In the Global Hunger Index in 2018, India placed at the 103rd position among 119 nations. This is the grave reality even after the seven decades of political liberation from the subjugation of exploitative foreign rule. It proves that implemented efforts considerably failed to liberate the starved millions from the clutches of malnutrition and hunger. The question of right to livelihood and human dignity is out of our ambit. So far, nation’s giant leap in the food-grain production has proved inadequate to feed the hungry mouths. In this article, “Quest for food security in India” I am going to reveal the hidden truth.
Founding fathers of our nation, while drafting brilliant Constitution, judiciously included the protection of life is a fundamental right in the Part III of our Constitution.
As per provisions, every individual who is citizen of India must afford adequate ways of livelihood to live with dignity and comfort. Through various judgements, Apex court also held that right to live is not merely confined to physical existence but it also includes in ambit of right to live with human dignity.
Unfortunately, even after so much provisions, people are still struggling to achieve food–grain security and the question of appropriate, nutrient oriented food security is still miles away.
Food security does not constitute mere wheat and rice but its ambit is quiet wide and large which includes adequate quantity of carbohydrates, energy rich fat, body building proteins, adequate minerals, vitamins, clean drinking water, affordable energy to prepare food, sanitation and clean pollution free environment.
Monsoonal climate with wide ranging climatic conditions from Tropical to Tundra is the strength of nation to produce greater varieties.
Recent available data placed India in the Tenth position in the world and Fourth position in the Asia continent in the plant diversity. Out of these floral diversity, many plants offer huge promising potential of variety of food as well as other raw materials.
Apart from floral diversity, faunal diversity is very rich resources of food and other types of raw materials.
Current situation of foodgrain production
In the year 2018-19, food-grain production was around 281 million tonnes in which wheat and rice costituted the largest share.Obviously, food availability of any nation depends on the growth rate of food production, as well as the size of population.
Since independence, food–grain production has been increased at an annual rate of 2.5 p.c. compared to the average annual growth rate of population 2.1 p.c.
This suggests that, country maintained overall growth rate of 0.4 p.c. During this period, net availability of cereals increased from about 395 gm. per capita per day in 1950’s to 412 gm. per capita per day and the improvement in the productivity of oilseeds was hardly noticed.
Nutritional requirements for healthy person
Scientifically, the requirement of nutrition for a working healthy person is 350 to 400 gm of carbohydrates, 60 gm pulses, 5 to 6 litre of potable water, sanitation and pollution free environment to live healthy, efficient and productive life.
Considering the current condition regarding food-grain production, drinking water availability, growing pollution and poor sanitation, it looks like difficult to provide nutrient rich food security in near future.
In case of productivity of various crops in compare to the world level, India is placed in the lower position. In terms of wheat productivity, it is placed in the 38th rank, and rice in the 52nd position.
The situation in case of pulses and oilseeds is more worse. The productivity rank of pulses is 138 and oilseeds 147 in the world level. It indicates that country has great potential and scope to increase productivity. For this purpose, due reforms are essential.
The role of animal husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the food security Endeavour is no less important compare to other components.
Currently, India ranks 1st in the milk production. It produces around 177million tonnes per year. Next, it produces around 100 billion eggs; and 3rd largest producer of fish in the world.
Nevertheless, the cost of milk, eggs, and other products is almost beyond the reach of people living in poverty. Generally, milk is sold around 40 rupees per litre, which is near unaffordable.
Furthermore, the rate of chicken meat, goat meat, fish, pork and others are out of pocket of our poor people.
World Bank report
According to the World Bank, in India almost half of the people are living below one dollar per day. Therefore, one can easily imagine that with meagre or paltry income how a person could purchases required nutrient rich diet and other things when inflation is soaring continuously.
Despite all these fact, our well educated economic experts claim that our population suffering from poverty is substantially declining.
Food Security Act
In 2013, central government, after a lot of debate and discussion, passed the Food Security Bill in order to give certain amount of food–grains in a concessional rate for those who does not afford market price. But mere providing cereals in the form of wheat, rice and course cereals, one does not claim that we have provided food security to our majority people.
The most important question is how long do they able to provide such huge amount of subsidy which is the crossing amount of defence budget and why these people are not in position to purchase these commodities even in the fastest growing economy of the world?
We cannot find answers of these questions because of our masses are become addicted of these incentives and in the same manner our political leaders want to perpetuate this condition for longer time.
Country’s political stalwarts are vigorously claiming that they are providing food security for their hungry people without answering why they were hungry so far and why can’t they purchase on theirs own without incentives ?
State of hunger and poverty
As per the various studies, in India around 40 p.c. of children are mal–nutrited and the situation of infant mortality and maternal mortality is also very serious issue.
Then, how do they claim that country is heading to achieving Millennium Development Goals, when our population is still not accessing and affording the universally recognized ultra-basic needs.
In a country where around 40 percent people are reeling under mal-nutrition, and almost 400 millions in poverty, then how do we harness the demographic dividend?
Surprisingly, we are spending our large amount on the both health related issues and subsidized food for people, leaving no money for productive activities. Hence, quality employment is a big challenge.
Per capita income and affordability
In case of per capita income, it is around 2700 dollars at 2011-12 prices means very low compare to other developing countries. In case of Human Development Index, country is still lagging behind even many more African countries.
Without increasing per capita income through quality employment, affordability of people will not be improved. When the world is talking about the demographic dividend, the most eligible nation of the World is struggling to provide better employment.
Mismanagement of water resources
According to an estimate, India receives 4000 billion-cubic-meter water annually through precipitation. Out of which 690 BCM is surface water and 432 BCM is ground water resources. These are enough to fulfill to demand of population provided that we use it carefully.
This indicates that Country has sufficient amount of water, but due to ignorance by local people and deliberate negligence by profit earner corporators, this large asset of nature is facing qualitative as well as quantitative pollution or loss.
Consequently, only less than 50 p.c. people can afford the safe drinking water, leaving another 50 p.c. to face water borne diseases and its long term consequences.
Nowadays, in the state of Maharashtra, people are facing acute water scarcity. But, in the same state, water intensive sugarcane crop exploiting 80 percent of water resources. Isn’t it too strange. But this the ground reality.
Need to unlock the huge unrealized potential
As per the analysis, India is facing strange problem of poverty and plenty. On the one hand, it has huge potential, great resources, but on the other side, people are facing hunger, poverty, and lower per capita income. The point is clear that the available potential is yet to be realized.
For example, In the agriculture sector, there is huge potential to increase productivity, but the small land holdings and people’s emotional attachment to land will not permit to bring big changes.
Second, India has great human resources, but the India’s industrial sector isn’t capable to absorb huge population, nor agriculture provides quality employment.
Apart from this, political will is so important. Politicians mere follows populist policies to ensure theirs power interests. In this case, rapid progress looks distant dream.
In India, mere data and statistics cannot show the ground reality as the nations more than 90 percent labours belong to informal unorganized sector. The mismatch between data and ground reality is clear. As per the economic experts country is growing, in the same nation farmers are committing suicide and children are dying with malnutrition. Who is right ??