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India’s Food Security Bill Does Not Address Root Challenges Of Malnourished Children

“Despite the unprecedented scale of [India’s National Food Security Bill], it feels stale,” Shailey Hingorani, a Fulbright scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and Allison Hutchings, a Boston-based social policy researcher, write in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “It is an amalgamation and continuation of previous nutrition and food distribution programs in India” that “have failed to adequately address malnutrition in India,” they write, adding, “They do little to address children’s different nutritional needs, which vary according to age and gender. … Malnourished children need a holistic set of solutions, not just more food.” The authors describe the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program, central to the Food Security Bill, saying it “works on the assumption that lack of adequate food intake is the primary driver of malnutrition.”

“The ICDS shouldn’t be the primary vehicle through which malnutrition is addressed in India,” Hingorani and Hutchings write, adding, “But the government, eager to get support as the general election approaches, is trying to push through a populist legislation. It is unlikely to change the status quo.” They conclude, “In its current state, the Food Security Bill will be a whole lot of grain without a whole lot of gain” (8/21).