Final report on poverty, hunger and public action: an empirical study of on-going decentralisation initiatives in West Bengal

India’s Global Hunger Index indicates large-scale poverty and hunger and our failure to meet the challenge despite positive legislative provisions like NREGA and remarkable policy initiatives like ICDS, Mid-day Meal, Public Distribution System and National Social Assistance Programmes. The State Hunger Index reflects an alarming state of hunger in West Bengal despite its good record of food grains production in 1990s and poverty reduction through decentralization and land reforms. According to RHS (2005-06), about 15% of rural households in West Bengal are suffering from moderate to alarming state of hunger. On review of the situation, the Government of West Bengal in the Panchayats and Rural Development Department decided to address hunger through a decentralized initiative called SAHAYA (Nov 2007). It is for the first time that the problem was looked upon as an issue of under-development (not of relief which is the common belief even now) and the responsibility was given to PRIs for preparation of a poverty sub-plan to be eligible for special assistance. In brief, this is the current context of undertaking the study.