The number itself is mindboggling. Though we are primarily an agriculture nation still we have seen worst of famines and hunger. Starvation has not been wiped off from the country and as population goes on increasing it will be even a bigger challenge in the time to come. India needs to take big initiatives to improve its food security as it faces supply constraints, water scarcity, small landholdings, low per capita GDP and inadequate irrigation.
Food security, means 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. Food security is closely related to household resources, disposable income and socioeconomic status. It is also strongly interlinked with other issues, such as food prices, global environment change, water, and energy and agriculture growth.
Food Security is Important for a Nation due to following reasons
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
Food security concerns can be traced back to the experience of the Bengal Famine in 1943 during British colonial rule, during which about 2 million people perished due to starvation. Since attaining independence, an initial rush to industrialize while ignoring agriculture, two successive droughts in the mid-1960s, and dependence on food aid from the United States exposed India’s vulnerability to several shocks on the food security front.
The country saw Green Revolution in the late 1960s, enabling it to overcome productivity stagnation and to significantly improve food grain production. Despite its success, the Green Revolution is often criticized for being focused on only two cereals, wheat and rice; being confined to a few resources abundant regions in the northwestern and southern parts of the country that benefited mostly rich farmers; and putting too much stress on the ecology of these regions, especially soil and water.
The Green Revolution was followed by the White Revolution, which was initiated by Operation Flood during the 1970s and 1980s. This national initiative has revolutionized liquid milk production and marketing in India, making it the largest producer of milk.
Of late, especially during the post-2000 period, hybrid maize for poultry and industrial use and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton have shown great strides in production, leading to sizeable exports of cotton, which made India the second largest exporter of cotton in 2007–2008.
Clearly we are working for the food security but needs to speed it up as two or three successive crop failures due to bad Monsoon can make us vulnerable to drought and lead to starvation. We must act now and make our agriculture more robust and not leave it on the mercy of Monsoon rains.
we still have the following unflattering statistics:
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 under nutrition 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.
About 14.8% of the population is undernourished in India.
Also, 51.4% of women in reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anemic.
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.
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
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.
Recent Government Initiatives
National Food Security Mission is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme launched in 2007. It aims to increase production of rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals and commercial crops, through area expansion and productivity enhancement. It works toward restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level and enhancing farm level economy. It further aims to augment the availability of vegetable oils and to reduce the import of edible oils.
Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) It was initiated in 2007, and allowed states to choose their own agriculture and allied sector development activities as per the district/state agriculture plan. It was converted into a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 2014-15 also with 100% central assistance.
Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) has been named as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) for three years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
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 fulfill 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.