Issue of Hunger

Issue of Hunger

This article deals with ‘Issue of Hunger.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is Food Security ?

It means , all people have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all time.

It has three aspects wrt access

Physical There should be presence of food
Social Caste aspect and gender aspect
1. Dalits aren’t given food or given food on ground
2. Male child given nutritious food than girl child
Economic People should have money to buy food

Malnutrition

  • It is physiological condition due to unbalanced macro and micro nutrients manifested in form of
    • Wasting ie weight:height ratio is less
    • Stunting ie Height is lower wrt age
    • Underweight ie Weight is lower wrt age
    • Anaemia – Red Blood Cells reduces
  • Malnutrition at early stages reduces intelligence and affects the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills that affect the long term wellbeing.
  • Cost of malnutrition is high both for individuals and nations 

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and Hunger

Two goals are associated with this ie SDG 2 and SDG 12

SDG and Hunger

 SDG 2 aims to End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

SDG 12 aims to Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

We have to keep in mind that, on one hand humanity faces issue of hunger and on other hand , large amount of food is simply wasted due to wrong practices. It has been estimated that :-

  • 1/3rd food produced in world gets rotten due to poor transport, storage, processing
  • By 2050, 3 planets are required to sustain human lifestyle

IFPRI Global Hunger Index

  • Status of India (2019)
    • Rank = 102 out of 117 countries (In 2014 – it was 55)
    • India has highest number of hungry people in the world    
  • But they have also appreciated MGNREGA, NRHM & ICDS programmes of the government and recognised their role in reducing hunger but even after that , absolute number is very high

Hidden Hunger

  • 2014 Report of IFPRI also  spoke about HIDDEN HUNGER
  • If you are giving just Carbohydrates in diet to person, he willn’t die . But this isn’t enough for overall development of human body. Vitamins and other micro-nutrients are equally necessary 
  • If person doesn’t get proper micro-nutrients in his diet, his hidden hunger will remain
  • More than 50% women & children in India suffer from Anaemia
  • To fight hidden hunger – give
    • iodized salt,
    • fortified flour,
    • bio fortification of crops ,
    • PDS Reforms,
    • Education

Cause of Malnutrition

Green revolution phase saw new, fast growing varieties of staples especially wheat and rice, the following decades saw a steady decline in the food basket diversity, especially of traditional grains such as bajra, millet which have nutritional value.

  • Micronutrient Deficiencies / Hangover of Green Revolution : Green Revolution phase saw new, fast-growing varieties of staples, especially wheat and rice, the following decades saw a steady decline in the food basket diversity, especially of traditional grains such as bajra and millet, which have high nutritional value. Indians suffer deficiencies in vitamins and minerals- iron, vitamin A, zinc and iodine due to faulty diet
  • Breastfeeding practices :  Lack of improvement in infant and young child feeding practices are also responsible for poor status of nutrition.
  • Poor sanitation : About half of Indians defecate outside without using toilets and from here children pick up parasites and chronic infection that impair the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrition. 
  • Problem with Public Distribution System
    • Leakages in PDS : In 2012, 46% of total grains released through PDS leaked
    • Wastage : 62,000 tonnes of wheat & rice damaged in Food Corporation of India godowns
  • Social Causes : Women in household and girlchild  don’t get proper food (compared to other members)

Implications of Hunger

Hunger leads to unending cycle of hunger for future generations as well

Implications of Hunger

What India is doing to fight Hunger / Malnutrition

  • Mid Day Meals in School
  • POSHAN Scheme (refer below)
  • MGNREGA – Increased income of poors
  • National Food Security Act and PDS System
  • Integrated Child Development Program (ICDP)
  • Initiatives such as India Food Banking Network (IFBN), are promoting the concept of collaborative consumption with support from the private sector and civil society organisations. 
  • National Iron Plus Initiative and Vitamin A supplements 
  • Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding – Recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life
  • Anganwadi worker and ASHAs Worker  working towards this especially in rural areas .

POSHAN Scheme

  • POSHAN = PM’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment   Abhiyaan
  • Aims : ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, mothers and children.
  • Seeks to reduce the level of stunting, undernutrition and low birth weight by 2% each
  • Union government had signed a loan deal worth $200 million with the World Bank for the POSHAN Abhiyaan.

Public Distribution System (PDS)

Indian government gives subsidized food grains to it’s population thorugh

When Introduced When PDS was introduced it was universal scheme  
Targeted PDS In 1997 :  Targeted PDS was introduced (Not given to all but on the basis of some criteria)  
National Food Security Act (NFSA) – Criteria => Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC) will be used
– Food grains will be given to 67% population

National Food Security Act (NFSA)

We will study National Food Security Act with detail as this system is presently used in India for Public food distribution at subsidized rates. Under the act,

  • Central Government procures , store and then supply it to states
  • State Government identifies the beneficiaries using Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC)  in a way that it cover 67% of population and then distribute cereals /allowance to them.
National Food Security Act

Entitlements under NFSA

What Following things are given at mentioned rates
1. Rice at ₹3/kg
2. Wheat at ₹2/ kg
3. Coarse Grain at ₹1/kg
To whom 1. Antyodaya Family is given 35kg/Family/ month
2. Priority Households are given 5kg/person/month (max : 5 person)
3. ₹6000 is given to pregnant women
4. Free meals and ration given to students

Criticism of NFSA

  • No need to cover 67% population & it should have been targeted scheme  . It will lead to Fiscal deficit
  • Hidden Hunger Problem will remain because it don’t have pulses, edible oil, fruits, veggies and milk component in it. Present diet will just provide Carbohydrates 
  • Nothing done to reduce leakage . GPS Truck tracking , CCTV etc should have been used in this but there isn’t any provision like this in the act
  • Economic Survey is of the view that instead of this , Food Stamps should be given to targeted people who can buy the food of their choice from market

Alternatives to present National Food Security Act

1 . Universal

When PDS was introduced it was universal scheme . In 1997, Targeted PDS started but states like Tamil Nadu continued to use Universal Entitlement

Pros No Exclusion Errors
Cons Fiscal Deficit Issues
– Theoretically, subsidy should be targeted to poor only

2. CashTransfer

Give Cash via Direct Benefit Transfer . People will buy themselves

Pros 1. Increased choice on what to eat
2. Nutritional Security instead of food security
3. Low administrative cost
4. No leakages
Cons 1. No surety that it will be used to buy food
2. Expose already vulnerable people to price volatility of food
3. Financial Inclusion is not 100% and most of persons outside net are those who need food subsidy the most .

3. Food Coupons

Pros Household is given the freedom to choose where it buys food
Increases incentive for competitive prices and assured quality of food grains among PDS stores
Ration shops get full price for food grains from the poor; no incentive to turn the poor away  
Cons Food coupons are not indexed for inflation; may expose recipients to inflation
Difficult to administer; there have known to be delays in issuing food coupons and reimbursing shops

4. Use Technology

Some of the states are already using the technology to stop leakages in the PDS and showing positive results . These include

Issue of Smart Card Haryana , Tamil Nadu, Punjab
Using GPS Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu
SMS based Monitoring Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, UP

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