beneficiaries receive the supplements through ICDS infrastructure, which is funded by the Dept. of Women and Child Development. The State Government and UTs meet the cost of food supplements through the State Plan budget. The funding constraints in the states come in the way of regular assured supply of food to the anganwadis. The inputs from the health sector are often suboptimal; referral care for those with severe undernutrition is often not available.

4.3.65 ICDS was initiated in 1975 on an experimental basis in 33 blocks. The initial geographic focus was on tribal, drought-prone areas and blocks with a significant proportion of scheduled caste population. Even though the programme envisages special targetting towards malnourished children, who are to be given double the quantity of the supplement, in practice most beneficiaries of supplementary feeding are not selected through nutritional screening. Over the last two decades the ICDS coverage has progressively increased. As of 1996, there are 4,200 ICDS blocks with 5,92,571 anganwadis in the country; the number of beneficiaries rose from 5.7 million children and 1.2 million mothers in 1985 to 18.5 million children and 3.7 million mothers in 1996.

Evaluation of food supplementation programmes

4.3.66 Concurrent and independent evaluations are being carried out for all ongoing and completed food supplementation programmes so that lessons could be learnt from both successful and unsuccessful programmes. National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) has carried out evaluation of the:

  1. Applied nutrition programme (1977-78)
  2. Vit A prophylaxis programme (1977-78)
  3. Supplementary Nutrition Programme(1980-81)
  4. World food programme assisted supplementary nutrition programme (1981-82)
  5. Tamil Nadu Integrated Nutrition programme
Reasons for lack of improvement in Nutritional status in ICDS areas include:
  • Inadequate coverage of children below three years of age who are at greatest risk of malnutrition;
  • Irregularity of food deliveries to anganwadis and hence irregular feeding and inadequate rations;
  • Poor nutrition education (of mothers and communities) to improve feeding practices at home;
  • Inadequate training of workers in nutrition, growth monitoring, and communication;
  • Poor supervision
  • Poor co-ordination and linkage with health workers
  • Lack of community ownership and participation

Nutrition Foundation of India (NFI) and National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) had conducted evaluation of ICDS. Data from the evaluation conducted by NIPCCD indicates that there was a reduction in severe CED in ICDS areas from 15.3% during 1976-78 to 8.7% during 1986-90. The nutritional status of children in ICDS areas was found to be better than that of children in non-ICDS areas (Fig 1). While 25 percent of nursing mothers in ICDS areas introduced semi-solids supplements to their breast fed infants at 6 months, only 19 percent did so in non-ICDS areas. These evaluations have shown the gains in terms of improvement in nutritional status from the ICDS programme have not been very impressive.

4.3.67 One of the major problems responsible for poor performance is the lack of funds from the States for providing food supplements on a regular basis. During the Ninth Plan in addition to the funds that are available through the State Plan and the externally assisted projects, the funds from ACA for BMS will also be available to fill critical gaps. The focus will be on detection of undernourished children and women who will receive available supplements on priority basis.

ICDS in Ninth Plan

During Ninth Plan efforts will be made to improve performance under ICDS through:
  • Elimination of bottlenecks
  • Improvement in quality and regularity of services
  • Effective inter-sectoral coordination
  • Growth monitoring
  • Targetted nutritional supplements to children and mothers with CED
  • Improvement in Nutrition and health education
  • Active community/ PRI participation

4.3.68 ICDS today is perhaps the largest programme of its kind in the world. ICDS programme is being modified to eliminate problems identified by the evaluation studies. During the Ninth Plan every effort will be made a) to eliminate bottlenecks; b) improve the regularity and quality of services c) ensure effective inter sectoral coordination between health, family welfare and nutrition programmes. Growth monitoring, targetted nutritional supplements to children and mothers with CED, nutrition and health education will be intensified through joint coordination of activities of Anganwadi Workers/ANMs; active community/ PRI participation in planning, implementation and monitoring of ICDS activities at village level will be ensured. Mahila Mandals will be actively involved in implementing various supplementary feeding programmes. By 2002, it is planned to universalise ICDS programme in 5614 blocks with 804671 anganwadis; 57.9 million beneficiaries are to be covered by these anganwadis.

