Governance of food distribution systems as part of social safety net programs continues to be a major concern for policy makers in developing countries. In this paper we assess how successful recent initiatives in governance of public food distribution (PDS) in the Indian state of Odisha have been in dealing with inefficiencies that have long plagued it. Analysis, based on data from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and micro-level evidence obtained from Village Level Studies (VLS), indicate a marked revival in governance of food distribution in the state with several positive outcomes. These include much wider coverage of PDS from 6.4% of households in 1993–1994 to 58.3% in 2011–2012, notable improvements in cereal consumption at the household level across both rural and urban areas and improved nutrition of a large segment of the socially and economically weaker sections of society.
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Two survey schedules were used in 2011–12 based upon the 30 day and 7 day recall period. This paper uses the 30 day schedule for the sake of comparability over time.
The VLS are longitudinal surveys initiated by ICRISAT in 1975 in 10 Indian villages. Surveys continued for the next 10 years, before formally closing in 1985 due to budgetary pressure. The surveys were re-opened in 2002 in the initial six villages, starting with low frequency rounds and with higher frequency interviews since 2005–06. Subsequently in 2010, the coverage was enhanced in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) by including 12 villages in eastern India with the funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gram panchayats are the lowest-level administrative organs of the three-tier governance system, which is followed in the states of India in order to ensure decentralized governance with greater community participation.
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This paper is drawn from the research work undertaken in the Project ‘Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA)’ coordinated by ICRISAT with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The authors thank the BMGF for financial assistance and ICRISAT for the overall coordination, technical and administrative support. We are equally grateful to NCAP, a network partner under the project for facilitating data collection and other technical activities. We are also indebted to other collaborating scientists in the project whose expert directions from time to time were useful in shaping the paper. The sustained cooperation of the farmer interviewees was critical to the success of the study and we owe a great deal to them. Technical and secretarial assistance from Mr. Shivjee, data collection and enumeration services from field staff and the comments and suggestions received from the participants of various seminars and conferences organized under the Project are also gratefully acknowledged.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest with any organizations or individuals.
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Kumar, A., Parappurathu, S., Babu, S.C. et al. Can better governance improve food security? An assessment of the public food distribution system in Odisha, India. Food Sec. 9, 1433–1445 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-017-0736-5
- Food distribution system
- Food security
- Calorie intake
- Social inclusion
- Village level studies