Few words about rising food insecurity in India

Even before we could swallow, India’s rank of 102 among 117 countries in terms of Global Hunger Index (GHI) in 2019, the State of Food security and nutrition in the world (SOFI) report 2020 released by UNO indicates that food insecurity is increasing in India and in terms of population, India has highest number of food-insecure people in the world. The report indicates that the food insecurity increased by 3.8% from 2014-16 to 2017-19.

This report is based on the global surveys conducted by FAO and other agencies around the world. Unfortunately, government of India (GoI) neither conducts such surveys nor it allows to publish such reports in India. This data is extracted from the Social Finance, Inc. (SOFI) report by comparing the data provided for South East Asia with India and without India.

Food insecurity is measured based on two indicators. 1) Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) and 2) Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI). PoU is a conventional measure and based on consumption surveys. Whereas PMSFI is a new measure and based on the incidence of food shortage, skipping meals, changing diets etc. FAO has conducted this survey in 140 countries in collaboration with Gallup World Poll (GWP).

GoI has not released the report of NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization) of 2017-18. Therefore PoU data on consumption is not available. Under this situation PMSFI indicator is more significant.

The date reveals that in 2017-19, 22% of the global population facing food insecurity were residing in India. In India food insecurity was increased by 3.8% while in the rest of South Asia it got reduced by 0.5%.. The total number increased from 42.65Cr to 48.86Cr, a jump of 6.2 crores.

 Underlying causes

The life conditions of our country men are worsening day by day for the last few years.  The draconian policy of Demonetization and GST have further accelerated the penury. What is to be taken into account is that all these data and report are for pre-Covid 19 period. Now we can assume the fate of the poor and migrant workers after lockdown!

Every year, it is announced that there is bumper crop production. But then where does the produce go keeping the countrymen starved?  Significantly, while over 50 crores of our people are either hungry or food-insecure, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns were reported to have a stock of 100 million Metric Tons( mMT) of food  grains before pandemic strike. The safety buffer stock needed is less than 50 mMTs. Even if 10kgs of grain per person for 85% of the population is distributed for 4 months, it needs only 47m MT. This food grain stock unless distributed to the hungry poor, will have to be sold in the open market, for which there is not much demand, or left to rot. This is the inhuman face of this so called democratic system. 

The other factors contributing to rising food insecurity is destruction of multi-crop fertile lands for setting up capital-intensive industries or Special Economic Zones. Secondly, proliferation of contract farming of cash crops is bound to hamper production of staple items like rice, wheat etc. Moreover, hoarding, black marketing and manipulation of prices of food items through widespread speculation capital market speculation in the form of forward trading etc. have already been jacking up food prices depriving the pauperized millions of buying their bare necessities to eke out a bare living. Unpardonable crimes like adulteration of food articles and artificial colouring of vegetables with poisonous material by unscrupulous businessmen with a view to maximizing profit also from a different perspective imperils food security. Now, with passing of the new highly sinister farm bills, hoarding and black marketing, apart from other anti-peasant steps, would soar as whatever little legal restrictions had been in force are also now removed.

What more evidences are needed to state that this profit hungry capitalism does never care about the stomach hungry, poor people.  It is clearly evident that as the hunger for profit grows among the capitalists, the hunger for food grows among the workers and poor in the same proportion. The so called ‘Trickle down’ theory which was hitherto so ready an excuse available with the bourgeois economists to justify capitalist oppression has also gone down the drain.  To put it succinctly, the monopoly giants, corporate behemoths and agri-MNCs have been merrily trading in the hunger of the millions. It is time to realize this fact and raise our voice.

Year          % of Food       Population

                     insecurity        (in crores)

2014-16          27.8                   42.65

2017-19          31.6                   48.86

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