The Mid day Meal Programme

4.3.69 Tamil Nadu was the first state to initiate a massive noon meal programme to children. Under the scheme children between the ages of 2-14 years attending Balwadis/ schools are fed daily through 63,000 Noon Meal Programme centres, at an expense of Rs.0.44-0.90 per beneficiary. This programme has been sustained by the state for nearly two decades. Andhra Pradesh initiated a similar mid day meals programme (MDM) in 1980 which was extended to cover all school children in the state in grade 1 to 5 in 1982-83. These programmes cater only to Balwadi/school children thereby excluding the poorest who cannot attend school. The target age group does not include nutritionally the most vulnerable 6-24 months old children.

The National Programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education

4.3.70 In order to improve the nutritional status and school retention rates among primary school children, the programme for Nutritional Support to Primary Education (popularly known as the Mid-day Meal Scheme) was launched in 1995 as a 100% Centrally funded, Centrally Sponsored Scheme. Under this scheme, all school children in the primary schools in government and government aided schools are to be covered. It was envisaged that children will get pre-cooked food for 10 months in a year; where this is not possible, ready to eat foods or food grains are to be provided. The Food Corporation of India delivers the food grains for this programme directly at the district level under instructions from the central Department of Education.

The National Nutrition Policy

4.3.71 The National Nutrition Policy adopted in 1993 advocates a comprehensive inter-sectoral strategy for alleviating the multi-faceted problem of malnutrition and achieving an optimal state of nutrition for all sections of the society. The Policy seeks to strike a balance between the short term measures like direct nutrition interventions and the long-term measures like institutional/structural changes and thus create an enabling environment and necessary conditions for improving nutritional and health status.

4.3.72 The National Nutrition Goals envisaged under the Policy to be achieved by 2000 AD include: reduction in the incidence of moderate and severe malnutrition among pre-school children by half; reduction in the chronic undernutrition and stunted growth among children; reduction in the incidence of low birth weight to less than 10 percent; elimination of blindness due to Vitamin "A" deficiency; reduction in the iron deficiency anaemia among pregnant women to 25%; universal iodization of salt for reduction of iodine deficiency disorders to below the endemic level; due emphasis to geriatric nutrition; annual production of 250 million tonnes of food grains; improving household food security through poverty alleviation programmes; and promoting appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles.

National Nutrition Policy

Direct Short Term Interventions

Indirect Long Term Interventions

  • Universalisation of ICDS
  • Nutrition education of mother
  • Better coverage of expectant women
  • Reaching the adolescent girls
  • Control and elimination of micronutrient malnutrition
  • Popularisation of low cost nutritious foods
  • Fortification of food
  • Universal coverage of IFA, Vit. A and IDD Control Programme
  • Ensuring household food security
  • Improving dietary pattern
  • Improving purchasing power
  • Strengthening PDS
  • Land Reforms
  • Better health and family welfare coverage
  • Basic nutrition and health education
  • Nutrition surveillance
  • Information, education and communication
  • Research
  • Education and literacy
  • Improving status of women

4.3.73 The Policy also prescribed a series of action points/initiatives to be undertaken by various Ministries/Departments of the Government. Accordingly, a National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN) was formulated in 1995 with sectoral commitments to be undertaken by the 14 nutrition-related Ministries/Departments viz., Agriculture, Food Production, Civil Supplies and Public Distribution, Education, Forestry, Information and Broadcasting, Health and Family Welfare, Labour, Rural Development, Urban Development, Welfare, Women and Child Development etc. The Ministry/Department-wise Action Points, as laid down in the NPAN, are summed up in the following page:

Sectoral Commitments under National Plan of Action on

Nutrition (NPAN)



Sectoral Commitments in the NPAN



To ensure national level food security including buffer stocks and nutritional considerations in Agricultural policy


Civil Supplies and Public Distribution

To ensure food security at the household level by making the essential foods available through the Public Distribution System to the people particularly to the disadvantaged sections.



