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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Ridding India of food insecurity

 

Source: The Hindu

 

  • Prelims: Current events of national and national and international importance(NFSA, PDS, NITI Ayog etc)
  • Mains GS Paper III: Issues related to poverty and hunger, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection of vulnerable sections of society etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • India is the fastest growing large economy of the world, but it is facing accelerating food-price inflation.
  • The rise in the price of food first accelerated sharply in 2019
    • In July this year, annual inflation exceeded 11%, the highest in a decade.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013:

        

  • Objective:
    • To provide for food and nutritional security in the human life cycle approach
    • Ensuring access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • Coverage: 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • Eligibility:
    • Priority Households to be covered under TPDS, according to guidelines by the State government.
    • Households covered under existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

Provisions:

  • 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing AAY household will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • Meal and maternity benefit of not less than 6,000 to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth.
  • Meals for children upto 14 years of age.
  • Food security allowance to beneficiaries in case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals.
  • Setting up of grievance redressal mechanisms at the district and state level.

 

Evidences for inflation:

  • The ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the proportion of the population across countries unable to afford a healthy diet
  • The figure for India in 2021: An estimated 74% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • A shrinking ability of households to finance their food requirement is evident also in studies undertaken in India itself.

 

Why is this finding plausible?

  • Trend in the price of food in Mumbai city over 2018-2023:The cost of preparing a thaali at home has risen by 65%, in this period
    • The average wage of a manual worker rose by 38% and that of a salaried worker by 28%.
  • Reported rise in the prevalence of anemia, mostly induced by nutrient deficiency(National Family Health Survey 2019-21).
    • Over 50% of adult women were estimated to be anemic.
    • FAO’s finding(that over half of India cannot afford a healthy diet) is plausible.

 

Challenges:

  • Macroeconomic policy, relied upon to control inflation, has proved to be useless in the context.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has failed in this task, with the inflation rate mostly higher than the target for four years by now.
    • Its approach of contracting output when the inflation rate rises — misleadingly termed “inflation targeting”
    • It does nothing to manage food inflation stemming from the supply side.

 

Mistakes done during Green revolution:

  • The rampant use of chemical fertilizer, fuelled by subsidy, which degraded the soil.
  • The reliance on procurement prices rather than productivity increase to ensure farm incomes, which fuelled inflation.
  • The policy was almost exclusively focused on cereals rather than pulses, the main source of protein for most Indians.

 

What steps need to be taken to undo mistakes?

  • Focus on the specific goal of lowering the cost of producing food.
  • The first Green Revolution had a specific agenda — of making India self-sufficient in food. A second agricultural revolution is needed now.
  • To contain the rising price of food would require action on many fronts; a mission mode is necessary.
  • Procurement prices, cash transfers, the Public Distribution System, and priority lending required of public sector banks are not sufficient.
    • Yield increasing interventions on the farm are needed to at least contain the cost of production, if not to actually lower it.
  • Agricultural yield is lower in India than in East Asia, pointing to the potential for an increase.
    • Attention is needed to extend irrigation to 100% of the net sown area
    • End the restrictions on leasing of land
    • A quickening of agricultural research and the re-institution of extension.

 

Steps taken by Government for food security:

  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana(which promotes organic farming)
  • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana(which focuses on more crops per drop for improved water use)
  • Soil Health Management(fosters Integrated Nutrient Management under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture)
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKY
  • Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana (PM POSHAN Scheme)
  • Take-home rations
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
  • Digitisation and measures such as rice fortification, better health, and sanitation.

 

Way Forward

  • It is necessary to intervene on the supply side to ensure that food is produced at a steady price by raising the yield on land.
  • India’s network of public agricultural research institutes needs to be energized to resume the sterling role they had played in the 1960s.
  • The gram sevak was a familiar figure in the village, playing a crucial role in the dissemination of best practices. It must be revived.
    • These initiatives should be dovetailed into a programme for the manifold increase of protein production, which India is severely deficient in.
  • With the central government taking the States along in a spirit of cooperative federalism: It may be asked if the States are playing their part to enhance agricultural productivity rather than relying on food allocations to their Public Distribution System from the central pool.
  • A noticeable feature of the first Green Revolution was that by relying on private enterprise: In order to ensure that all Indians have permanent access to a healthy diet, no approach consistent with ecological security must be off the table.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

How has the emphasis on certain crops brought about changes in cropping patterns in the recent past? Elaborate the emphasis on millets production and consumption.(UPSC 2018) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)