Averting hunger during monsoon calls for bold food security measures -Jean Dreze

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published Published on Jun 9, 2020   modified Modified on Jun 9, 2020

-The Indian Express

The cash crunch is hindering the state governments’ relief efforts at every step. Centre must urgently provide additional foodgrain to poorest states for expanding PDS coverage.

As the monsoon advances, there is an urgent need to consider what can be done to prevent hunger during the rainy season — the hardest time of the year for poor families in large parts of rural India. The monsoon is expected to be good, but the kharif harvest is many months away. Meanwhile, with their reserves depleted by the lockdown, millions of people will find it hard to keep on going. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) may help, but large numbers are likely to remain exposed to food insecurity.

So far, the public distribution system (PDS) has protected the bulk of the population from hunger. This owes much to the doubling of food rations for an initial period of three months, starting last April. In recent telephonic conversations with local observers in 46 blocks spread all over Jharkhand, we learnt that double rations were reaching in 42 blocks. This is not perfect, but it does make a big difference, and if it is happening in Jharkhand, chances are that double rations are — by and large — reaching elsewhere too. Food rations are, at any rate, certainly reaching a large majority of poor households — that much is clear from a series of recent surveys.

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The Indian Express, 9 June, 2020, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/nrega-funds-migrant-workers-monsoon-pds-scheme-6449293/

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