To provide convergent services under Education Sector to enhance the nutritional and health status of the community with special emphasis on girls’ education and improved status of women.



To popularise the growing of plants/trees supplying food stuffs/fruits with special emphasis on Beta carotene (Vitamin A) rich species in the social forestry programmes with a view to create nutritional awareness and promote the consumption of nutritious foods.



Prevention and control of infections , micronutrient malnutrition, diseases related to inappropriate diets, creating health awareness among the people and ensuring adequate primary health care for all.


Family Welfare

To improve the nutritional status of women and children through nutrition prophylaxis programmes, health and nutrition education and promotion of small family norm.



To ensure food security in the country.


Food Processing Industries

To meet the nutritional needs of the people by giving nutrition orientation to the projects in food processing sector.


Information and broadcasting

To create a climate of awareness in the country about the importance of nutrition for the well being of the people and ways and means of preventing various forms of malnutrition through its different units



To protect and promote the nutrition of various types of labour-agricultural, construction, industrial etc. with special emphasis on children and women at work, through formulation and enforcement of appropriate labour laws.


Rural Development

To improve purchasing power of the people in rural areas through employment generation and poverty alleviation programmes with a view to improve food security at the household level.


Urban Development

To ensure access to social services relating to health care, nutrition , women and child development, preschool and non-formal education and physical amenities like potable water supply, sanitation, sewerage, drainage etc., with a view to improve the nutritional level of the urban poor.



To improve nutrition of the disadvantaged sections of society by ensuring implementation of nutritional components of various welfare programmes.


Women and child development

To ensure appropriate development of human resources both through direct nutrition interventions for specially vulnerable groups as well as through various development policy instruments for improved nutrition as laid down in the National Nutritional Policy. Improving nutrition and health of women and children through strengthening and extension of ICDS programme and setting up of appropriate systems for monitoring the follow-up actions under National Plan of Action for Children

Source:National Plan of Action on Nutrition (NPAN), Dept. of WCD, Government of India, New Delhi, 1995.

Sectoral Progress under NPAN

4.3.74 The Ministry of Agriculture achieved record production of 198.17 million tonnes of food grains and 24.46 million tonnes of oil seeds in 1996-97. The Ministry also intensified its activities towards gender-specific nutritional initiatives under `Women in Agriculture Programmes', besides setting up a Nutrition Cell in the Ministry to take care of the commitments under NPAN. Also, a new scheme called `Horticulture Intervention for Human Nutrition' was being formulated. Under National Watershed Development Project for Rained Areas (NWDPRA), training programmes relating to kitchen garden, home garden, backyard garden, rearing of goat, sheep, pig, rabbit, poultry, fish culture, etc. were conducted to promote production of nutritious foods at the household level.

4.3.75 The Ministry of Civil Supplies, which has the commitment to ensure household level food security, expanded its areas of operation to the most backward and remote areas. It has also sought the intervention of the State machinery in procuring as well as distributing the essential commodities like iodized salt, pulses, ORT packets etc. The rise in expenditure on account of food subsidy from Rs.2, 000 crores per annum in 1986-87 to Rs.6, 114 crores in 1996-97 clearly indicates the priority accorded to the food security system in the country. Further, to make the present Public Distribution System more effective, the programme was recast as Revamped PDS and launched in 2,446 Blocks of the Area Development Projects, specially to cover the population in the drought-prone Areas, desert development areas, integrated tribal development project areas and other remote areas. Later, in February 1997, the programme of RPDS was further recast as Targetted Public Distribution System (TPDS) to ensure household food security with a special focus on the people living below the poverty line. It also accorded importance to people's participation in general and participation of women in particular, by giving priority/reservation to women in allotting Fair-Price Shops and including them in the vigilance committees. To ensure effective supply of essential food items to the disadvantaged sections of the society, as many as 4 lakh Fair Price Shops were set up to cater to 16 crore families distributing the food worth more than Rs.15, 000 crores by the end of 1996-97.

