High growth not ensuring enough food for urban poor: Reddy
New Delhi: The country's high economic growth is not ensuring availability of enough foodgrains for the urban poor because of the weak Public Distribution System
(PDS), Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy on Saturday said.
"Increase in growth rate does not indicate improvement in the living condition of the poor in urban areas. PDS is very weak in many Northern states. So, as long as PDS is
strengthened, even among slum dweller, I do not see a way out," Reddy said while unveiling the report on 'The State of Food Insecurity in Urban India'.
It is shocking to learn that the recent high growth is not reflected in increased availability of foodgrains to the poor in urban area, he said, referring to the findings of the
report prepared jointly by the UN's World Food Programmes and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation.
In 2009-10 fiscal, India's economic growth stood at 7.4 percent. It is expected to grow at 8.5 percent in the current financial year.
At present, the government provides 35 kg of rice and wheat a month through PDS at subsidised rates to the poor. Last year, around 50 million tonnes of foodgrains was
distributed under various schemes via ration shops.
As per the report, urban areas in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan are the most food insecure. And the food insecurity has increased in urban
areas of developing states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra during 2004-06 as compared to 1998-2000, it said.
The report suggested strengthening of food-based safety-net schemes, including the PDS and Mid-day meal schemes. It also stressed on the targeted interventions to
improve employment opportunities through implementation of the Urban Employment of Guarantee Act on the lines of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA).
Leading agri-scientist and MSSRF head MS Swaminathan said, "Urban food insecurity deserves serious attention. Right to food is first among rights that we should food provide to the poor. The enactment of the proposed Food Security Act will be the fulfilment of Gandhian hope. It is the most significant legislation since independence."
The focus should be on universalising it through a system of good governance and modern technology.
World Food Programme India Representative Mihoko Tamamura said, "The mere availability of food in urban markets does not guarantee food security to the urban poor. Unemployment, low wages accompanied by the rapid rise in the prices of essential
commodities has made finding enough food even more challenging for the vulnerable."