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India’s food bill will not provide the security it claims

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 08 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3194
  1. Veena S Rao, adviser, Karnataka Nutrition Mission, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka, Ananda Rao Circle, Bangalore 560009, India
  1. nobel_6{at}

The International Food Policy Research Institute terms India’s position in the global hunger index “alarming”—67th in 2011 compared with 65th in previous years, indicating worsening food and nutritional insecurity.1 This index measures hunger using three combined, equally weighted, indicators: the proportion of people who are calorie deficient, the proportion of people who are underweight, and the mortality rate among children under 5.

About a third of India’s adult population has low body mass index, suggesting they are calorie deficient; 43% of children below 5 are underweight and 48% stunted; and the under 5 mortality rate is 74 per 1000 live births (two fifths of which is directly related to malnutrition).2 As alarming are the 30% of babies born with low birth weight; the 47% of adolescent girls underweight3; and the prevalence of anaemia of 56%, 57%, and 75% in girls, women, and children, respectively.4

Successive governments in the past decade have promised food and nutritional security but could not reform the ailing governmental public distribution system, which provides subsidised grain to poor families—because of leakages and corruption it covers …

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