Meaning of Food Security: Food security means availability, accessibility and affordability of food to all people at all times. The poor households are more vulnerable to food insecurity whenever there is a problem of production or distribution of food crops. Food security depends on the Public Distribution System (PDS), Government vigilance and action at times when this security is threatened.
Food is as essential for living as air is for breathing. But food security means something more than getting two square meals. Food security has following dimensions
(a) availability of food means food production within the country, food imports and the previous years stock stored in government granaries.
(b) accessibility means food is within reach of every person.
(c) affordability implies that an individual has enough money to buy sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet one's dietary needs.
Thus, food security is ensured in a country only if
(1) enough food is available for all the persons
(2) all persons have the capacity to buy food of acceptable quality and
(3) there is no barrier on access to food.
The poorest section of the society might be food insecure most of the times while persons above the poverty line might also be food insecure when the country faces a national disaster/calamity like earthquake, drought, flood, tsunami, widespread failure of crops causing famine, etc.
Calamity and Food Security:-
Due to a natural calamity, say drought, total production of food grains decreases. It creates a shortage of food in the affected areas. Due to shortage of food, the prices go up. At the high prices, some people cannot afford to buy food. If such calamity happens in a very wide spread area or is stretched over a longer time period, it may cause a situation of starvation. A massive starvation might take a turn of famine.
A Famine is characterised by wide spread deaths due to starvation and epidemics caused by forced use of contaminated water or decaying food and loss of body resistance due to weakening from starvation. The most devastating famine that occurred in India was the FAMINE OF BENGAL in 1943. This famine killed thirty lakh people in the province of Bengal.
Although a large section of people suffer from food and nutrition insecurity in India, the worst affected groups are landless people with little or no land to depend upon, traditional artisans, providers of traditional services, petty selfemployed workers and destitutes including beggars. In the urban areas, the food insecure families are those whose working members are generally employed in ill-paid occupations and casual labour market. These workers are largely engaged in seasonal activities and are paid very low wages that just ensure bare survival.
The social composition along with the inability to buy food also plays a role in food insecurity. The SCs, STs and some sections of the OBCs (lower castes among them) who have either poor land-base or very low land productivity are prone to food insecurity. The people affected by natural disasters, who have to migrate to other areas in search of work, are also among the most food insecure people.
India is aiming at Self-sufficiency in Food grains since Independence.
After independence, Indian policy makers adopted all measures to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains. India adopted a new strategy in agriculture, which resulted in the ‘Green Revolution’ especially in the production of wheat and rice. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, officially recorded the impressive strides of the Green revolution in agriculture by releasing a special stamp entitled ‘Wheat Revolution’ in July 1968. The success of wheat was later replicated in rice. The increase in foodgrains was, however, disproportionate. The highest rate of growth was achieved in Punjab and Haryana, where foodgrain production jumped from 7.23 million tonnes in 1964–65 to reach an all-time high of 30.33 million tonnes in 1995–96. Production in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and the northeastern states continued to stagger. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, recorded significant increases in rice yield.
Since the advent of the Green revolution in the early-’70s, the country has avoided famine even during adverse weather conditions. India has become self-sufficient in foodgrains during the last thirty years because of a variety of crops grown all over the country. The availability of foodgrains (even in adverse weather conditions or otherwise) at the country level has further been ensured with a
Buffer Stock is the stock of foodgrains, namely wheat and rice procured by the government through Food Corporation of India (FCI). The FCI purchases wheat and rice from the farmers in states where there is surplus production. The farmers are paid a pre announced price for their crops. This price is called Minimum Support Price.
The food procured by the FCI is distributed through government regulated ration shops among the poorer section of the society. This is called the public distribution system (PDS). Ration shops are now present in most localities, villages, towns and cities. There are about 4.6 lakh ration shops all over the country. Ration shops also known as Fair Price Shops keep stock of foodgrains, sugar, kerosene oil for cooking. These items are sold to people at a price lower than the market price. Any family with a ration card can buy a stipulated amount of these items (e.g. 35 kg of grains, 5 litres of kerosene, 5 kgs of sugar etc.) every month from the nearby ration shop.
The introduction of Rationing in India dates back to the 1940s against the backdrop of the Bengal famine. The rationing system was revived in the wake of an acute food shortage during the 1960s, prior to theGreen Revolution. In the wake of the high incidence of poverty levels, as reported by the NSSO in the mid-1970s, three important food intervention programmes were introduced: Public Distribution System (PDS) for food grains (in existence earlier but strengthened thereafter); Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) (introduced in 1975 on an experimental basis) and Food-for-Work (FFW) (introduced in 1977–78). Over the years, several new programmes have been launched and some have been restructured with the growing experience of administering the programmes. At present, there are several Poverty Alleviation Programmes (PAPs), mostly in rural areas, which have an explicit food component also. While some of the programmes such as PDS, mid-day meals etc. are exclusively food security programmes, most of the PAPs also enhance food security. Employment programmes greatly contribute to food security by increasing the income of the poor.he income of the poor.
Current Status of Public Distribution System:-
Public Distribution System (PDS) is the most important step taken by the Government of India (GoI) towards ensuring food security. In the beginning the coverage of PDS was universal with no discrimination between the poor and non-poor. Over the years, the policy related to PDS has been revised to make it more efficient and targeted. In 1992, Revamped Public Distribution System (RPDS) was introducted in 1,700 blocks in the country. The target was to provide the benefits of PDS to remote and backward areas. From June 1997, in a renewed attempt, Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introducted to adopt the principle of targeting the ‘poor in all areas’. It was for the first time that a differential price policy was adopted for poor and non-poor. Further, in 2000, two special schemes were launched viz., Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and the Annapurna Scheme (APS) with special target groups of ‘poorest of the poor’ and ‘indigent senior citizens’, respectively. The functioning of these two schemes was linked with the existing network of the PDS. The PDS has proved to be the most effective instrument of government policy over the years in stabilising prices and making food available to consumers at affordable prices. It has been instrumental in averting widespread hunger and famine by supplying food from surplus regions of the country to the deficit ones. In addition, the prices have been under revision in favour of poor households in general. The system, including the minimum support price and procurement has contributed to an increase in food grain production and provided income security to farmers in certain regions.
Food security of a nation is ensured if all of its citizens have enough nutritious food available, all persons have the capacity to buy food of acceptable quality and there is no barrier on access to food. The people living below the poverty line might be food insecure all the time while better off people might also turn food insecure due to calamity or disaster. Although a large section of people suffer from food and nutrition insecurity in India, the worst affected groups are landless or land poor households in rural areas and people employed in ill paid occupations and casual labourers engaged in seasonal activities in the urban areas. The food insecure people are disproportionately large in some regions of the country, such as economically backward states with high incidence of poverty, tribal and remote areas, regions more prone to natural disasters etc. To ensure availability of food to all sections of the society the Indian government carefully designed food security system, which is composed of two components: (a) buffer stock and (b) public distribution system. In addition to PDS, various poverty alleviation programmes were also started which comprised a component of food security. Some of these programmes are: Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS); Food-for-Work (FFW); Mid-Day Meals; Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) etc. In addition to the role of the government in ensuring food security, there are various cooperatives and NGOs also working intensively towards this direction.