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news details
Issues of Food and Nutrition Security
5/16/2018 10:44:06 PM
Dr. Banarsi Lal and
Dr. Pawan Sharma

India accounts for 33% of the total poor people in the world. Time and again India evolved strategies to tackle rural as well as urban poverty. The real issue is not the availability of food but of its affordability by the poor. The issue is of food and nutrition security based on the access to a diet of high nutritional quality. The modern concept of food security has become rather broad-based, encompassing livelihood security and poverty alleviation as means to ensure economic capacity to buy food. Once that is achieved then the question of adequate nutrition arises. This has attained significance issue because of the problem of malnourishment has been more acute than stark hunger. The concept of food security also needs potable drinking water-something a sizeable chunk of the Indian population still lacks. Food security is meaningless without adequate health cover. There are different levels at which the food security needs to exist-from individual level to household, social, regional and national level food security. Within the household food security, there are issues related to gender, children and the old. Females and non-working old people tend to be discriminated against in food consumption at the household level. Thus the debate on the aspects of food security seems to an unending process and is also undergoing a constant change, depending on the circumstances under which the definition is sought to be viewed.
In the pre-Green Revolution period, much of the increase in food grain production was mainly due to expansion in area under cultivation. India's food grain production has been on the rise despite year-to-year fluctuations since the Green Revolution of the 1960s. After the Green Revolution, increase in production is due to introduction of yield-increasing technologies, supportive services and infrastructure. The country's total food grain production was 50 million tons in 1950-51 which was 252 million tons in 2011-12.The per capita availability has also been risen during the same period from around 395 grams per day to nearly 463 grams per day despite unabated increase in population. The country appears to be not only self-sufficient in food grains but also having marginally surplus as well. But the issue whether the present level of nutritional intake is adequate or not is still being debated. India has been regularly exporting rice and wheat since December 2000 and the government started offering grains for exports to prune the excessive stock-holding. India has since become the world's second largest exporter of rice and seventh that of wheat. The subsequent drought and increased domestic grain utilization in its wake slowed down the exports but even then the export surplus has continued to persist. Food-sufficiency does not reflect food security for the entire population of the country though it make the country food secure at the micro-level. Food security needs to manifest in all its dimensions, covering all regions and all economic strata of society.
The Indian policy planners have treated food security as a national priority and thus, an integral part of the food policy right from the beginning. Consistent increase in production, ensuring access to food for all and maintenance of food supply line are three pronged strategy to achieve. The food security system did not remain confined to mere food self-sufficiency which had, of course been the prime objective but went beyond it to take care of buffer stocking and distribution. An elaborate food management system has been achieved over the years which have worked quite successfully to take care of all the three elements of the policy. This involved procurement of food grains at the minimum support prices to serve as an incentive for boosting production, storage of food grains at official expenses and distribution of food grains through a massive countrywide public distribution system run by state governments but fed by the centre. Besides, the stored grains have often been used for poverty alleviation and employment generation purposes as well to improve the economic access of food for the poor through food-for-work programmes during the periods of natural disasters like drought, flood and other calamities.
From time to time different approaches have been adopted to overcome the problem of food insecurity. Concepts like providing highly subsidized food to targeted groups and offering mid-day meals to school children are being implemented to reduce the starvation deaths and malnutrition.35kg of food grains are provided to the poor households at subsidized prices under the targeted public distribution system. Another programme called as Antyodaya Anna Yojna aims at providing cheap food to the poorest among the poors. All this does not mean that India has won the battle against food security. In our country large numbers of places are still having food insecurity. A food security insecurity atlas of rural India brought out by the Chennai based M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation in collaboration with the World Food Programme has managed to capture the lacunae that still plague food security in India. This Atlas has measured food insecurity in terms of its spread and depth. It has revealed that the spread and depth of hunger are more in the areas with deficit production and the areas with a large number people dependent on casual employment as in Kerala, Gujarat ,Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu though these are prima facie not among the poorest states. The other factors that contribute to the depth of hunger appear to be lack of non-agricultural employment opportunities and low wages to the labour as in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The Atlas depicts that the states with access to more land and less dependence on casual labour are protected from hunger. The depth and spread of hunger is very little in the states like Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan under normal circumstances though these states face food insecurity in the wake of drought or other natural calamities.
The struggle for ensuring the uniform food security is going to be dynamic as this is a complex issue. This is also because the nature of food security or food insecurity will go on changing socio-economic scenario. The channel between production and consumption is weakening now. Production is undertaken for the market and driven by the market. This might have created uncertainties over local level food availability. Diversification in agriculture and livestock improves livelihood access and food security. The market forces might prompt the grower to reduce the home-consumption component of the produce. Many landless rural people produce milk for sale hardly keeping for domestic consumption. States like Punjab and Haryana are exploiting natural resources such as water and soil nutrients at a much faster rate than the rate of replishment leading to rapid drop in groundwater table and deterioration of soil fertility. Some states are under-utilizing even the available utilizable natural resources resulting in vast untapped potential. A holistic and flexible approach is needed towards food production that keeps in view the capabilities of the available production resources including natural resources.
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