Food insecurity- a dangerous and a difficult to treat chronic disease. The plight of the Indian masses is such that they are suffering from it since time immemorial. Will we ever be able to upgrade this section of society who are living in distress since ages? Before being able to answer this question, let’s rewind a bit and delve into the problem of India’s food insecurity.
In India, the problem of food security prevailed even long before the British Era; but then the British government took some major decisions during the colonial rule, when the country witnessed several famines, especially the Bengal famine 1943 which took lives of millions. This led to the establishment of Public Distribution System (PDS) which aimed at providing food security to all. After attaining Independence, the country’s main focus was on industrialization. The government ignored the agriculture sector completely and as a result we had to rely on other countries for our food supply. Simultaneously, the nation was hit with two successive droughts in the mid-1960s. However, the scenario changed with the advent of Green and White Revolution during the late 1960s and early 1970s. This helped India in achieving self-sufficiency in food grains. Since that time India has been putting consistent efforts to ensure that there is enough food to feed its entire population. In today’s time, it is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets, and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruit and cotton.
Despite this, the current picture is still not colorful. There are numerous indicators which tell us that India has still not achieved food security. We were ranked 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and we still continue to come under the ‘serious’ hunger category. Though there has been some improvement by the enactment of National Food Security Act which was passed by the Indian Government in 2013 which ensures that food security is the right of every Indian, however the problem of food insecurity still persists. India accounts for a large number of undernourished people in the world i.e. around 195 million. Nearly 4 out of every 10 children cannot work up to their maximum potential because of malnutrition or stunting. 36 per cent of children under the age of five are underweight. Our country also faces high rates of anemia, as 51% of women have low levels of iron when they reach their reproductive age. These statistics are worrisome and indicate the looming dangers of food insecurity.
Challenges to Food Security
There a number of barriers to food security. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Higher temperatures and unreliable rainfall make farming difficult, causing grave social and economic consequences in the form of reduced incomes and eroded livelihoods
- Increase in rural to urban migration results in large proportion of informal workforce and thus leading to increased food insecurity.
- Overpopulation, poverty, lack of education and gender inequality can also contribute to increased food insecurity.
- Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution system.
- Lack of proper implementation of nutrition programmes due to corrupt practices
Having realized the magnitude of the threat food insecurity poses, the government has taken some measures. These include the National Food Security Mission, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the e-marketplace. During the 1970s the government brought anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers and during the 1990s the government had also launched mid-day meals at schools which was a remarkable step to combat malnutrition.
Despite these initiatives, a lot of work still needs to be done. The government must devise an action plan for the better implementation of the existing projects and schemes. An undivided focus must be put on improving the size of the farms, providing the farmers with improved technology for cultivation, ensuring availability of better-quality seeds, fertilizers and credits at lower interest rates. They should also try to improve the food storage facilities and must enhance rural employment opportunities, especially for women and rural youth. Farmers must be taught new farming techniques such as planting crops with lower water requirements and crop diversification.
We may conclude by asserting that food insecurity and hunger have been constants throughout history as many people have been enduring this misery and are deprived of a healthy and nutritious diet. Though we have covered a long journey battling these, they still exist at large. During this pandemic where all the sectors were badly affected and the GDP shrunk by whopping 23.9%, the agriculture sector remained undefeated and emerged as the only savior giving hope for the future. Had it not been for a robust performance in this sector, India’s GDP would have tumbled further. Since agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy, food security can be improved by achieving self-sufficiency in the production of cereals and setting up better PDS. With proper execution of plans and reducing corruption, we will be able to preserve the nation’s food security.
This article is written by Divyansh Kaul, pursuing B.Com.(Hons.) from Shri Ram College of Commerce.