NEW DEHLI, India – India is one of the world’s most malnourished countries despite the fact that it is also one of the world’s largest producers of food. It ranks 65 out of 79 countries in the 2012 Global Hunger index. In order to combat this discrepancy between production and hunger, India’s government is launching a new food aid program.
The program will sell subsidized wheat and rice to 67% of India’s population. At a cost of $22 billion a year, this food aid program will act as an expansion upon an existing program, Antyodaya Ann Yojana, that is currently supplying food to 218 million people. With this increase in food distribution, 75% of rural residents and 50% urban residents will receive five kilograms of grain a month at the low cost of one to three rupees depending on the type of grain.
Meanwhile, Antyodaya Ann Yojana will continue to provide grain to the poorest households. The new food aid extension is unique because it will target nutrition and food for pregnant and lactating mothers with maternity payments of 6,000 rupees. Additionally, children between six months to 14 years would be allotted take-home rations or hot meals.
In addition to directly supplying people with grain, the food aid program would also aim to extend subsidies to Indian States and territories that are grain-scarce. Government assistance would be provided to transport grains.
Despite the good intentions of this food aid program, critics are still quick to note that targeting grain subsidization would be difficult and cumbersome for the Indian government. Known for poor distribution and corrupt state-owned ration shops, critics fear that grain will still not wind up in the hands of the people that need it the most. There are others who argue that the cost of this new grain distribution is simply too much for the government finances. The cost of scaling up the current Food aid program would be primarily due to improving infrastructure, storage and transportation. The government would still certainty have to increase its budget food supply subsidy. Additionally, a combination of bumper harvests and inefficient handling could prove to be a daunting hurdle for the food aid program.
However, the new food aid program’s benefits would still be highly significant. Indian political and economic analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta suggest that the benefits of this new food aid would probably outweigh its initial problems in the long run. He also believes that by subsidizing more grain, India would be forced to address inefficiencies in distribution. Therefore, though there exists many foreseeable problems in the food aid system, the money spent would ultimately make a positive impact.
– Grace Zhao
Sources: CNN, The Daily Meal
Photo: Washington Street Journal