A section of people in India are still without food. Explain.
The food insecure: A large section of people in India suffer from food and nutrition insecurity. This group of ‘the food insecure’ includes landless agricultural labourers and small farmers, casual labourers in the urban areas, people belonging to the backward social sections such as the SCs, STs and OBCs, people belonging to the backward regions, migrants and a large proportion of pregnant and nursing mothers, and children under the age of five years.
Government’s efforts: The government has played a key role in ensuring food security for the poorest sections of society through various schemes such as the public distribution system, mid-day meals, food-for-work and rural employment guarantee. However, due to certain failings, a number of people still go without food.
Three dimensions of food security: Food security is ensured by ensuring food availability, accessibility and affordability. When either of these dimensions of food security is neglected, the overall system of food security gets adversely affected.
Negative effect on food availability: Through the Food Corporation of India, the government purchases food grains from states with surplus production. These food grains are stored in granaries and distributed in the food-deficit areas and among the poorer strata of society under the various government schemes.
However, instances of hunger are prevalent despite overflowing granaries. The storage of massive food stocks has more often than not led to wastage of grains and deterioration in their quality. As a result, the availability of food grains is affected.
The increase in the minimum support prices (prices at which the government buys food grains from farmers) of rice and wheat has induced farmers to divert land from the production of coarse grains—the staple food of the poor—to the production of these crops. This again affects the availability of food.
Indian agriculture is largely dependent on the unpredictable monsoons. Only a small part of the national cultivable land is well irrigated. During times of delayed or low rains, the overall productivity and availability of food grains gets negatively affected.
Negative effect on food accessibility and affordability: The food procured by the government is distributed via the fair-price shops at a price lower than market price. However, most public-distribution-system dealers resort to malpractices like diverting food grains to open market to make profits, selling poor quality grains at ration shops, irregular opening of the shops, etc. Such actions make safe and nutritious food inaccessible and unaffordable for many of the poor.
Lack of proper monitoring of schemes: The lack of proper implementation and proper targeting of many of the poverty-alleviation programmes have led to their lack of effectiveness in ensuring food security. Despite good intentions, many of the schemes of the government have not reached the deserving poor. Hence, a great number of people are still food insecure.