4.3.76 In the education sector, a nation-wide programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (Mid-Day Meal Scheme) was launched in 1995 to give a boost to Universalisation of Primary Education by increasing enrollment, retention and attendance and simultaneously impacting upon nutritional levels of primary school children. By March 1997, the programme was expanded to cover a total of 5.57 crore primary school children in 4426 Blocks with a focus on low Female Literacy Blocks.

4.3.77 While the strength of the nutrition programmes of the Ministry of Forests and Environment lies in involving the local communities at district level in growing nutrition-rich plants/fruits like Mango, Ber, Amla, Tamarind, Guava, Orange, Apple etc., it also distributed seedlings of high quality plants and fruits rich with B Carotene and Vitamin A. Steps were also taken to create employment avenues for the rural labourers as a direct response to NPAN. In fact, 70 per cent of the total allocation of the Ministry was spent for employment generation and raising the income levels of the poor. People's participation in the Joint Forestry Management Programme initiated by the Ministry could provide rights to the local tribal communities to collect various forest products for their consumption besides ensuring improvement in the nutritional status of those living below the poverty line.

4.3.78 The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is implementing programmes for prevention, detection and management of chronic energy deficiency, anaemia, vitamin A deficiency and iodine deficiency disorders. The Department of Family Welfare funds the National Prophylaxis programme against nutritional blindness aims at providing massive dose Vitamin "A" to infants and children between 9-36 months of age. In order to improve the coverage the first dose of Vitamin "A" is administered at the time of Measles Immunization and the next dose administered along with the Booster dose of DPT and OPV. It has been reported that under the modified regimen, there has been substantial improvement in the coverage with first dose (50-75%). However, coverage for the subsequent doses is low.

4.3.79 The Department of Family Welfare also funds the National Prophylaxis Programme against Nutritional Anaemia aimed at Iron and Folic Acid supplementation to pregnant women. The IDD Control Programme of the Department of Health aims at prevention, early detection and appropriate management of IDDs. The programme of health and nutrition education to pregnant women has achieved 90-95 per cent coverage. Breast-Feeding provides optimum nutrients and promotes growth during infancy. It also protects against infections. Hence, breast-feeding is promoted at all levels, in the community and in the hospitals. IEC to promote and protect breast feeding, timely and appropriate semi-solid supplements to breast fed infants are taken up. Early detection and prompt treatment of infection and growth faltering in infancy and childhood are other major initiatives.

4.3.80 The Ministry of Food ensures protection of quality and nutritive value of food grains right from the collection to ultimate consumption. In this process, it procured as much as 91.94 lakh tonnes of rice and 81.83 lakh tonnes of wheat till January, 1997. About 803.3 tonnes of rice and 596.00 tonnes of wheat were distributed for the benefit of weaker sections through the programmes of RPDS, JRY, MDM, NP etc. To train/equip the local farmers with the knowledge of scientific storage of food grains to prevent the nutritive losses in storage, special storage structures have been developed by the Indian Grain Storage Institute, Hapur, Uttar Pradesh.

4.3.81 The Ministry of Food Processing Industries, in-charge of manufacturing ready-to-eat nutritious foods and cooked food, has set up an exclusive Task Force for translating the Nutrition Policy directives into concrete plan of action to bridge effectively the calorie gap and micro-nutrient deficiencies prevalent amongst children in general and the school-going children, in particular, through Mid-Day Meals Programme.

