City Research Online

Understanding the policy discourse within the formulation of the 2013 Indian National Food Security Act

Lang, T. ORCID: 0000-0002-1184-8344 & Lindgren, K-A. (2022). Understanding the policy discourse within the formulation of the 2013 Indian National Food Security Act. Food Security, doi: 10.1007/s12571-022-01267-y


India was the third country in the world to enact into law a constitutional commitment to the right to food, following Brazil and South Africa. The 2013 National Food Security Act (NFSA) was the latest in a long line of post-Independence food policies aimed at tackling hunger. This paper explores the range of discourses among NFSA policy-makers, their views and disagreements, from drafting to the final Act.
The research used mixed methods. Elite semi-structured interviews were conducted with 32 individuals who were either directly involved in NFSA formulation or food security specialist observers. Policy documents covering the period from before the Act and during the Act’s passage were critically analysed.
Significant intra-governmental disagreements were apparent between two broad positions. A ‘pro-rights’ position sought to formulate a law that was as comprehensive and rights-based as possible, while a ‘pro-economy’ policy position saw the NFSA as a waste of money, resources and time, although recognising the political benefits of a food security law. These disagreements were consistent throughout the formulation of the NFSA, and in turn cast the Act as a product of compromise. Although there was broad consensus for a food security act, there was surprisingly little agreement exactly how that Act should look, what it should contain, and whom it should target. There was little consensus even on the right to food approach itself.
The article contributes to the understanding of policy formulation in India specifically, and in developing countries in general, as well as to lend credence to the suitability of policy analysis to developing nations, otherwise normally grounded in Western traditions. The paper highlights a lack of cross-government cooperation in policy formulation, with the continued pressure of a short-term economic rationale undermining the policy goal of lessening hunger, despite some success.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: India; Food Security; National Food Security Act; Policy Process
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (970kB) | Preview



Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login