India’s commitment to food security has been evident through its efforts to ensure the availability and accessibility of food for all its citizens. The Central Government has been providing subsidised food grains to states under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). To bridge the gap between the cost and the subsidized price of food grains, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is reimbursed by the Central Government. Additionally, states following Decentralized Procurement (DCP) methods receive direct subsidies based on the number of food grains they procure and distribute.
India's Food Security Initiatives: Ensuring Availability and Accessibility
In the past nine years, a significant amount of food subsidy has been released to both DCP states and FCI. DCP states have received a total of Rs. 4.04 lakh crore, while FCI has received Rs. 14.48 lakh crore. As part of its commitment to food security, the government of India has also decided to provide free-of-cost food grains to around 80 crore NFSA beneficiaries for one year, starting from January 2023.
To further strengthen food grain distribution, the One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) initiative was implemented. ONORC allows beneficiaries, including migrant workers and marginalized communities, to easily procure their food grains across the country, irrespective of their location. The initiative has achieved nationwide portability of ration cards, with over 105 crore inter/intra-state transactions recorded so far.
Challenges to Food Security in India
Despite India being one of the world's largest agricultural producers, it continues to face significant challenges in achieving food security. One of the primary challenges is the country's increasing population, which puts pressure on the availability of food for all. Poverty is another major hurdle, with a high percentage of people living below the poverty line.
Climatic changes have adversely affected farming and agricultural activities, leading to challenges in food production. Inadequate food distribution, varying between urban and rural areas, poses additional difficulties. The growth of the biofuel market has also reduced the land available for growing food crops. Corruption in the system, inadequate storage facilities, lack of awareness about new techniques and technologies, and unmonitored nutrition programs further contribute to food insecurity.
Addressing Food Security Challenges: A Multi-Pronged Approach
Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach. Enhancing food storage technologies and increasing productivity in the agricultural sector are crucial steps. This can be achieved through the implementation of better farming techniques, increased irrigation, distribution of cultivable land, and provision of high-quality seeds and fertilizers.
Efforts should also focus on improving food availability and accessibility, particularly for those below the poverty line. Identifying the exact number of people living below the poverty line, providing subsidies, reducing food prices, and improving inter-state movement and stocking are essential in this regard. Additionally, combating corruption in the Public Distribution System (PDS) and making it more transparent is crucial.
To increase employment and purchasing power in rural and urban areas, programs like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) can be expanded, and more poverty alleviation programs can be introduced. Crop diversification, with a focus on non-cereal crops, can also contribute to food security. Establishing decentralised food grain banks in villages can help tackle corruption and ensure better distribution.
Monitoring the implementation of nutritional programs is vital, with health department officials playing an active role in evaluating their effectiveness. Community participation and intersectoral coordination, involving stakeholders like Panchayati Raj Institutions and Self Help Groups, are also crucial. Attention to hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition education should not be overlooked.
India's commitment to food security is evident through its various initiatives and subsidies aimed at ensuring the availability and accessibility of food for all. By addressing the challenges and implementing effective solutions, India can take significant strides towards achieving food security for its population.