Flies swarm around mountains of decaying grain heaped along the roadside, while dishonest middlemen enrich themselves and millions of families don't get enough to eat.
That's the picture the New York Times paints of the failure of India's food system: "Spurred by agricultural innovation and generous farm subsidies, India now grows so much food that it has a bigger grain stockpile than any country except China, and it exports some of it to countries like Saudi Arabia and Australia. Yet one-fifth of its people are malnourished — double the rate of other developing countries like Vietnam and China — because of pervasive corruption, mismanagement and waste in the programmes that are supposed to distribute food to the poor."
What's going on here?
Feeding its burgeoning population – India is the world's second most populous country, after China – has long been the country's biggest challenge. At the moment, the system works like this: the federal government buys rice and wheat from farmers at a premium price. It then distributes the grain to the states, which in turn run so-called "fair price shops", where poor people with ration cards get discounted food. In theory, this set-up feeds poor people and supports farmers as well.
But critics say corruption and inefficiency plague the system, as warehouse managers and shopkeepers skim off food meant for the poor and sell it on the side. Often, people have to pay a bribe to get ration cards. A recent World Bank investigation found that barely 40% of the grain in federal warehouses actually makes it to Indian households.
India's government is discussing putting more money into the food system. But reformers say that unless the system itself is streamlined and cleaned up, the money will be wasted and the poor won't benefit. Parliament is expected to vote on improvements by the end of the year: until then, the painful spectacle of tons of grain sitting unprotected from insects and weather, while poor people starve, will continue.
Read more: Oxfam's report Growing a Better Future looks at how the global food system must be changed to cope with population growth, resource scarcity and climate change.