WAY-FORWARD

  • Food security of a nation is ensured if all of its citizens have enough nutritious food available, all persons have the capacity to buy food of acceptable quality and there is no barrier on access to food.
  • The right to food is a well established principle of international human rights law. It has evolved to include an obligation for state parties to respect, protect, and fulfil their citizens’ right to food security.
  • As a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, India has the obligation to ensure the right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food.
  • India needs to adopt a policy that brings together diverse issues such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights and environmental justice to ensure sustainable food security.

 

WHY FOOD SECURITY IS IMPORTANT FOR A NATION?

  • For boosting the agricultural sector.
  • For having a control on food prices.
  • For economic growth and job creation leading to poverty reduction
  • For trade opportunities
  • For increased global security and stability
  • For improved health and healthcare

 

PROVISION OF FOOD SUBSIDY TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY

  • In 2017-18, over Rs 1,50,000 crore, or 7.6% of the government’s total expenditure has been allocated for providing food subsidy under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).  This allocation is made to the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
  • Food subsidy has been the largest component of the Department’s expenditure (94% in 2017-18), and has increased six-fold over the past 10 years.  This subsidy is used for the implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), which provides subsidised food grains (wheat and rice) to 80 crore people in the country.  The NFSA seeks to ensure improved nutritional intake for people in the country.3
  • One of the reasons for the six-fold increase in food subsidy is the non-revision of the price at which food grains are given to beneficiaries since 2002. For example, rice is given to families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana at Rs 3/Kg since 2002, while the cost of providing this has increased from Rs 11/Kg in 2001-02 to Rs 33/Kg in 2017-18.
  • TPDS provides food security to people below the poverty line.  Over the years, the expenditure on food subsidy has increased, while the ratio of people below poverty line has reduced.

 

 

 

METHODS OF PROVIDING FOOD SUBSIDY

A) TPDS

  • It assures beneficiaries that they will receive food grains, and insulates them against price volatility. Food grains are delivered through fair price shops in villages, which are easy to access.
  • However, high leakages have been observed in the system, both during transportation and distribution.  These include pilferage and errors of inclusion and exclusion from the beneficiary list.
  • In addition, it has also been argued that the distribution of wheat and rice may cause an imbalance in the nutritional intake as discussed earlier. Beneficiaries have also reported receiving poor quality food grains as part of the system

B) Cash Transfers

  • It seek to increase the choices available with a beneficiary, and provide financial assistance. It has been argued that the costs of DBT may be lesser than TPDS, owing to lesser costs incurred on transport and storage.  These transfers may also be undertaken electronically.
  • However, it has also been argued that cash received as part of DBT may be spent on non-food items.  Such a system may also expose beneficiaries to inflation.  In this regard, one may also consider the low penetration and access to banking in rural areas

 

CONCERNS VIS-A-VIS FOOD SECURITY IN INDIA

  • India, currently has the largest number of undernourished people in the world i.e. around 195 million.
  • Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.
  • Agricultural productivity in India is extremely low.
    • According to World Bank figures, cereal yield in India is estimated to be 2,992 kg per hectare as against 7,318.4 kg per hectare in North America.
  • The composition of the food basket is increasingly shifting away from cereals to high⎯value agricultural commodities like fish, eggs, milk and meat. As incomes continue to rise, this trend will continue and the indirect demand for food from feed will grow rapidly in India.
  • According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018” report, about 14.8% of the population is undernourished in India.
    • Also, 51.4% of women in reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anaemic.
    • Further according to the report 38.4% of children aged under five in India are stunted (too short for their age), while 21% suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.
  • India ranked 76th in 113 countries assessed by The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in the year 2018, based on four parameters—affordability, availability and quality and safety.
  • As per the Global Hunger Index, 2018, India was ranked 103rd out of 119 qualifying countries.

 

NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

  • Government of India enacted National Food Security Act (NFSA) in July, 2013 which gives legal entitlement to 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas) to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
  • Under the Act, foodgrain is allocated @ 5 kg per person per month for priority households category and @ 35 kg per family per month for AAY families at a highly subsidized prices of Rs. 1/-, Rs. 2/- and Rs. 3/- per kg for nutri-cereals, wheat and rice respectively.
  • Coverage under the Act is based on the population figures of Census, 2011.
  • The Act is now being implemented in all 36 States/UTs
  • The annual allocation of food grain under National Food Security Act and Other Welfare Schemes is about 610 Lakh Metric Tons.

