ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Research as if People Matter

NFSA Survey 2016

Since the implementation of reforms enacted by the National Food Security Act 2013, the public distribution system provides food security to a larger number of people than before, and has less leakages overall in six of the poorer states of India. The methods and results of a people-centred six-state survey are presented in brief.

The author would like to thank those who read and commented on earlier drafts.

“First of all, thank you everybody for the hard work and goodwill,” economist Jean Drèze said with a playful smile. The room full of student volunteers, who joined the National Food Security Act (NFSA) Survey 2016 (henceforth the survey) for nothing less than “Hard Work, No Pay,” chuckled and laughed. Drèze continued, “We are very impressed with all the teams … I think the survey was really a success!” Drèze had just commenced the debriefing session that was held in Ranchi,1 marking the end of the survey. Drèze, with fellow economist Reetika Khera, initiated the survey to understand the progress in implementation of reforms to the public distribution system (PDS) after the enactment of the NFSA 2013.

The survey was conducted during 1–10 June in six of the poorer states of India (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal). The research, which included surveys and public hearings or jan sunwais, found that PDS reforms have led to improved food security for a larger number of people in these six states. The loss of foodgrains due to inefficiencies and corruption has reduced considerably as well. Bihar and Jharkhand were, however, found to still be “laggards,” with inadequate coverage, and lower but persistent levels of leakages. West Bengal began reforming its PDS only in December 2015 and shows better coverage than earlier. As it does not have survey data to corroborate these findings as yet, its results ought to be viewed with caution. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha began reforms earlier, and the PDS there is better implemented with wider coverage in general, has low levels of leakages, and has assured entitlements at the right prices.

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