February 24, 2024

Food Security

Syllabus– General Studies 1(society)

Context

With a reduction in COVID-19 infections as the second wave weakens in India, it is important to focus on the pandemic’s disruptive impact on the food security and livelihoods of the poor and marginalised.

Covid-19 impact on hunger

  • An alarming escalation in the global hunger that is unfolding right now.  There was a ‘dramatic worsening’ of world hunger in 2020, much of it likely related to the fallout of COVID-19.
  • The ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report, estimates that around a tenth of the global population – up to 81.1 crore persons – were undernourished last year.

India’s efforts and results

  • India has made enormous progress in food production over the years, with an inspiring journey towards self-sufficiency in food production marked by the Green Revolution. In 2020, India produced over 30 crore tonnes of cereals and had built up a food stock of 10 crore tonnes.
  • The country has registered record harvests over the last few years. India exported a record 1.98 crore tonnes of rice and wheat in FY21.

Govt. initiatives

  • Vulnerable and marginalized families in India continued to be buffered against the food crisis by its robust Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • As data shows, there was an unprecedented spike in the uptake of subsidised and free foodgrains during the lockdown.
  • The government also allowed NGOs/civil society organisations to buy rice and wheat at subsidised prices directly from nearby Food Corporation of India (FCI) warehouses.
  • Increased entitlements given to National Food Safety Act (NFSA) beneficiaries in 2020.
  • Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), 81.3 crore NFSA beneficiaries received an additional 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month and 1 kg of pulses per family per month, free of cost, for eight months.
    • The PMGKAY was introduced in 2020 for eight months to provide relief to 80 crore beneficiaries covered under NFSA from COVID-induced economic hardships.
    • During the third phase of PMGKAY, about 89% of the allocated foodgrains were distributed to beneficiaries. Implemented for eight months last year and for seven months this year, the PMGKAY outlay will add up to a total expenditure of ₹2,28,000 crore over 15 months.
  • Under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, 8 crore migrants were provided 5 kg of foodgrains per month, free of cost.

Challenges:

  • Access and portability of food entitlements: Ensuring that food support focuses on at-risk groups including persons with disabilities, the elderly, single women-led households, transgender persons, HIV-affected persons, displaced persons, refugees and orphan children.

Way forward:

  • The introduction of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme is an innovation that can be a game-changer, allowing beneficiaries to access their food entitlements from anywhere in the country.
    • This is especially important for a country like India with a massive mobile population and migration between States.
    • The scheme takes the massive digitisation of the supply chain, distribution and access to the next step, ensuring anyone benefits from anywhere in India.
  • Tackling climate change: Massive efforts are needed towards programmes that focus on building resilient agriculture that is adaptive to changing weather and needs through the introduction of newer varieties of crops, efficient irrigation systems, and the promotion of crops as per the agro-climate zones.
  • Reducing food wastage: Third of all food produced is wasted. There should be enhanced efforts to prevent losses.
  • Advancing food security and nutrition through transforming food systems: The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit and the COP26 on climate change will certainly shape the actions of the second half of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.

The scale of India’s public food distribution systems is immense and has gone through constant navigation and improvement, which is commendable. But more needs to still be done to improve access and inclusion among the missing vulnerable population.

India has a central role to play in offering experiences and solutions to address the thought processes and models for a resilient, equitable, and food-secure world.

Question- How covid 19 pandemic has affected the lower strata of society in terms of hunger and nutrition? Explain.

The Hindu link-

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/lessons-from-indias-food-security-response/article35529291.ece

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