Criticism

  • Criticism by the Right to Food Campaign
    • The Right to Food Campaign finds the Bill extremely inadequate in offering food entitlements, and needs serious amendments before passage.
    • It has been consistently demanding a comprehensive food security law that promotes agriculture production, provides for local procurement and local storage along with a decentralized PDS.
    • It also wants safeguards against commercial interference in any of the food related schemes
  • Criticism by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
    • The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has criticized the bill on grounds such as exclusion of children under the age of two years from take home ration scheme under ICDS , the denial of entitlements to the third child under the two child norm , no mention of the term malnutrition among children in the bill.[xxii]
  • No role for State governments in decision making
    • Under the National Food Security Bill, the State governments do not have the right to identify the beneficiaries, or make efforts for giving better food security.
    • At least 15 states including Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and all 4 southern states already have their own subsidized food program and their own count of beneficiaries. The entitlements and count of beneficiaries under the Central Food Act are different and the Act is supposed to be implemented by the state governments.
    • Most states provide wider coverage than the Central Act. The content of the proposed Act appears to assume that there are no state food programs. Thus, there will be confusion and implementation issues once the Bill is passed.
  • Critics point out that that eradication of malnutrition requires more than just removal of hunger. Simply providing for the basic minimum food is unlikely to do enough to improve India’s high malnutrition levels. Food security is necessary but not sufficient for nutrition security. There is substance in this critique. For nutrition, the focus should be on children and women. The Food Bill does take a step ahead in that direction, although it could have done more on this front.
  • Many activists say that for the bulk of the beneficiary population of the poor, just five kg per month per person is insufficient and have to buy rest of the ration from the open market. The TPDS will provide only about 70 to 75 per cent of the food needs. There is nothing in the Bill for the destitute and starving.
  • While the Indian council of medical research norms recommend that an adult requires 14kgs of food grains per month and children 7kgs; the Bill provides for reduced entitlements to 5kgs per person per month.  Also there is an absence of entitlements to pulses and oil in the PDS which does not effectively solve the problem of malnutrition.

 

SWAMINATHAN COMMITTEE REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS ON FOOD SECURITY

  • Implement a universal public distribution system. The National Commission on Farmers pointed out that the total subsidy required for this would be 1% of GDP.
  • Reorganise the delivery of nutrition support programmes on a life-cycle basis with the participation of Panchayats and local bodies.
  • Eliminate micronutrient deficiency induced hidden hunger through an integrated food cum fortification approach.
  • Promote the establishment of Community Food and Water Banks operated by Women Self-help Groups (SHG), based on the principle ‘Store Grain and Water everywhere’.
  • Help small and marginal farmers to improve the productivity, quality and profitability of farm enterprises and organize a Rural Non-Farm Livelihood Initiative.
  • Formulate a National Food Guarantee Act continuing the useful features of the Food for Work and Employment Guarantee programmes. By increasing demand for food grains as a result of increased consumption by the poor, the economic conditions essential for further agricultural progress can be created.

 

THE CHHATTISGARH MODEL FOR FOOD SECURITY

  • Chhattisgarh is the only state to enact a food security law. A combination of policy, policing and administrative measures for wider coverage rather than targeted distribution, putting ration shops in the hands of those trusted by the community they serve, incentives for those running the fair price shops, computerised tracking of food grain, weeding out bogus BPL (below poverty line) cards and zero tolerance for pilferage has resulted in efficient delivery of foodgrain to 74 % of the population.
  • The Chhattisgarh Food Security Act extends coverage to 90%t of the population. Apart from grains, beneficiaries are entitled to 2 kg of pulses at Rs 5- Rs 10 per kg.
  • The Chhattisgarh model would argue that the Food Security Act can work without impacting the economy negatively. The state first reformed its PDS and gave its farmers sufficient incentives before enacting the law.

 

OTHER MEASURES TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY

  • MID-DAY MEAL SCHEME – byMinistry of Human Resource Development

    • The Scheme presently covers students of Class I-VIIIof Government and Government aided schools, Education Guarantee Scheme/Alternative and innovative Education Centers. It was launched with a view to enhance enrollment, retention, attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among students in primary schools.
  • WHEAT BASED NUTRITION PROGRAMME (WBNP): by Ministry of Women & Child Development
    • The foodgrains allotted under this Scheme are utilized by the States/UTs under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) for providing nutritious/ energy food to children below 6 years of age and expectant/lactating women.
  • ANNAPURNA SCHEME– by Ministry of Rural Development
    • Needy senior citizens of 65 years of age or above who are not getting pension under the ‘National Old Age Pension Scheme’ are provided 10 kgs of foodgrains per person per month free of cost under the scheme.
  • RAJIV GANDHI SCHEME FOR EMPOWERMENT OF ADOLESCENT GIRLS (RGSEAG) – ‘SABLA’ By Ministry of Women & Child Development
    • The Scheme aims at empowering adolescent girls of 11-18 years by improvement of their nutritional and health status and upgrading various skills like home skills, life skills and vocational skills.
    • It also aims at equipping the girls on family welfare, health hygiene etc. and information and guidance on existing public services along with aiming to mainstream out of school girls into formal or non-formal education.
    • The requirement of food grains under the scheme for nutrition is @ 100 grams of grains per beneficiary per day for 300 days in a year

 

