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Hunger and Solutions
Context: India ranked 94 in the Global Hunger Index 2020 among 107 countries.
What are the indicators of Global Hunger Index (GHI)? Where does India stand?
- The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2020 report has placed India at 94thposition among 107 countries, much behind Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
- GHI is based on four indicators:
- The proportion of undernourished in a population
- The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting (less weight in proportion to their height)
- The proportion of children under five suffering from stunting (low height in proportion to their age)
- The mortality rate of children under five
- Countries with score within the range 20-34.9 are considered to be dealing with acute hunger. High-income countries and those with very low populations were excluded from evaluation.
What are the reasons for hunger in India?
When Global Hunger Index (GHI)2019 report was published, India had a food stock of more than 68 million tonnes (excluding un-milled paddy) in the central pool. the food stock went up to 70 million tonnes by Sep 2020.
That much food grains are sufficient to ensure food security for the most vulnerable communities. Now the question arises, why there is so much Hunger in India, despite having enough food stock?
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- In Poverty and Famines, Amartya Sen introduced the idea of ‘exchange entitlement decline’ as a reason for starvation and famines.
- Exchange entitlement decline: It means the occupation a section of people is engaged in is not financially rewarding enough to buy adequate food, due to the adverse shift in the exchange value of endowments (Money) for food.
- As per Sen’s theory, the starvation is the result of a decline in four categories of entitlement:
- ‘Production-based entitlement’ (growing food)
- ‘Trade-based entitlement’ (buying food)
- ‘Own-labour entitlement’ (working for food)
- ‘Inheritance and transfer entitlement’ (being given food by others)
Link of theory to the situation in India
- Small and Marginal farmers: Due to reasons such as reduced soil fertility, fragmented lands or fluctuating market price of farm produce, agriculture output from small and marginal holdings are either stationary or declining.
- Almost 50 million households in India are dependent on these small and marginal holdings. Despite having the surplus food, most small and marginal farming households do not produce enough food grains for their consumption around the year.
- Income decline: Relative income of one section of people has been on the decline. This has adverse effects on their capacity to buy adequate food, especially when food prices have been on the rise.
- Unemployment: Lack of income opportunities other than the farm sector has contributed heavily to the growing joblessness in rural areas. The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 revealed that rural unemployment stood at a concerning 6.1 per cent, which was the highest since 1972-73.
- MGNREGA: The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) which was a major rural job program, had been weakened over the years through great delays in payments and non-payments, low wages and reduced scope of employment due to high bureaucratic control.
- PDS inefficiency: The public distribution system (PDS) of the state is not functioning well or is not accessible to everyone.
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Government measures to eradicate hunger in India
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY): Scheme was launched as a part of Atmanirbhar Bharat in March amid COVID pandemic as a relief package to prevent hunger and poverty. Under this scheme, eligible families are provided with 5 kg free wheat/rice per person/month along with 1 kg free whole chana to each family per month.
Public Distribution System (TPDS): A modified version of PDS launched in 2017 is TPDS. It aims at food security and poverty alleviation via provisions for essential commodities to the beneficiaries identified based on the inclusion and exclusion criterion.
Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) – Bottom most 2.5 crores BPL families get 35 kg of rice at Rs. 3/kg and wheat at Rs. 2/kg through the same Fair Price Shops.
Senior citizens of 65 years of age and above if not covered under the National Old Age Pension Scheme are provided 10 kg of food grains at free of cost.
National Food Security Act, 2013: The NFSA, 2013 gives a legal right to subsidized food grains to about 67% of the population and provides for penalty for non-compliance by public servants with special provisions related to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS): Scheme is aimed at improving the nutritional and health status of children between 0 to 6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Mid-Day Meal Scheme: Scheme is aimed at improving the nutritional status of school-going children and simultaneously enhancing enrollment, retention and attendance
National Nutrition Mission (POSHAN Abhiyaan): It is India’s flagship program launched in 2018 to improve nutritional standards among children and women by reducing the level of stunting, underweight, anaemia and low birth weight by 2022. It is based on the NITI Aayog’s recommendations under the National Nutrition strategy.
What can be done to tackle this menace?
- A renewed focus on small and marginal farmers with support from the Union government to grow more crops is a necessity.
- The government may create provisions to supply cooked nutritious food to the vulnerable section of society, through a model of cheap canteens. For Example; Jadavpur Jyotidevi Shramajeevi Canteen in West Bengal has been running for more than 200 days.
- Rural employment schemes such as MGNREGA should be given a boost to increase employment and wages.
- Several organisations and individuals working under the scheme have suggested that the guaranteed work-days be increased to 200 and that equal wages be given in accordance with the minimum agricultural wages of the states.
- Access to food grains under the PDS needs to be streamlined by simplifying technical processes and reducing Aadhaar-related glitches.
- One Nation One Ration Card scheme: After the point-of-sale machines are made available at all the public distribution system (PDS) shops across the country, the scheme will be launched.
- It will help people, especially migrant workers, who can avail the benefits of this scheme.
- The Union government should ensure that if One Nation One Ration card scheme is brought into effect; is operationalised through proper preparations such as proper grain allotments to shops, identification procedures and proper issuance of ration cards to individuals seeking food grain.