4.3.82 The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting which is the nodal agency in the area of mass communication was closely involved in creating nutritional awareness and the importance of balanced diet, measures to prevent nutritional deficiencies etc. through various media channels of AIR, Doordarshan and Field Publicity Units. The Ministry made special efforts to reach the messages concerning health and nutrition to the masses through appropriate jingles, filmlets, and advertisements with proper screening and punch lines. Doordarshan has been effectively telecasting messages daily, at prime time, on nutrition, family welfare and other related themes, free of charge. The Ministry was also actively involved in developing communication and executional strategies to increase the consumption levels of micronutrients viz., Vitamin "A" and Iron of various nutrition programmes.

4.3.83 The Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment is trying to improve the purchasing power of the rural people through various poverty alleviation, employment and income generation programmes. The on-going programme of DWCRA which extends credit and employment opportunities for women was further strengthened to fill the critical gaps in the areas of nutrition, immunization and other child care services. Since its inception in 1983, 1.36 lakh Self-Help Groups were formed benefiting 21.82 lakh women till March, 1997. The other major programme of JRY extends employment avenues to agricultural labourers, SCs/STs, women and freed bonded labourers etc., during the lean seasons of agriculture. The Employment Assurance Scheme reserves 30 per cent of employment for the benefit of women. In order to provide self-employment opportunities to rural youth in general and adolescent girls in particular, the scheme of TRYSEM was engaged in equipping them with technical know-now of many modern trades and entrepreneurial skills. Of the total of 38.20 lakh persons trained under TRYSEM, 19.49 lakh persons have already been employed through self/wage-employment. By the end of 1995-96, about 82 percent of rural population have been provided with safe drinking water. Thus, out of the 13.18 lakh `No - Source' habitations, 12.01 lakh (91.1%) habitations were provided with safe drinking water.

4.3.84 The Ministry of Urban Development has a commitment to improve the nutritional levels of urban poor by ensuring access to social services like nutrition, health care, education, potable water etc. In these efforts, it paid special attention to the weaker sections through the programme of Urban Basic Services for the Poor (UBSP). During the Eighth Plan, the programme has already crossed the target of covering 70 lakh population and reached an achievement of 82 lakh urban poor which includes infants, pre-school children, expectant and nursing mothers. In order to eliminate Iodine deficiency, the Ministry was also successful in initiating/monitoring the availability of iodized salt in a phased manner through UBSP Groups. The Ministry awarded top priority to supply potable water to the slum dwellers and the other poor population living around the slums. Already 85.0 percent of the urban population gained access to safe drinking water. This, in fact, has fulfilled the achievement of the set target viz. covering not less than 3/4th of urban population by 1997 and universal access by 2000 A.D.

4.3.85 The Ministry of Welfare made special efforts to ensure that adequate food and nutrition services reach the vulnerable groups viz., SCs, STs, OBCs, Minorities and the Disabled living below the poverty line as they are a nutritionally vulnerable group. In this direction, it has also launched a special programme called Grain Banks to ensure the availability of food stocks in the most inaccessible tribal areas inhabited by primitive tribes. It also laid special emphasis on extending adequate nutrition services as the vital component for prevention/rehabilitation of a number of preventable disabilities.

4.3.86 The Department of Women and Child Development (WCD), is the nodal agency responsible for implementation of the National Nutrition Policy (NNP), and is committed to improve the nutritional status of the population and thus reduce the incidence of malnutrition prevalent amongst pre-school children, adolescent girls, expectant and nursing mothers. The scheme of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) extends a package of essential services comprising supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up, referral services, pre-school education and nutrition and health education to children and expectant and nursing mothers.

4.3.87 The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) along with its 43 Community-Food and Nutrition Extension Units, was actively involved in effective dissemination of nutrition-cum-health related information besides educating the target population in 27 States. Under the programme of Integrated Nutrition Education, FNB organized more than 500 camps to expand intensive practical orientation to 38,000 grass-root level functionaries. It also organized 63708 demonstration camps and 4205 training courses during the Eighth Plan period. FNB also put in special efforts to generate nutritional awareness amongst rural masses by using multi-media strategy including print and electronic soft-ware. Nutrition messages were disseminated through 37 million printed post cards. During the Eighth Plan period, 12 new Dairies were established to fortify milk with Vitamin `A' and fortified 6088 MT salt with Iron. During 1996-97, 35 voluntary organizations have been assisted to organize 6000 nutrition education camps and 24 Mini-Exhibitions to create mass awareness about the importance of nutrition and health in everybody's life.

