The Hunger Games End Here: India's Ambitious Plan to Feed Every Mouth
Expanding the food security net in India is crucial to ensuring that all citizens have access to sufficient and nutritious food.
India is one of the largest food-producing countries in the world, yet millions of its citizens still suffer from hunger and malnutrition. In recent years, the Indian government has taken steps to expand its food security net in order to ensure that all of its citizens have access to sufficient and nutritious food.
India's public distribution system (PDS) is a network of food distribution centres that provide subsidized food grains to low-income households. However, the PDS has been plagued by issues such as corruption, leakages, and inadequate coverage. To expand the food security net, the government needs to strengthen the PDS by improving the targeting of beneficiaries, increasing the transparency and accountability of the system, and investing in infrastructure such as storage facilities and transport networks.
Agriculture is the backbone of India's economy, and investing in agricultural development can help to increase food production and improve food security. This can be achieved through measures such as increasing public investment in agriculture, promoting sustainable farming practices, and supporting small and marginal farmers through targeted interventions such as credit, insurance, and technical assistance.
India's Agricultral Diversity
India has a rich diversity of crops and food products, yet the country's food system is heavily reliant on a few key staples such as wheat and rice. To expand the food security net, India needs to promote the cultivation and consumption of diverse crops such as millets, pulses, and vegetables. This can be achieved through measures such as promoting research and development, providing incentives for farmers to grow diverse crops, and creating demand through awareness campaigns and nutrition education.
Access to credit is critical for small and marginal farmers, who often lack the resources to invest in inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation. To expand the food security net, India needs to improve access to credit by expanding microfinance programs, creating specialized loan products for farmers, and increasing the coverage and outreach of agricultural credit institutions.
Malnutrition is a major public health challenge in India, with high rates of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overnutrition. To expand the food security net, India needs to address malnutrition through measures such as improving maternal and child health, promoting breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, fortifying staple foods with essential micronutrients, and creating awareness about the importance of a healthy and balanced diet.
Can Technology Help?
Technology can be a powerful tool for expanding the food security net in India. For example, mobile phones can be used to deliver real-time market information to farmers, enabling them to make better decisions about what to plant and when to sell. Digital payment systems can help to reduce leakages and corruption in the PDS, while remote sensing and data analytics can be used to monitor agricultural productivity and detect early warning signs of food insecurity.
The current framework for food security in India includes several initiatives aimed at ensuring access to food for all citizens. The most significant of these is the National Food Security Act (NFSA), which was enacted in 2013. Under the NFSA, the government provides subsidized food grains to two-thirds of the population, including those living below the poverty line and vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children. The subsidized grains are distributed through the Public Distribution System (PDS), which operates through a network of fair price shops across the country. In addition to the PDS, the government has several other schemes aimed at improving food security, including the Mid-Day Meal Scheme for schoolchildren, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme for young children and pregnant women, and the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), which promotes rural livelihoods and agriculture.
Food Security Challenges
Poverty: Poverty is one of the primary drivers of food insecurity in India. Many people cannot afford to purchase sufficient and nutritious food, particularly in rural areas.
Malnutrition: Malnutrition is a significant challenge in India, particularly among children. According to UNICEF, nearly one-third of children in India are stunted, and around 20% are wasted.
Climate Change: Climate change poses a significant threat to India's food security, with changing weather patterns leading to droughts, floods, and other natural disasters that can damage crops and reduce yields.
Inefficient Food Distribution Systems: The Public Distribution System (PDS), which is intended to provide subsidized food grains to those in need, is often inefficient and plagued by corruption. Many eligible beneficiaries do not receive the food they are entitled to, while others who are not eligible receive the subsidies.
Lack of Agricultural Development: Agriculture is a crucial sector for India's food security, but there are several challenges facing the sector, including declining soil fertility, water scarcity, and low productivity.
Food wastage is a significant challenge in India, with estimates suggesting that up to 40% of food produced in the country is lost or wasted. This wastage occurs throughout the supply chain, from farm to table, and has significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. Expanding the food safety net in India is crucial to ensuring that all citizens have access to sufficient and nutritious food. It will require a collaborative effort from the government, civil society, and private sector to address the root causes of food insecurity, improve agricultural productivity, and strengthen the food distribution system. By taking a comprehensive approach that addresses the multifaceted challenges of food security, India can make significant progress towards achieving its goal of ensuring food security for all
Authored by Ajay M Reje, a final year research student at Department of Geopolitics and International Relations, MAHE. His area of interest lies in the SDG’s, Water-Energy-Food Nexus, Climate change and environment in the Asia-Pacific.