CHALLENGES TO FOOD SECURITY

  • Climate Change: Higher temperatures and unreliable rainfall makes farming difficult. Climate change not only impacts crop but also livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and can cause grave social and economic consequences in the form of reduced incomes, eroded livelihoods, trade disruption and adverse health impacts.
  • Lack of access to remote areas: For the tribal communities, habitation in remote difficult terrains and practice of subsistence farming has led to significant economic backwardness.
  • Increase in rural-to-urban migration, large proportion of informal workforce resulting in unplanned growth of slums which lack in the basic health and hygiene facilities, insufficient housing and increased food insecurity.
  • Overpopulation, poverty, lack of education and gender inequality.
  • Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution mechanisms (PDS i.e. Public Distribution System).
  • Deserving beneficiaries of the subsidy are excluded on the basis of non-ownership of below poverty line (BPL) status, as the criterion for identifying a household as BPL is arbitrary and varies from state to state.
  • Biofuels: The growth of the biofuel market has reduced the land used for growing food crops.
  • Conflict: Food can be used as a weapon, with enemies cutting off food supplies in order to gain ground. Crops can also be destroyed during the conflict.
  • Unmonitored nutrition programmes: Although a number of programmes with improving nutrition as their main component are planned in the country but these are not properly implemented.
  • Lack of coherent food and nutrition policies along with the absence of intersectoral coordination between various ministries.
  • Corruption: Diverting the grains to open market to get better margin, selling poor quality grains at ration shops, irregular opening of the shops add to the issue of food insecurity.

 

STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY

  • The government policy needs to adopt an integrated policy framework to facilitate agriculture productivity.
    • The measures should focus mainly on rationale distribution of cultivable land, improving the size of the farmsand providing security to the tenant cultivators apart from providing the farmers with improved technology for cultivation and improved inputs like irrigation facilities, availability of better quality seeds, fertilizers and credits at lower interest rates.
    • Aeroponics and hydroponics are systems that allow plants to be grown without soil. Plants grown in this way take in water and nutrients efficiently. These methods can be used in the areas of poor soil quality and soil erosion.
    • Adoption of crops and techniques with lower water requirements,such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method of rice production, contributes to resilience by enabling equal or better yields to be achieved with less water withdrawal.
    • Planting crops with lower water requirements and agricultural practices that maintain soil moisture,such as maintaining vegetative cover between crops, can also contribute to resilience.
    • Crop diversification:Higher profitability and stability in production highlight the importance of crop diversification, e.g. legumes alternative with rice and wheat. Growing of non-cereal crops such as oilseeds, fruits and vegetables etc need to be encouraged.
  • Strategies for better food storageshould be adopted.
  • The Blue Revolution:Sea, lakes and rivers can be used to provide food and nutrition. Fish are a very good source of protein and do not require good soil.
  • Biotechnology and appropriate technology:Selective breeding or genetic modification (GM) of plants and animals can be done to produce specific features and adaptations.
    • For example, selective breeding has been used on dairy cows to increase milk yields. GM has been used on wheat to produce crops that are disease resistant.
  • Existing direct nutrition programmes should be revampedto enable management by women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs) and /or local bodies along with orientation and training of community health workers, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) members, other opinion leaders, caregivers and other stakeholders can be another area.
  • Efforts should be made by the concerned health departments and authorities to initiate and supervise the functioning of the nutrition related schemes in an efficient way.
    • Annual surveys and rapid assessments surveys could be some of the ways through which program outcomes can be measured.
  • Focus needs to be shifted to the workers in the informal sector by providing decent wages and healthy working conditions.
  • Local community education on key family health and nutrition practicesusing participatory and planned communication methodologies will be helpful.
  • The cooperativesplay an important role in food security in India especially in the southern and western parts of the country. The cooperative societies set up shops to sell low priced goods to poor people. The cooperatives should be encouraged.
  • Fostering rural-urban economic linkages can be an important step towards ensuring food security by-
    • enhancing and diversifying rural employment opportunities, especially for women and youth,
    • enabling the poor to better manage risks through social protection,
    • leveraging remittances for investments in the rural sector as a viable means for improving livelihoods

 

SHANTA KUMAR COMMITTEE

Important recommendations made

  • Reduce the number of beneficiaries under the Food Security Act—from the current 67 per cent to 40 per cent.
  • Allow private players to procure and store food grains.
  • Stop bonuses on minimum support price (MSP) paid by states to farmers, and adopt cash transfer system so that MSP and food subsidy amounts can be directly transferred to the accounts of farmers and food security beneficiaries.
  • FCI should involve itself in full-fledged grains procurement only in those states which are poor in procurement. In the case of those states which are performing well, like Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, the states should do the procurement.
  • Abolishing levy rice: Under levy rice policy, government buys certain percentage of rice (varies from 25 to 75 per cent in states) from the mills compulsorily, which is called levy rice. Mills are allowed to sell only the remainder in the open market.
  • Deregulate fertiliser sector and provide cash fertiliser subsidy of Rs 7,000 per hectare to farmers.
  • Outsource of stocking of grains: The committee calls for setting up of negotiable warehouse receipt (NWR) system. In the new system, farmers can deposit their produce in these registered warehouses and get 80 per cent of the advance from bank against their produce on the basis of MSP.
  • Clear and transparent liquidation policy for buffer stock: FCI should be given greater flexibility in doing business; it should offload surplus stock in open market or export, as per need.

 

 

 

VIDEOS / DEBATES TO WATCH FOR

Tackling Global Hunger

 

 

Shanta Kumar Committee

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