MEDSEC Associate Dr. Salma Soliman attended on the 2nd November a seminar on Managing Food: India's Experience with the Public Distribution System – by Deepankar Basu, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The Organiser was Agrarian Change and Development, Department of Development Studies, SOAS.
Dr. Soliman shared with us her thoughts on the seminar:
Dr Basu delivered an insightful seminar on the Public Distribution System (PDS) in India from a historically informed economic perspective. The seminar offered a critical discussion of the effectiveness of different types of PDS used by the Indian government to realise food security. The latter continues to be a major concern for the Indian government especially with a history of famines throughout Indian history. The question on the most effective means of distributing government’s subsidies to reach the poor was raised and some experiences from different parts of India were discussed. The seminar concludes with recommendations for PDS to be offered without targeting, i.e. to all citizens without targeting those most in need, as this is argued to be the most effective means of ensuring food security. The argument is backed with economic evidence as well as some historical reflections on the origin of the food security problem that goes back to the Bengal Famine of 1943 for instance and it reflects on the policies taken then, experiences learnt and how to avoid repeating negative experiences.
Some general lessons could be developed from the Indian experience which are similar to the experiences of other Emerging Markets, such as Brazil and Egypt, which seem to face the same challenges to food security and similar institutional problems to governments’ efforts to enhance food security through offering food subsidies to its citizens, including corruption, leakages and inefficient food storage techniques amongst other problems.