4.3.88 The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad has developed palatable l low- cost recipes for supplementary feeding in children. It also developed sample kits to monitor Iodine content in salt. In addition to this, the Institute is also responsible to bring forth messages, education programmes, and audio-visual aids in building nutrition awareness in the general population. NIN has successfully completed 3 years of operational research on horticultural intervention for promoting Vitamin nutrition in rural areas, which has enhanced the micronutrient consumption at domestic household level. The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau has been conducting surveys in 10 States since 1972 and carrying evaluation of ongoing nutrition programmes.

4.3.89 The Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore was actively engaged in developing cost-effective enriched food products, designing and fabricating food processing industries and conducting studies to develop various low cost, appropriate nutritionally rich recipes from locally available food stuffs. The Institute also developed low cost supplementary food from roasted cereals and pulses with 450-600 Kcal and 12-20g protein for ICDS programme. Institute has also prepared food mixes for diabetics, geriatric population, and various ready-to-eat food items in conformity with the Indian recipes and food habits especially for the benefit of working women.

Progress during 1951-1996 and Initiatives during the Ninth Plan

Food Production

4.3.90 One of the major achievements in the last fifty years has been the green revolution and self-sufficiency in food production. Food grain production has increased from 50.82 in 1950-51 to 198.8 million tons in 1996-97. It is a matter of concern that while the cereal production has been growing steadily at a rate higher than the population growth rate, the coarse grain and pulse production has not shown a similar increase. Consequently there has been a reduction in the per capita availability of pulses (from 60.7 grams to 34 grams per day) and coarse grains (Table-4.3.2, Fig 2).


Production of Food grains – Average Annual Growth
(Million Tonnes)




Coarse Cereals Pulses Total Food Grains Compound Annual Growth (Percent)










































*Estimated; Source:- Economic Survey 97-98

4.3.91 Reduction in per capita pulse availability may adversely affect the protein intake. Coarse grains that are inexpensive and can provide substantially higher calories for the same cost. If made available through PDS at subsidised rates, these will be self-targetting and improve calorie intake and reduce "hunger" among the poorest segments of population. Efforts to increase production of pulses and coarse grain and distribution of coarse grain through PDS might be taken up during Ninth Plan period.

4.3.92 Yet another area of concern is the lack of sufficient focus and thrust in horticulture; because of this, availability of vegetables especially green leafy vegetables and yellow/red vegetables throughout the year at affordable cost both in urban and rural areas has remained an unfulfilled dream. Health and nutrition education emphasising the importance of consuming these inexpensive rich sources of micronutrients will not result in any change in food habits unless there is harnessing and effective management of horticultural resources in the country to meet the growing needs of the people at affordable cost. Efforts in this direction are being taken up in the Ninth Plan period.

Per capita income and expenditure on food

4.3.93 Poverty and lack of purchasing power has been identified as the two major factors responsible for low food intake. The per capita Net National Product at 1980-81 prices has increased from Rs. 1127 in 1951 to Rs 2449 by 1995. Food for work programme, EAS, DWCRA have also helped in improving purchasing power of the population. During the last five decades there has been a marked improvement in the incomes. Especially among the middle and upper income group population in urban areas, there has been substantial diversification in the household food basket and consequent improvement in the quality of food consumed. Life styles have become more sedentary and as a result the energy (calorie) requirement has declined. Simultaneously there has been an improvement in the availability and utilisation of health care. As a result of all these factors there is a substantial reduction in severe grades of undernutrition and severe deficiency diseases among the vulnerable pre-school children and perceptible improvement in nutritional status of the entire population.

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