Amrit Mahotsav reflections and India’s success against hunger

Source: The post is based on an article “Amrit Mahotsav reflections and India’s success against hunger” published in Live Mint on 7th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues related to Hunger and Malnutrition

Relevance: benefits of food security schemes

News: The central government has recently extended the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) upto the end of December 2022.

It is great step as it provides free food to poor households. However, there other steps taken by government to ensure food security amongst the poor.

What step has been taken by the government to ensure food security?

The government launched National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013. It provided subsidized food for 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population.

This Act made government to provide food guarantee in India with the help of farmers by providing price support incentive to farmers to grow major foodgrain like cereals, rice and wheat.

However, the policy caused excessive ‘cerealization’ of the country’s cropping pattern. It damaged farmlands in northern states like Punjab by promoting rice cultivation where it was not a traditional grown crop.

The NFSA also included the provision to target vulnerable groups through mid-day meals in schools and direct feeding of pre-school children and pregnant and lactating mothers through the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

However, it is not clear how well they performed in practice.

Further, the pandemic changed the scenario of food security as mid-day meals were stopped due to the closure of the schools. This led the government to launch PMGKAY in April 2020.

What is Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)?

It provided a free food supplement equal in proportion to the subsidized rations under the National Food Security Act.

This scheme along with rations doubled the foodgrains for the households which was more than requirement.

This enabled the poor to feed household members migrating back from urban areas and feed children denied school meals.

The scheme was criticized as did not provide supplementary needs like cooking oil and salt. But these needs were fulfilled by selling the extra grains.

The scheme was even praised by Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Therefore, this scheme was beneficial for the poor households in the pandemic as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee was also not efficient in providing wages during the pandemic.

What is Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and how does it help rural areas?

MGNREGA provides work on demand for 100 days for the rural population but it was not effective during the pandemic due to health risks.

However, it is now increasing the rural households’ incomes at a time when small-scale enterprises are not active and unskilled employment has not picked up.

Moreover, the problem with MGNREGA is that there are delays between work and wage receipts and the wage is not increased with the increase in inflation.

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