Resource centre on India's rural distress

Beyond food rations: Six ways India can ensure nutrition security for its most vulnerable people -R Gopinath & B Jayashree

The country has adequate stockpiles of foodgrain. But how can it ensure a varied diet for its people during this crisis?

For agricultural labourer Dhanalakshmi Manikandan, her home garden in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukkottai district has never looked more appealing. With her daily income cut of by the lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the vegetables in her garden have become a valuable part of the daily meal for her family of five. “We never thought the brinjal, drumstick and banana in my backyard would be such a blessing at this time,” she said.

Manikandan’s husband, a carpenter who earns daily wages, has been unable to work during lockdown. Her son, a contract worker with a company in Chennai, has been home without salary for over two months. The family of five is dependent on government support of Rs 1,000 per month, the Rs 500 deposited into Manikandan’s Jan Dhan account as part of the government’s Covid-19 economic support plan and rations from the Public Distribution Scheme.

 The lockdown has focussed attention on India’s employment crisis as the economy has left 24% of Indians without work. It has also raised a much larger concern – nutrition security for the most vulnerable.

In a policy brief issued in April, the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations noted in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that good health would be elusive without access to nutritious food for those who need it the most. Lockdowns and quarantines that disrupt food supply chains and limit consumer spending and purchasing power have a greater impact on people with low or irregular incomes.

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