Synopsis: Food insecurity is rising among the most vulnerable populations due to 2nd wave of the pandemic. Hence, the government should take precautionary steps to save millions from hunger and food insecurity.
- Even before the pandemic, India’s efforts to tackle the food security crisis have been poor. For example, India ranks 102 among 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2019.
- The economic shock produced by the COVID-19 pandemic have added to the already rising food insecurity.
- The data collected by the Rapid Rural Community Response (a collective of over 60 NGO’s) provides crucial evidence on the nature of food and financial insecurity among the poor in rural areas.
What does the data suggest?
The Rapid Rural Community Response data suggests that food insecurity is rising among poor households. Reasons for that are job losses, lack of income, lack of access to government welfare schemes, etc.,
- First, the data suggest a reduction in nutrition intake. For instance,
- The poor and the socially marginalized people are forced to cut down on food intake (especially nutritious food) during the lockdown period. For example,
- Households reported nearly 80% cut down on nutritious food such as milk, vegetables, pulses, and oil.
- These reductions in nutritious intake will hamper India’s effort to provide adequate nutrition to children as per the National Family Health Survey (2019-20) and the Global Food Policy Report, 2021.
- Second, increasing the food insecurity of poor people due to loss of income during the lockdown.
- Earlier, according to Pew Research Center, the middle-class population in India has shrunk by over 32 million households.
- According to the Rapid Rural Community Response survey, the income of poorer households is reducing at a higher rate. Many of them are relying on loan support even to meet their food requirement.
- Third, the food and financial insecurity among the migrant’s community increased due to lack of universal access to government welfare schemes.
- For instance, among the poorest, households with migrants were more likely to seek work than those without (43% versus 32%).
- But only half were provided employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
What needs to be done?
- The government’s willingness to restart the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) for the next two months is a step in a good direction. However, the government needs to include nutritious foods like pulses in the PMGKAY scheme.
- There is a need to address issues in MGNREGA scheme, such as delays in wages and rationing. Further, the government should explore the feasibility of the urban MGNREGA scheme for urban poor and migrants.
- Food security schemes for children, through anganwadis, Public Distribution System and mid-day meal scheme in primary schools, need to expand the coverage on an urgent basis.
- Finally, community kitchens similar to Amma canteens need to be set up across all urban cities to support migrants stuck in cities without work.
Source: The Hindu