Food Security in India: An Analysis

Entrance Test 07 June 2018


5 years of National Food Security Act, 2013

What is food security?

  • The definition of food security has evolved over a period of time. As a concept, food security originated in the mid-1970s.
  • 1974– The World Food Conference defined food security as “availability at all times of adequate world food supplies”
  • 1996– World Food Summit stated that food security was achieved when all people at all times have physical, {social} and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets the dietary needs
  • The term social was included in 2002

Four Dimensions of Food Security

Fast Facts:

Article 47 of the Constitution of India states that it is the duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health

Per capita food availability: As of 2017, the per capita net availability of food grains is 190.5 grams/ day

Per capita calorie intake: according to a OECD Report, the per capita calorie intake in India is 2445kcal (2011-12) – one of the lowest in the world


  • 25. 7 and 13.7 percent of the population were poor in rural and urban India, respectively, in 2011-12. Poverty-line: 972 INR (Rs 32 per day) in rural areas and 1407 INR (Rs 47 per day) in urban areas- based on monthly minimum consumption expenditure(food and non-food) per person or per household

  • According to Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, 2016, nearly 54% of the Indian population is multi-dimensionally poor -indicating extent of deprivation in terms of living standards, health, and education


  • According to the Global hunger Index 2017; India’s rank is 100th out of 119 countries in the world. It slipped from the 55th rank in 2014 to 100t rank. – Higher the rank, worse the performance
  • According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 report India is home to 190.7 million under nourished people- a 14.5% prevalence of hunger vis-à-vis the country’s total population

Malnutrition: According to NHFS-4, 38% of children below 5 years are stunted, 21% are wasted and 36% are underweight

Approach to food security in India

‘First Generation’

  • Traditionally, India’s approach to food security was based on the ‘availability’ dimension of food security- looking at only the quantitative aspect
  • Policies and programmes were designed to ensure “self sufficiency” in food grains
  • The Green revolution which was launched after two consecutive droughts in mid 1960s increased the production of food grains (mostly rice and wheat) by providing farmers an improved technology package consisting of high yielding seed varieties, modern farm inputs and credit, and assurance of a remunerative and fixed price
  • The Green revolution though positively impacted the macro-level food security, had insignificant impact on ensuring access to food and hunger and malnutrition persisted. Further, it had adverse and persistent impact on the environment.

Note: Macro food security means- local (domestic) availability of food

‘Second Generation’

  • Since 1980’s there was an increasing acknowledgement that physical and financial access to food had a determining role in achieving food security in the country.
  • Further, Amartya Sen’s Nobile Prize winning theory (Poverty and famine, 1998) highlighted that hunger and starvation result from some people not having access to enough food – what he called entitlement. This implied inspite enough food being available in the country people suffered from hunger and starvation because they were physically or financially unable to reach to food.
  • The approach shifted from food production to access to food and from charity to a rights-based approach

Note: India is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1966 which recognize Right to adequate Food.

National Food Security Act, 2013


To provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices.

Key Features:

  • Provides statutory backing for right to food
  • Up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population will be covered under TPDS, with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month. Entitlement of existing AAY households protected at 35 kg per household per month.
  • Food grains under TPDS made available at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act. Thereafter prices to be linked to Minimum Support Price (MSP).
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
  • Children 6 to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
  • In case of non-supply of entitled food grains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
  • Appoints district grievance redressal officers; establishes State Food Commissions; and vigilance committees at state, district, block and ration shop levels

Government Schemes/ programmes

Issues and Challenges with food security in India

‘Narrow’ Food Security Approach:

  • The NSFA does not guarantee universal right to food: Targeted –Restricts the right to food to only 755 of rural and 50% of urban population in India
  • Act would not apply in times of “war, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake”. This a highly problematic clause given that food is becomes utmost necessary during these circumstances
  • The Act focuses primarily on distribution of rice and wheat and fails to address the ‘utilization’ dimension of food security. Given that a major reason for micronutrient deficiency in India is because of a cereal-based diet; the NSFA does not address the issue of malnutrition and nutrional deficiency adequately
  • The Act mentions that Central and State governments should realize certain objectives ‘progressively’- agrarian reforms, public health, sanitation etc. It fails to provide a comprehensive framework which undermines food security efforts

For example: A study published in Lancet Global Health highlights that stunting is common in countries with poor sanitation. Given a strong correlation between sanitation and malnutrition, a comprehensive approach is required.

  • The Act does not address the ‘stability’ dimension of food security- excludes the impact of climate change on Indian agriculture and measures to overcome it.

Other issues:

  • Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution mechanism, food adulterations in distributed food
  • Unmonitored, improper implementation of nutritional programmes
  • Lack of inter sectoral coordination; lack of comprehensive policy
  • Agrarian crisis
  • Environmental issues: degradation of soil, water stress and drought- affecting agricultural produce

Best practice

BrazilFome Zero (Zero hunger) strategy

  • Brazil had started the Zero Hunger strategy in 2003
  • Under this strategy various initiatives have been taken: food banks, cash transfer to poor families, national school feeding programme
  • The strategy has helped to achieve significant reductions in child mortality, levels of malnutrition, and poverty since its inception

Need for ‘third generation’ approach

There is a need for ‘third generation’ approach towards food security given India’s increased vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters.

  1. Climate-smart agriculture- Sustainable agriculture:
  • Agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience, reduces GHGs and enhances achievement of national food security
  • Climate-smart practices include: soil and nutrient management, water harvesting and use, pest and disease control, resilient eco systems, genetic resources
  • Programmes and policies in India should enable farmers to adopt climate-smart practices that could generate economic rural growth and ensure food security
  1. increased emphasis on indirect interventions for example access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
  2. Policies must deliver universal, rights-based nutrition services, which overcome disparities across gender, communities and geographical regions.
  3. Long-term relief measures in the event of natural disasters
  4. Fortification of food, bio fortification of plant/crops to combat micronutrient deficiency
  5. Ensure effective hunger eradication, an integrated and a coordinated approach to the implementation of the public programmes
  6. Enhance livelihood security
Entrance Test 07 June 2018
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