Food security means availability of food to all people all the time. Food security has following dimensions:
1.Availability of food: This means the food production within the country, food imports and previous years’ stock stored in government granaries.
2.Accessibility of food: This means food should be within reach of every person.
3.Affordability: This means that every individual has enough money to buy sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet one’s dietary needs.
What is need of food security?
Food security is needed for various purposes. The main purpose of food security is the no person should go to bed with empty stomach. The other reason is that in times of natural calamities, surplus food should be available to ensure adequate food supply to those who are affected by the calamity.
A situation which leads to widespread death because of starvation and epidemics caused by forced use of contaminated water or decaying food. The FAMINE OF BENGAL in 1943 was the most devastating famine which occurred in recorded history. The Bengal famine killed about 30 lakh people in Bengal.
Historical data suggest that the Bengal famine was not caused due to lack of availability of food but due to lack of access to food. The amount of rice produced was more or less similar from 1938 to 1945.
Food Insecure People
The worst affected people from food-insecurity are the landless poor, traditional artisans, providers of traditional services, petty self-employed workers and destitute. In urban areas; people who are employed in low paid jobs and in seasonal works come under this category of people.
If we look at the socioeconomic groups in India; then the SCs, STs and some sections of the OBCs are people who are either landless or have poor land-base. They are the people most prone to food-insecurity. People who migrate to other areas in search of work are also food-insecure people. Women; especially pregnant women are also at high risk.
The BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) and Orissa have a large portion of population which can be among the food-insecure people.
Hunger is not just an expression of poverty rather it brings about poverty. There can be chronic hunger or seasonal hunger. Chronic hunger is prevalent among those who earn very low and thus suffer from hunger for most of the time. Seasonal hunger is related to agricultural cycle. Many landless farm workers and marginal farmers may be suffering from seasonal hunger. In urban areas; people who suffer from seasonal unemployment can suffer from seasonal hunger.
Food Security in India
Green Revolution was started with an aim to achieve food security in India. Since the launch of the Green Revolution in 1970s, there has not been a single case of famine in spite of adverse weather conditions in several years. Foodgrain production increased from about 70 million tonnes in 1060-61 to about 200 million tonnes in 2003-04.
The stock of foodgrains (wheat and rice) procured by the government through FCI (Food Corporation of India) makes the buffer stock. The FCI purchases wheat and rice from farmers in those states which have surplus production. The government fixes an MSP (Minimum Support Price) to buy the foodgrains. MSP is revised from time to time. A part of this buffer stock is utilised to supply foodgrains to poor people at subsidized rates. This is done through the PDS (Public Distribution System). The rest of the stock is maintained to meet any eventuality in any part of the country.
Public Distribution System (PDS)
This is a chain of fair price shops (ration shops) through which subsidized food, sugar and kerosene are given to the poor people. A family needs to have a ration card to avail the facility of PDS. A family with a ration card can buy 35 kg of grains, 5 litres of kerosene, 5 kg of sugar, etc. Items and quantities can vary from one state to another.
Rationing was introduced in India in the backdrop of the Bengal famine. This system was again revived in the 1960s to tackle acute shortage of food.
In the 1970s, three important food intervention progammes were introduced to tackle the shortage of food:
Public Distribution System (PDS): This system was made to ensure smooth supply of subsidized food items to the poor.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS): These services were introduced to provide proper nutrition to poor children.
Food for Work (FFW): This programme was introduced to help the poor to earn food in lieu of some work.
Similarly, many Poverty Alleviation Programmes (PAPs) have been introduced from time to time to tackle the food shortage. Mid Day Meal scheme was launched in government schools to provide freshly cooked lunch to poor children.
Current Status of PDS in India
At present, there are 478,000 ration shops in India; which makes it the largest distribution network in the world.
The PDS has proved to be quite effective in helping the poor people. However, there have many instances of poor management and corruption. Many people complain that after the segregation of APL and BPL, people holding the APL card seldom go to the ration shops because of minor variations with the market prices. The ration shopkeepers often siphon off the foodgrains into open market and sell poor quality foodgrains through the ration shop. The shopkeepers are also erratic in their behaviour because of which many people suffer.
In July 2002, FCI had 63 million tonnes of rice and wheat. This stock was much higher than the minimum buffer norms of 24.3 million tonnes. When relief operation were carried out in 2002-03 because of drought, the stock with FCI eased somewhat. The high level of buffer stock has created its own problems. The foodgrains rot in many FCI godowns and are eaten away by rats.
The practice of providing MSP for wheat and rice has also created various problems. Many farmers have concentrated on wheat and rice to get the MSP and have diverted the land use from other crops. This has created a shortage for coarse foodgrains; like millets and maize.
Intensive cultivation of rice and wheat has also proved a drain on groundwater because these crops need more irrigation.
At many places cooperatives have come up and they are managing the PDS in a better way.