A Food For Thought!

By ZRG | Updated: Oct 16, 2012, 13:48 PM IST

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/Zee Research Group/Delhi

It’s common knowledge now that India is being home to the largest number of undernourished people clubbed along with many sub-Saharan countries. But what separates India from them is that the poor here are unfed due to governmental machinery’s apathy and indifference to their plight. If that wasn’t the case then 16,386 tons of food grains (worth Rs 9.67 crores) with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) wouldn’t have gone waste in three years (2009-12). Isn’t it criminal that food grains lay wasted and rotten outside the FCI warehouses when 29.8 percent of India’s population lives below poverty line failing to even feed themselves with two square meals a day? Not surprisingly, India story continues to be painted with the images of undernourished children and mothers abroad on October 16 celebrated as the “World Food Day”.

Sustaining that image of India is the latest report published by the State of Food Insecurity in the World’ 2012 which shows India having the largest 217 million undernourished people as of 2012. The report also reflects that the proportion of Indians who are undernourished now stands at 17.5 per cent. What’s really a cause for concern, India now is bracketed along with sub-Saharan countries like Congo and Namibia who are likely to miss their Millennium Development Goals.

Sharing concern on the crisis over growing food insecurity, Biraj Patnaik, principal adviser to the Supreme Court commissioners says, “Nutrition security requires access to not just food but good drinking water, sanitation and balanced diet as a whole. Unfortunately a significant population in India does not get the calorie intake requirement necessary.”

Lamenting the procurement policy as the main culprit for the damage of food grains, I.K. Negi, general manager (quality control) at Food Corporation of India (FCI) says, “We lose a lot of crops due to various reasons like rain, natural calamities, proper storage facilities and transportation through railways ever year. With such a huge volume of procurement, controlling the crop damage becomes tough.”

A glimmer of hope to provide millions with food grains has been raised by the much-awaited Food Security Bill. Earlier this month, Union Minister of State for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas said that the Food Security Bill is expected to be passed in the winter session of parliament.

But the success of the idea much depends upon its implementation. The previous public distribution system has utterly failed in preventing pilferage and corruption. If the government can implement it successfully, it will be nothing short of a political masterstroke and hedge them against anti-incumbency.

Talking on the legislative failures, Patnaik adds, “Lack of accountability within the government and corruption has led to the demolition of all major concerns in the country. There is a need to have a food security bill to bring an immediate check over the alarming situation of excessive poverty and malnutrition.”

A World Bank reports says that productivity losses in India due to stunted growth and iodine deficiencies, are equivalent to almost 3 percent of Gross Development Product.