Food Security in India

  • IASbaba
  • December 12, 2022
  • 0
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Context: Expanding Public Distributing System coverage to account for the increase in population since 2011 is a no-brainer; the Government’s resistance to implementing a Supreme Court of India direction is baffling.

  • India has ranked 101 among the 116 countries on the Global Hunger Index, 2021. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Food Price Index has increased by 30% in the year 2021-22.

About Food Security:

  • Food security is the measure of the availability of food and individuals’ ability to access it; meaning that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.
  • It has following dimensions:
    • Availability: It means food production within the country, food imports and the stock stored in government granaries.
    • Accessibility: It means food is within reach of every person without any discrimination.
    • Affordability: It implies that having enough money to buy sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet one’s dietary needs.
  • Thus, Food security is ensured in a country only when sufficient food is available for everyone, if everyone has the means to purchase food of acceptable quality, and if there are no barriers to access.

Impact of the pandemic on Food Security: Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021 report. The key findings are,

  • Loss of income and rise in food prices: The primary reason for a dip in affordability is the loss of income. But food price rise has made the situation more acute. By the end of 2020, global consumer food prices were the highest in six years. In the first four months of 2021, they continued to rise.
  • Dip in people’s affordability of healthy food: There is a significant dip in people’s affordability for healthy food due to a loss in income. The pandemic led to an additional 141 million people being unable to afford a healthy diet in the countries studied.
  • Healthy diet costs more: The cost of a healthy diet was 60% more than a diet that just meets “requirements for essential nutrients” and almost five times as much as a diet that just meets “the minimum dietary energy needs through a starchy staple”.
  • Undernourishment: The increase in the number of undernourished during the pandemic was more than five times greater than the highest increase in undernourishment in the last two decades.

Current Framework for Food Security in India:

  • Constitutional Provision: Though the Indian Constitution does not have any explicit provision regarding right to food, the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution can be interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity, which may include the right to food and other basic necessities.
  • Buffer Stock: Food Corporation of India (FCI) has the prime responsibility of procuring the food grains at minimum support price (MSP) and stored in its warehouses at different locations and from there it is supplied to the state governments in terms of requirement.
  • Public Distribution System: Over the years, Public Distribution System has become an important part of Government’s policy for management of the food economy in the country. PDS is supplemental in nature and is not intended to make available the entire requirement of any of the commodity.
    • Under the PDS, presently the commodities namely wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene are being allocated to the States/UTs for distribution.
    • Some States/UTs also distribute additional items of mass consumption through the PDS outlets such as pulses, edible oils, iodized salt, spices, etc.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA): It marks a paradigm shift in the approach to food security from welfare to rights based approach.
  • The introduction of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme is an innovation that can be a game-changer, allowing beneficiaries to access their food entitlements from anywhere in the country.

NFSA covers 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population under:

  • Antyodaya Anna Yojana: It constitute the poorest of-the-poor, are entitled to receive 35 kg of foodgrains per household per month.
  • Priority Households (PHH): Households covered under PHH category are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month.
    • The eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above is mandated to be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.
  • In addition, the act lays down special provisions for children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years old, which allows them to receive a nutritious meal for free through a widespread network of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres, known as Anganwadi Centres.

Challenges to food security in India:

  • Climate change will continue to affect agriculture and food security, and the impact on the poor and vulnerable can be devastating.
  • A third of all food produced is wasted. Lost or wasted energy used for food production accounts for about 10% of the world’s total energy consumption.
    • Further, the annual greenhouse gas emissions associated with food losses and food waste reach around 3.5 gigatonnes of the CO2 equivalent.
  • The scale of India’s public food distribution systems is immense and has gone through constant navigation and improvement, which is commendable.
    • But more needs to still be done to improve access and inclusion among the missing vulnerable population.
    • Such as single women-led households, transgender persons, HIV-affected persons, displaced persons, refugees, and orphan children, etc.
  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.
  • In India, more than 86% of farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.
  • Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity.

Way Forward:

  • Revitalising Aadhaar Seeding of Ration Cards: To speed up the process of Aadhaar linking to ration cards, ground monitoring measures must be taken that will ensure no valid beneficiary is left out of their share of food grains that can give thrust to the aim of zero hunger (Sustainable Development Goal- 2).
  • Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Through JAM: There is a need to streamline food and fertiliser subsidies into direct benefit transfers to accounts of identified beneficiaries through the JAM trinity platform (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar, and Mobile) that will reduce huge physical movement of foodgrains, provide greater autonomy to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket and promote financial inclusion.
  • Moving Towards Sustainable Farming : For ensuring Food Security in India , improvement in productivity through greater use of biotechnology, intensifying watershed management, use of nano-urea and access to micro-irrigation facilities and bridging crop yield gaps across States through collective approach should be at priority.
    • There is also a need to look forward towards establishing Special Agriculture Zones through ICT based crop monitoring.
  • Towards Precision Agriculture: There is need to increase the use information technology (IT) in agriculture to ensure that crops and soil receive exactly what they need for optimum health and productivity.
  • Ensuring Transparency in Food Stock Holdings : Using IT to improve communication channels with farmers can help them to get a better deal for their produce while improving storage houses with the latest technology is equally important to deal with natural disasters.
    • Further, foodgrain banks can be deployed at block/village level, from which people may get subsidised food grains against food coupons ( that can be provided to Aadhar linked beneficiaries).
  • Addressing Issues With an Umbrella Approach: By looking at diverse issues from a common lens, such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights, and environmental justice, India can look forward to a sustainable green economy.

Source:  The Hindu


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