Needs-based Public Distribution System can address malnutrition in India

MSSRF, Chennai, Nov 27, 2019: Studying the needs and preferences of the public for Public Distribution of Food in India is important, as there is regular mismatch in what is needed and what is distributed. This is an obstacle to improve food security and address malnutrition in India, said Dr Mamata Pradhan, Associate Research Fellow at the Tata Cornell Institute in Cornell University New York.

Speaking at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Dr Pradhan presented her research on how PDS performs after a comparative analysis of three Indian states. The study across Bihar, Odisha and Eastern Uttar Pradesh suggests that knowing the needs of the public can help successful delivery of the Public Distribution of Food in India.

For instance, in Bihar due to low quality of rice distributed, people prefer wheat, resulting in change of dietary pattern of many economically backward people. In many places in Bihar, there is a perception that consuming rice gives a social status while nutri cereals are poor man’s food. In Odisha though men preferred cash transfer instead of food, many women preferred food coupons to minimise the interference with the dealer.

Prof M S Swaminathan who chaired the event said “Procurement is important for distribution, while both depend on prices. Though India has improved in production, the extent of malnutrition is very high, that we need to prioritize to eliminate. We need to analyse why millets are not favourable in selection, one reason that we found in Kolli Hills was ‘processing’ and the solution was using machines to process instead of hand pounding”. He said that millets are nutritious and tolerant to Climate Change, so we need to find ways to promote their consumption.

Scientists, students, and development practitioners attended the seminar and shared their views during the interactive session after the presentation.