Paradoxically, India attained national food self-sufficiency 35 years ago yet about 35% of its population remains food insecure. Low incomes and high food prices prevent individual food security. Another aspect of Indian food security situation is that after over three decades of operation, public distribution system meets less than 10% of consumption of PDS grains– rice and wheat –by the poor.
At the global level, poor harvest coupled with rising demand has led to and overall increase in food prices. Unfavorable weather conditions in parts of Europe and North Africa, together with worst ever drought in Australia put stocks of major food crops, especially wheat, at record low levels. Tight supply pushed up the prices of wheat to unprecedented heights, significantly affecting food inflation across the globe including India.
Surging food grain prices and worsening global supplies are now bringing the domestic food crisis to the boil. The crisis has been building up for sometime. The food grains yields of India farmers are not going up. Grain output has been stagnating for over a decade and there is a growing gap between supply and demand.
Attaining long-term food security requires the raising of incomes and making food affordable. To ensure food security for the vulnerable section of the society a multiple pronged stately is to be evolved. To begin with all the existing social safety net programmes need amalgamation and should focus on vulnerable and underprivileged regions and groups.
The existing anti-poverty programmes may be made more transparent with better government that minimizes leakages and benefits from such programmes. Simultaneously, agriculture needs to be reformed by improving incentives, incentives, increasing in vestment etc. So that production of traditional and high-value commodities can be increased.
Unfortunately agriculture is in the grip of poor performance. Traditional sources of augmenting income are ceresin. Production environment is changing it is not dominated by small holders. With the shrinking land holdings, their sustainability and viability can not rely solely on production of food grains. To augment their income, small holders need to diversify their production and crops.
Ten years after the dismantling of the universal public distribution system systems, the statistical jugglery of the targeted food distribution system actually excludes millions of poor in both the BPL and APL categories. Targeting is linked to neoli9beral policies that seek to limit, if not eliminate, the government’s welfare responsibilities.
The denial of the right to food for a large section of the Indian population reflected in increased malnourishment strutted growth, ill health and loss of energy and therefore productivity is an issue that deserves more national attention. If countries agree to be graded in terms of provision of food security to their citizens, India would rank along with Ethiopia at the lower end.
The United Nations children’s fund report that tone out of every tow children in India in malnourished confirms the lopsided priorities of successive governments at the centre that seek to narrow fiscal deficits by reducing food subsidies.
Until 1996, India has universal PDS. There it introduced the targeted system with the mistaken notion that the infirmities of the PDS should be curbed and that it would enable subsidized grain to reach those who actually needed it.
India now has 10 years of experience of the targeted (into APL and BPL households with access...