On rice schemes, how Naveen Patnaik has been one step ahead of Centre (Indian Express) 

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Indian Express reports on the progress Odisha is making to move into the next leg of its National Food Security scheme showing a good example of how food schemes – specifically to provide cheap rice – can be a winner.

It was in 2008 that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik first unveiled the scheme to provide Rs 2 per kg of rice to around 60 lakh families in the state. Patnaik talks repeatedly about not letting a single person go hungry in Odisha while lauding the state’s rice scheme.

According to a report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) along with the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative in December 2020, Odisha has made more rapid progress in reducing child undernutrition than in several richer states. Particularly between 2006 and 2016, nutrition and health outcomes improved significantly in the state. The prevalence of stunting declined from 45 percent to 34.1 percent, although there was a marginal increase in wasting. In 2018, a further decline was noted in the prevalence of stunting to 28.9 percent.

The report also stated that though anemia among women of reproductive age declined by 10 percent between 2006 and 2016, it is still high, with over half the women in Odisha suffering from anemia.

The debate about the scheme continues. The government claims it is doing what benefits the population whereas opposition parties believe the Centre bears the lion’s share in the allocation of subsidized rice and the government’s actual role is minimal.

To learn more about the report mentioned in this article, see Tackling nutrition in Odisha: Looking back, looking forward by Rasmi Avula, Phuong Hong Nguyen, Nihar Mishra, Devjit Mitra, Neha Kohli, and Purnima Menon.

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