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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
Agrawal, A. (2011). The PDS in rural Odisha: against the grain. Economic & Political Weekly, 46(36), 21–23.
Ahluwalia, D. (1993). Public distribution of food in India: coverage, targeting, and Leakages. Food Policy, 18(1), 33–54.
Ahmed, A. U., Hoddinot, J., Roy, S., Sraboni, E., Quabili, W., & Margolies A. (2016). Which kinds of social safety net transfers work best for the ultra poor in Banglaesh? Operation and impacts of the transfer madality research inititiative. Project report. Dhaka: International Food Policy Research Institute.
Babu, S. C., Havimo, T., & Pehu, E. (2015). Fostering agriculture-nutrition links: recommendations for agriculture extension curriculum reforms in India. Agriculture Global Practice Note 2. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Becker, S. O., & Ichino, A. (2002). Estimation of average treatment effects based on propensity scores. The Stata Journal, 2(4), 358–377.
Chatterjee, M. (2014). An improved PDS in a ‘reviving’ state: food security in Koraput, Odisha. Economic and Political Weekly, 49(45), 49–59.
Dandekar, V. M. (1996). The Indian Economy, 1947–92, Volume 2: population, poverty and employment. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Dreze, J. (2016). How Odisha managed to make public distribution system work, news in catchnews.com, January 25, 2016. http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/jean-dreze-explains-how-odisha-managed-to-make-public-distribution-system-work-1453720234.html/fullview.
Dreze, J., & Khera, R. (2013). Rural poverty and the public distribution system. Economic and Political Weekly, 45/46(16), 55–60.
GoI (Government of India) (2013a). National food security act 2013. Part II, section 1, The Gazette of India, September 10, 2013. New Delhi: Ministry of Law and Justice, GoI. Available at http://indiacode.nic.in/acts-in-pdf/202013.pdf. Accessed 15 Nov2014.
GoI (Government of India). (2013b). Poverty estimates for 2011–12 (July 2013). New Delhi: Planning Commission, GoI.
GoI (Government of India). (2016). Economic survey 2015–16. New Delhi: Ministry of Finance, GoI.
Himanshu, & Sen, A. (2011). Why not a universal food security legislation. Economic & Political Weekly, 46(12), 38–47.
Himanshu, & Sen, A. (2013a). In-kind food transfers – II, impact on nutrition and implications for food security and its costs. Economic and Political Weekly, 48(47), 60–73.
Himanshu, & Sen, A. (2013b). In-kind food transfers – I: impact on poverty. Economic and Political Weekly, 48(45–46), 46–54.
Hirway, I. (2003). Identification of BPL house-holds for poverty alleviation programmes. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(45), 4803–4808.
Jha, S., & Ramaswami, B. (2010). How can food subsidies work better? Answers from India and the Philippines. In Working Paper 221. Manila: Asian Development Bank.
Joshi, P. K., Parappurathu, S., & Kumar, P. (2016). Dynamics of food consumption and nutritional Insecurity in India. Proceedings of Indian National Science Academy, 82(5), 1587–1599.
Kaul, T. (2013). Household responses to food subsidies: evidence from India. College Park: University of Maryland.
Kaushal, N., & Muchomba, F. M. (2015). How consumer price subsidies affect nutrition. World Development, 74, 25–42.
Khera, R. (2008). Access to the targeted public distribution system: a case study in Rajasthan. Economic and Political Weekly, 43(44), 51–56.
Khera, R. (2011a). Trends in diversion of grain from the public distribution system. Economic & Political Weekly, 46(21), 106–114.
Khera, R. (2011b). Revival of the public distribution system: evidence and explanations. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(44, 45), 36–50.
Khera, R. (2011c). India’s public distribution system: utilisation and impact. The Journal of Development Studies, 47(7), 1038–1060.
Kishore, A., & Chakrabarti, S. (2015). Is more inclusive more effective? The “New Style” public distribution system in India. Food Policy, 55, 117–130. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2015.06.006.
Kochar, A. (2005). Can targeted food programs improve nutrition? An empirical analysis of India’s public distribution system. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 54(1), 203–235.
Krishnamurthy, P., Pathania, V., & Tandon, S. (2014). Public distribution system reforms and consumption in Chhattisgarh: a comparative empirical analysis. Economic and Political Weekly, 49(8), 74–81.
Kumar, S. K. (1979). Impact of subsidized rice on food consumption and nutrition in Kerala. In Research report 5, International Food Policy Research Institute, January, 1979. Washington D.C.: IFPRI.
Kumar, A., & Ayyappan, S. (2014). Food security and public distribution system in India. Agricultural Research, 3(3), 271–277.
Kumar, P., Mruthyunjaya, & Dey, M. M. (2007). Long-term changes in food basket and nutrition in India. Economic and Political Weekly, 42(35), 3567–3572.
Kumar, A., Bantilan, M. C. S., Kumar, P., Kumar, S., & Jee, S. (2012). Food security in India: trends, patterns and determinants. Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, 67(3), 445–463.
Kumar A., Parappurathu, S., Babu, Suresh, & Betne, R. (2016). Public distribution system in Bihar, India: implications for food security. Journal of Agriculture and Food Information. https://doi.org/10.1080/10496505.2016.1206018.
Mahamallik, M., & Sahu, G. B. (2011). Identification of the poor: errors of exclusion and inclusion. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(9), 71–77.
Margolies, A., & Hoddinott, J. F. (2015). Costing alternative transfer modalities. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 7(1), 1–16.
Meenakshi, J.V. (2016). Trends and patterns in the triple burden of malnutrition in India. Working Paper No. 256, New Delhi, India: Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
Mooij, J. (1999). Food policy and the Indian state: the public distribution system in South India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization). (2012). Consumption and expenditure survey (various rounds), 50th (1993–94), 61st (2004–05), 66th (2009–10) and 68th (2011–12). New Delhi: Government of India.
Pinstrup-Andersen, P. (2015). Food price policy in an era of market instability: a political economy analysis. WIDER Studies in Development Economics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Radhakrishna, R., Subbarao, K., Indrakant, S., & Ravi, C. (1997). India’s PDS: a national and international perspective. In World Bank Discussion Paper 380. Washington DC: World Bank.
Rahman, A. (2016). Universal food security program and nutritional intake: evidence from the hunger prone KBK districts in Odisa. Food Policy, 63(2016), 73–86.
Suryanarayana, M. H. (1995). Growth, poverty and levels of living: hypotheses, methods and policies. Journal of Indian School of Political Economy, 7(2), 203–255.
Swaminathan, M., & Misra, N. (2001). Errors of targeting. Economic and Political Weekly, 36(26), 2447–2454.
Tritah, A. (2003). The public distribution system in India: counting the poor from making the poor count. GREMAQ, Universit’e des Sciences Sociales, Toulouse.
UN (United Nations). (2015). The millennium development goals report 2015. New York: United Nations.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
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