India’s Plan to Feed 800 Million People Is Either Amazing or Insane

The jury is still out on this one

  • Share
  • Read Later
Subsidized food grains are distributed to eligible families in New Delhi on Sept. 1, 2013
Arvind Yadav / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

Subsidized food grains are distributed to eligible families in New Delhi on Sept. 1, 2013

For decades, the Indian government has been distributing subsidized food to millions of poor. But last September, New Delhi went a significant step further: Parliament passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA), guaranteeing access to subsidized food to nearly 70% of the 1.2 billion population. In an unprecedented experiment, the central government is now legally bound to provide each of over 800 million people — just shy of the combined populations of the U.S. and the European Union — 5 kg of subsidized food grains every month. (The poorest receive more, and states also run their own food-subsidy programs.)

For these people, food is now a right, not a luxury, and it’s up to officials to make sure they get it. The program, if successful, could give a major boost to the ruling Congress Party ahead of national elections this spring. The problem, critics say, is that the landmark legislation relies on an unwieldy network of farmers, buyers, storage facilities and sellers to provide some 60 million tons of subsidized grains each year.

(MORE: Poor Sanitation, Not Malnutrition, May Be to Blame for India’s Notoriously Stunted Children)

In many ways, the system works: according to a recent study, in fiscal 2011–12, over 500 million Indians received 51.3 million tons of subsidized food, or more than 10 times the amount of direct food aid delivered by the World Food Programme in 2011. But in 2005 the government estimated that nearly 60% of its grain did not reach beneficiaries because of theft, corruption and difficulties identifying the needy. More recent studies show that has improved somewhat, but over 17% of Indians are still undernourished, according to the 2013 Global Hunger Index.

Few would argue against getting food to more Indians. But not all agree the NFSA is the way to do it. The law is expected to cost the government about $20 billion in fiscal 2013–14 as it rolls out across India. That’s a moderate increase over what the government has already been spending on food programs, and its supporters say it is nothing short of a moral obligation of the government to its citizens. “The question is not whether we can do it or not,” Sonia Gandhi, leader of India’s ruling Congress Party, said in a rare public speech to lawmakers before the bill’s passage. “We have to do it.”

But critics say that more spending on welfare programs — especially when that spending relies on a flawed system — is reckless in an economy burdened by a weakened currency and a large fiscal deficit. Says Ashok Gulati, chairman of India’s Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices: “The economic inefficiencies and the losses incurred [in the system] will outweigh the welfare gains you are trying to achieve.”

Can India’s ambitious scheme work? Read the full story here, and read Michael Schuman’s viewpoint on the law here.

MORE: All In a Day’s Work: Can India Promise Poor Households 100 Days’ Work a Year?

55 comments
AlP.Makedonon
AlP.Makedonon

food is now a right, not a luxury, and it’s up to officials to make sure they get it.


EXCELLENT & TRUE! Right on India

Sunny James Toppo
Sunny James Toppo

This is coming from the liberal left progressives!!! India, despite being underdeveloped, is seeking to feed 800mn... America,the largest economy, is cutting welfare.. This article shows how leftist liberal progressivism is just a poiltical tool....The project should have been supported and lauded by the moral leftists..but somehow, it doesn't how..

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The FBI, CIA, and NSA need to be abolished and replaced with a transparent Public Information Bureau (PIB).

Pawan Bhatia
Pawan Bhatia

this should become a practice globally,give them the cost of produce and a bureacrats salary except the farmers and soldiers who in this world actually works,it is a great scehme encourage it.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

I once called the FBI to report police corruption and harassment, and they left me hanging for a half-hour. Bad move, morons.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Did the NSA perpetuate 9/11 so as to create an excuse to increase its own power?

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

In fact, the degree to which they collect private information on Americans (5 billion cell phones for the world), makes them terrorists to their own citizens.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The NSA, FBI, and CIA are, in reality, terrorist organizations to the rest of the world. They do not observe international law, but do what they want without any regard for the rights of the citizens of other countries.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The public has a right to all government information and what the government does with it. "National interest" is legal speak for "we do what we want." Wrong.

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

The NSA, according to the constitutional principle of unreasonable search and seizure, is unconstitutional. Eventually, a president is going to dismantle the NSA, and GREATLY restructure the CIA, FBI, and other "shadow" organizations that do not serve the constitution or American people, but solely their own vindictive interests.

Pam Varu
Pam Varu

The congress garibi hatao is finally taking its shape with this amazing $20 bn feeding program to 800 mn people.

