FEEDING INDIA: A NEW COST-EFFECTIVE AND
IMPLEMENTABLE MODEL TO COUNTER MALNUTRITION.
a) Rates of malnutrition among India’s children are almost
five times more than in China, and twice those in Sub-
b) Too often, new mothers are adolescents.75% of them
are anemic and most put on less weight during
pregnancy than they should - 5 kilograms on average
compared to the worldwide average of close to 10kgs.
c) In 1998/99 (i.e. the latest date for which nationally
representative data are available), 47% of children
under three in India were underweight and 18% were
d) A further 26% were mildly underweight so that, in total,
underweight afflicted almost three-quarters of Indian
Malnutrition in India: Facts and
e) The prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies among children and women of reproductive age in India is also consistently
among the highest in the world. For example, the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) among preschool children
is over 75%. 52% of all ever-married women aged 15 to 49 years have some degree of anemia, with the prevalence of
anemia among pregnant women even higher (up to 87%).
f) Up to 60% of preschool children have subclinical VADc; and, about one in four school children have goiter, a sign of
severe iodine deficiency.
Components of a Solution
1. Short term policy improvements to PDS and ICDS
2. Long term policy innovation that takes into account the following socio-economic
factors (statistically proven to affect malnutrition):
a) Education and employment opportunities
b) Information to mothers during pregnancy and initial stages of child growth
about appropriate practices of child-rearing
c) Improvement in sanitary conditions
d) Improvement of social status of women
e) Improvement of agricultural productivity
1. Retraining workshops for AWC workers will be held in a phased manner at the state level.
2. Ensure and incentivise community participation in AWC's by:
a) Every AWC area should have a women's self-help group attached to it who assist the AWC worker
in their duties.
b) The self-help group women and women whose families have school-going children should be
given extra nutritional supplements. A roster that is regularly updated of families with pregnant
women and/ or children below the age of two should be made and regular health check-ups
should be made in these families every two months.
Now, ICDS programme design should be modified in this manner:
1. The nutritional supplements should focus on providing iron as anaemia is the most
common problem amongst child-bearing women in India.
2. The dissemination of information to pregnant women about breastfeeding practices,
should also be done through house visits outlined above. Along with that, information
about financial independence, such as opening their own bank accounts, etc. should also
1. Now, there is a pilot project worth Rs. 200 crores, in collaboration with the company
HarvestPlus. This project should be expanded.
2. The company, Nirmal Seeds, that sells the biofortified seeds, should be contacted and a
contract taken out to buy some seeds from them to dispense from AWC centres to women
farmers in the community through the self-help group.
3. Also, the produce of the biofortified crop should be supplied to fair price shops and AWC's
and through the midday meal scheme so that the food provided is cheap but nutritious.
4. Further, on the biofortified crop projects, women should be employed as farmers.
1. The PDS scheme should be rectified by making a state-run transport system that delivers
the goods straight to the shops itself to prevent leakages.
2. Further, the Fair Price Shops must be run by NGOs or Women Self-Help Groups, rather
than by private parties.
3. Improvements on the lines of the Gujarat PDS system can be applied at the national level.
They are as follows:
• Families are provided a bar-coded ration card, paired with their biometric data.
• The ration card is issued based on the provision of multiple identity proofs including address proof and
• This card is swiped and exchanged with bar-coded coupons at e-Gram centers that serve a large area.
• The coupons are then exchanged at Fair Price Shops.
• The FPS owner avails compensation on submission of the coupons.
The above measure solves the problem of the leakages that currently plague the system, and ensure that
the right families receive the right food efficiently.
The scheme requires significant political commitment and
While most measures proposed are low-cost and high-impact, a
few of them (such as the new ration card scheme) are cost-
intensive and require appropriation of funds and infrastructure.
The interconnected nature of the scheme is an advantage in that
it increases the reach and impact of the programme and ties in
various socio-economic benefits to the programme as well.
However, it also entails the challenge that a proper network of
transport and infrastructure to facilitate this interconnectivity
must be established
Rationale behind this model
● The current ICDS programme has an excessive focus on providing nutritional
supplements. The target group of pregnant mothers and children below the
age of two is also largely neglected by the AWC workers. This solution, by
enhancing community participation and reducing the workload on the AWC
workers, ensures that attention is paid to this group.
● The PDS programme is plagued by corruption and leakages. Ghost cards,
unintended beneficiaries and illegal resale of items on the open market cause
great financial burden to the system. This model addresses those issues by
applying innovative methods that have been statistically proven successful in
the states of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
● Social status of women has been linked with a very high correlation coefficient
to child health and malnutrition. This model aims to provide employment and
dignity to women in malnutritioned areas while at the same time growing
produce that could provide essential minerals to the Indian populace at cheap
prices (Biofortified crops.)
References - 1
1. Child malnutrition in India: Putting the smallest first-The
2. Govt to kick off Nutri-Farms in select dists to fight
malnutrition-The Indian Express
3. A leadership Agenda for Action
4. Bringing science and development.
5. Accelerating Progress toward Reducing
6. Child Malnutrition in India-IFPRI
7. Helping India Combat Persistently High Rates of Malnutrition-
The world Bank
References - 2
8. Public Distribution System in India by Arnab Saha
9. The Chhattisgarh Model of Public Distribution System and its
Food Security Bill
10. ORGANISATION AND WORKING OF PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION
SYSTEM IN INDIA: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS : Dr. Brij Pal, Assistant
Professor, SA Jain College, Ambala, Haryana, India.
11. India: National Food Security Bill: Singh and Associates
12. Child malnutrition in India: Why does it persist? Report by Sam
Mendelson with input from Dr. Samir Chaudhuri
13. All you wanted to know about the food security bill-rediff.com