Incremental Reforms in Food Policy: What Are the Possibilities?

  • Bharat Ramaswami
  • Milind Murugkar
Part of the India Studies in Business and Economics book series (ISBE)


India’s food policy is in a state of flux. This is a rare moment. Food policies and their governance have enjoyed stability and continuity for many decades. Indeed, the framework for these policies was set by the war-time interventions of the colonial government in India. Those interventions consisting of direct procurement of grain and rationed distribution had the object of securing food supplies for urban populations. Even though the objectives of food policy have mutated over the years, the interventions have not materially changed form despite changes in scale. The public distribution system (PDS) owes its origins to the rationing systems of World War II. The Food Corporation of India (FCI), the principal Central government parastatal responsible for foodgrain procurement and storage, was set up in the mid-1960s. The practice of offering support prices to rice and wheat also dates from that period. The series of reforms since 1991 that saw greater integration of India with world markets along with greater freedom for entrepreneurial activity left the food and agricultural sector largely untouched.


Smart Card Cash Transfer Food Policy Seasonal Storage Procurement Price 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to record our gratitude to several people who spared their valuable time to talk to us: Najm-ul Ahasan, Brajesh Awasthi, Arvind Chourey, Satish Chaturvedi, Sejal Dand, Samir Garg, Paritosh Gupta, Neeta Hardikar, Sachin Jain, Rajeev Jaiswal, Sanjay Kaul, Ajit Kesari, Biraj Patnaik, Gangaram Paykra, Rajkumar, Rosiah Yelluri, Chandrika Zala and especially Suresh Sawant. We thank Shikha Jha, Rana Hassan and Ahsan Tayyab for their valuable comments. We alone are responsible for all errors of fact and interpretations in this document.


  1. Basu K (2011) India’s foodgrain policy: an economic theory perspective. Econ Polit Wkly 46(29):37–45Google Scholar
  2. Bhatia BM (1970) India’s food problem and policy since independence. Somaiya Publications, BombayGoogle Scholar
  3. Chaudhuri AR, Somanathan E (2011) Impact of biometric identification based transfers. Econ Polit Wkly XLVI(21): 77–80Google Scholar
  4. Chopra RN (1981) Evolution of food policy in India. Macmillan, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  5. Department of Food and Public Distribution (2002) Report of the high level committee on long-term grain policy. Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of IndiaGoogle Scholar
  6. Dhand VK, Srivastav DK, Somasekhar Ak, Jaiswal R (n.d.) Computerization of paddy procurement and public distribution system in Chhatisgarh.
  7. Dreze J, Khera R (2010) The BPL census and a possible alternative. Econ Polit Wkly XLV(9):54–63Google Scholar
  8. Economic Advisory Council (2011) Report of the expert committee on national food security bill. Government of India, New Delhi.
  9. Government of India (2011a) Economic survey 2011. Ministry of FinanceGoogle Scholar
  10. Government of India (2011b) Interim report of the task force on direct transfer of subsidies on kerosene, LPG and fertilizerGoogle Scholar
  11. Government of India (2011c) Report of task force on an IT strategy for PDSGoogle Scholar
  12. Himanshu, Sen A (2011) Why not a universal food security legislation? Econ Polit Wkly XLVI(12):38–37Google Scholar
  13. Innes R (1990) Government target price intervention in economies with incomplete markets. Q J Econ 105(4):1035–1052Google Scholar
  14. Jha S, Ramaswami B (2010) How can food subsidies work better: answers from India and the Philippines. Economics working paper 221, Manila, Asian Development BankGoogle Scholar
  15. Khera R (2011) Trends in diversion of grain from the public distribution system. Econ Polit Wkly XLVI(21):106–114Google Scholar
  16. Kotwal A, Murugkar M, Ramaswami B (2011) PDS Forever? Econ Polit Wkly XLVI(21):72–76Google Scholar
  17. Landes R, Gulati A (2004) Farm sector performance and reform agenda. Econ Polit Wkly 3611–19 (Aug 7)Google Scholar
  18. Planning Commission of India (2005) Performance evaluation of targeted public distribution system, programme evaluation organization. Report no. 189, Planning Commission, Government of IndiaGoogle Scholar
  19. Planning Commission of India (2011) Report of working group on reforms in the public distribution system and better targeting of food subsidies during the 12th Plan PeriodGoogle Scholar
  20. Ramaswami B (2002) Efficiency and equity of food market interventions, special article. Econ Polit Wkly 37(12):1129–1135Google Scholar
  21. Ramaswami B, Balakrishnan P (2002) Food prices and the efficiency of public intervention: the case of the public distribution system in India. Food Policy 27:419–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Saxena NC (2004) Agricultural policy and rural poverty reduction in India. In: Debroy B, Khan AU (eds) Integrating the rural poor into markets. Academic FoundationGoogle Scholar
  23. Timmer CP (2010) International best practice in food policy: reflections on food policy analysis. Asian J Agric Dev 7(1):83–92Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer India 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indian Statistical InstituteDelhiIndia
  2. 2.Pragati AbhiyanNasikIndia

Personalised recommendations