Weakening Welfare

The Public Distribution of Food in India

Madhura Swaminathan


LeftWord Books, 2000

viii + 140 pages

5.5 x 8.5 inches

Price INR 275.00

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Weakening Welfare is a powerful argument for expanding and strengthening the public distribution system (PDS) in a country where hunger, poverty and malnutrition are as endemic as in India. The reigning orthodoxy of structural adjustment, however, preaches exactly the opposite. This book is a sharp indictment of food policies of the liberalization era. It demonstrates how these policies will worsen food and nutrition security among the vast majority of the Indian people. Looking at the effects of targeting of food subsidies on other countries, it marshals arguments in favour of making PDS universal. There is little doubt that PDS, as it functions today, has failed by and large to provide nutritional support to the people and requires genuine reform. The exception is Kerala, the only state in India where PDS has been near universal. This book discusses alternative proposals for making PDS an effective measure of food security. Written in a lucid, non-technical style, the book presents a wealth of recent data that will be as handy for the expert as for the interested layperson.


"[Swaminathan's] contentions are well substantiated by history, facts, and figures which makes [the book] essential reading for economists, politicians, administrators-not to mention the new breed of 'know-all' economic journalists who are forever mouthing each other off in their devotion to laissezfaire and hostility to State intervention for the deprived."— Biblio

"A well written account of the context and practice of PDS in India and is rich in analysis. It is also daring in that it address the issue of food security head on in an environment of market-oriented policies and viewpoints and suggests better role for state.” Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics “Ihis book brings together a wealth of new data.”" — Indian Review of Books

"[This book] poses a challenge not as much before the state . . . as before the media managers and other manufacturers of consent to rethink their positions.”" — Deccan Herald

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