Food Security in India: Emergency knocking at the door

Agriculture, seems to be the most neglected sector in India. It employs millions, its the largest employer formally and informally and is the bedrock of the ‘social economy’ of our nation. Civilization wise, India has been a grain basket-self sufficient in food grains ever since the green revolution ofcourse with some help from USAID. In recent years, agriculture is the sick man of our economic ecosystem, with no structural reforms as have taken place with the financial and the telecom sectors. There has been all talk and no action. People are deserting agriculture as a means of sustenance, as they see no future in post-liberalized India.  The result of this is catastrophic in nature, India has started importing food grains on a large scale from the international market which is contributing to inflation for the ‘aam admi’. The commodity trading has impacted prices for the end consumer and also the farmer with the traders making big bucks.

Futures trading in essential food items is criminal as steep fluctuations in food prices drive even more vulnerable poor into poverty. Millions were driven into destitution when corn prices sky rocketed with the agri feed-stock being diverted from the plate to the pump in the avatar of biofuels. Running SUV’s are far more important than feeding undernourished kids. This Ethical Poverty leading to dehumanistic behavior. It is implicit slow murder of people.  There was civil unrest in Mexico and Philippines in 2008 with price rise. Every society is three skipped meals from a revolution as Marx said, poverty and price rise of food grains were the catalyst for Tahrir in to blowing out of proportion into an inferno.

Then there are climatic vagaries to deal with as Indian agriculture is mainly subsistence in form. Climate Change is making things worse. And then we do not have an integrated strategy to deal with the impacts of Climate Change on agriculture while our agriculture minister is more interested in running the global body of Cricket from Dubai and pandering to Western Maharashtra districts- his pocket Burroughs  rather than dealing with thousands of farmer suicides. An one off loan waiver such as in Vidharbha  can win an election but cannot prevent more from committing the same act one again.

Food prices can rock the electoral boat, onion made the BJP led Delhi Government to cry, as onion is a staple of the North Indian palate. The congress is fearing this in 2014, hence has brought in the Food Security legislation like RTI, Jan Lok Pal and NREGA to save the day. An admirable legislation, for millions of destitute and poor; it is sure to drill a hole into the finances of this regime, although India spends a lot more on defense. A electorally driven bill, the social security net in terms of food being given by this framework is good on paper, it is the implementation with the adequate structural support with a faltering Public Distribution System, a hornets nest of graft is not ideal. Although corruption should not be an excuse for not providing food to the people of the country. India is a rich country, an additional cess or a cut in unwanted spending on defense would foot the bill.

Its time for a second green revolution , otherwise the time is not too far when people will be protesting for food instead of corruption at Azad Maidan.


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