Alokananda Bisoyi
Alokananda Bisoyi

it's really looks impossible but,good leadership and propper planning by experts can make it and it's not amazing for us because we have turned many impossible things into reality and you are spreading negative news against india because of devyani case!

Don Wilmer
Don Wilmer

Another massive scam on the way. Loot baby loot!

Avinash Rehsi
Avinash Rehsi

Stop posting negative news about India.. We know u guys are pissed coz of Devyani Khobragade issue.

Supam Chakma
Supam Chakma

Yup...this is why they call it Incredible India :-P

def__init__e
def__init__e

When India announces a food subsidy scheme:


Foreign Press: Can India afford to waste money on welfare schemes when its manufacturing sector languishes?


When India announces a space launch:


Foreign Press: Can India afford to waste money on a space program when millions of its poor starve?



John Mark
John Mark

Man cannot live on bread alone :)

Mary Thomas
Mary Thomas

There`s lots of things that were accomplished that many thought impossible... In India especially much has been accomplished that others thought impossible!

abhayetn
abhayetn

This is a last ditch attempt to save their asses because Congress knew they were going OUT. While made with little intention of completing their obligation and with entirely wrong intentions, there is still the possibility of at least a little good coming out of this if the new gov is more conscientious.

Alişan Güven
Alişan Güven

Hello friends, please don't be silent to lies of medias like Financial Times, Time and The Economist. Let's unite on the internet. For example, The Financial Times write that internet freedom is blocked by Turkey Goverment in Turkey, and as the cause FInancial Times(FT) show that Turkey Goverment wanted that 1600 pages about Child Abuse on google to take out by google, but google didn't accept. This is so comically, in so this right decision of Turkey Goverment also, Shamelesslly FT can show as a reason. This is just one of that milions lies and distorting news are done by like FTin our countries and world. Some manipulative and self against only about being human media, like Dogan Media, gets Like lies news and publishs in Turkey , with it they are making psychological coup. Just as it was in Egypt. PLEASE LET US UNITE! Internet is excellent opportunity, the best power. External forces so easy can do their news as english also as turkish in Turkey and World. Why can not we do? For it, we must be unite, together helping to be in one power, we can open pages on internet and be bigger. To USA's lawlessnesses, to France's "frenchness" and its holocausts we should write news, and we should write on their languages and in their countries we must publish on internet. so their citizents can read reallty. I believe that their citizient dont know many reallty about their capital deep goverments. just in their countries there are demokrasy, out of them there arent any demokrasy, because they dont want. because they just are interesting of their public, they listen just their public. They dont listen our public, because their public choose them. So we must show reallty to their public. demokrasy must be where people want. for example in suudi arabistan people dont want demokrasy, and in england people dont want full demokrasy(there are just half demokrasy in england) but these publics are happy, no necessary demokrasy or full demokrasy. but in Egypt, Suria, Iran, Turkey publics want demokrasy. We can be more bigger in google, youtube , facebook, and we can show and write true speedly when any lie news to be in these lies newspaper and magazins.

Vimal Prakash
Vimal Prakash

comlete insanity and totally meant to earn votes.

Reyniel Dg
Reyniel Dg

please include ph to make it exactly 9oo million thanks :)

arvay
arvay

Those who object to this approach need to put forward a better idea.  India already has democratic elections and free enterprise, so those don't seem to be sufficient. 

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Food For Thought: That awkward moment when people complain about sexual objectification, and then pretend doing it behind closed doors doesn't make it a thing.

Vijay Banga
Vijay Banga

70% land in Flour mills and sold at market prices , well knit collusion between all connected

Olivia Adcock
Olivia Adcock

I dont think that theres nothing insane about it. I hope that they reach thier goal.

Mary Fooshée
Mary Fooshée

Not when millions are starving! Effort without results are hollow!

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Is life not best approached as a dedication to continual improvement? Efficiency of progress if you will?

Harrison Joshua Cande
Harrison Joshua Cande

Effort, not accomplishment, should receive the highest congratulations, because then there are no laurels to rest on.

Bret Swain
Bret Swain

the problem with corruption is that is what happens. This is mind boggling!

ThelipThelip
ThelipThelip

"we have turned many impossible things into reality" , just about everything in India that works was given to them by someone else. The Indian middle class is being kept alive in America as H1B's, India is still a third world country that believes in an antiquated caste system that is similar to Americas slavery period. 


Oh and as for the "stop posting negative news about India crowd" the truth is the truth and in America EVERYONE has freedom of speech and EVERYONE is equal.