Food Security-challenges, policies
Dr. Banarsi Lal
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 does not remain confined to mere food self-sufficiency which has of course been the prime objective but is beyond it to take care of buffer stocking and distribution. An elaborate food management system has been achieved over the years which has worked quite successfully to take care of all. 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 poor’s. 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 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. While 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.If scientific knowledge is efficiently delivered to the farmers, then around 40-45 per cent food production can be increased.