Food Security

Around 80% of Indians do not get enough to eat. Despite claims to being an emerging Superpower, India ranks 94th out of 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index.. 43% of Indian children and 40  % of women are malnourished. 50% of child deaths are due to malnutrition.One in every three Indians is underweight. (BMI of less than 18.5%). According to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (Arjun Sengupta Report) 77% of Indians live on less than Rs 20 a day (2004).

While 52% of the population is directly and 65% is indirectly dependant on agriculture, agriculture’s share in the GDP (the total income of the country) has dropped to only 15%. Agriculture has been continuously discriminated against, and exploited to subsidise industry and the service sector. The value of agricultural work and agricultural produce is deliberately undervalued while those of industry, trade and the service sector are inflated.

The Green Revolution promoted only expensive irrigated rice and wheat varieties at the cost of dryland varieties and especially other inexpensive, dry land crops like millets, pulses and oilseeds. It was concentrated in only a few areas, and the majority of the countries – the dry land areas – were neglected. Most important, farming has been made heavily dependant on increasing use of expensive seed, fertilizer and pesticide, driving farmers into debt and making them totally dependant on agribusiness companies. These companies make huge profits while farmers starve. Because of this type of Industrial Farming, soil has been depleted of micro nutrients while the water table has plunged. Mechanised farming has destroyed rural livelihoods.

Instead of learning from these mistakes, the Government now wants a Second Green Revolution that will make farming even more dependant on the Agribusiness Corporations. While the agriculture of areas like Punjab and Haryana is in deep crisis because of wrong “Green Revolution” farming, the government now wants to introduce this type of destructive farming in Eastern India as well. Instead of promoting sustainable agriculture, it wants farming to be based on such dangerous technologies as GM seeds. Cash crops for industrial use- cotton, sugarcane, floriculture, tomato for ketchup, potato for chips etc- are being promoted at the cost of food crops.

There is growing unemployment and insecurity of employment. Most workers are in the unorganized sector and work for very low, irregular wages and have very harsh living conditions.

Now a days in the amidst the cacophony around the Lokpal Bill, National Food Security Bill 2011 has been tabled in the Loksabha. Whatever the Government of India has fleshed in the National Food Security Bill is actually in pursuance with the constitutional obligations (section 47) and obligations under various international conventions. More than that, it has been done in the larger context of prevailing food and nutritional insecurity in one of the fastest growing economy of the world. Still it has not gone the whole hog to hit the problem per se. Rather, it is just a beginning to register the fact that hunger is a real cause of concern. The National Food Security Bill, in its present form, is not adequately endowed with a vision to address the very structural causes of Food and Nutritional Insecurity in India.