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Solutions for Food Security

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Published: Fri, 06 Oct 2017

Structure of the Paper

The Paper begins with a Concept Note so as to introduce the connotation of food security, as has been used in the entire paper to look at all the 12 Five Year Plans as well as various policies and give a brief contextual background. The Paper then goes on to a description of the entire planning phase, followed by an analytical summary of each Five Year Plan. After discussing the Plans, the paper gives a very brief overview of policies pertaining to food security before delving into 5 specific policies, in detail and ends with a conclusion.

Concept Note

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, food security is a condition in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

The concept of food security involves the following 5 A’s:

  1. Availability- Sufficient food for all people consistently, ensured through sustainable growth in production
  2. Accessibility- Physical and economic access to food for all at all times through sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet
  3. Adequacy- Access to food that is nutritious and safe, and produced in environmentally sustainable ways
  4. Absorption- A function of environmental hygiene, nutrition practices and access to primary health care and clean drinking water
  5. Agency- The policies and processes that enable the achievement of food security

It can be deduced that these relate not only to production and distribution of food which can addressed through agricultural policies but are also linked to Amartya Sen’s concepts of ‘endowment’ and ‘exchange entitlements’ which looks at resources at one’s disposal that determines one’s capacity to buy food which can be enhanced through education, employment and labour policies as well. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to food security involves not only direct approaches but also indirect approaches such as asset redistributive programs, employment programs, etc. From the policy point, price stabilization and crop insurance policies, alongside long-term interventions to improve food availability and incomes of the poor, e.g., land reforms, capability enhancement, e.g., investment in public health, nutrition and education etc. are all connected with food security.

The following table provides a glimpse of food security on the international agenda:

Initiative

Link with Food Security

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1949

Article 25 of recognizes the right of everyone to adequate food as a basic human right

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966) and the General Comment 12 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights elaborate the responsibilities of all State Parties to recognize the right of everyone to be free from hunger

Rome Declaration on Food Security,

World Food Summit, 1996

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life” where access to food entails “physical and economic access, at all times, to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for people to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Target:

To reduce the number of undernourished people to half their level in 1996 by 2015

Millennium Development Goals

Goal:

Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty

Target:

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

India has grappled with issues of food security since the time of partition, when the country’s agriculturally prosperous states of West Punjab and Sind went to Pakistan, leaving it with 82% of the population of undivided India, and 75% of cereal production. Consequently, policies immediately post-independence focused on boosting food production, and increasing the availability of food. The Indian Constitution, which was written, with this background, provides for food security in its full connotation through the following provisions:

Article

Standing

21

Guarantees a fundamental right to life which includes the right to health and its determining factors, including food.

39 (a)

Obliges the State to direct its policy towards ensuring that the citizens, men and women, equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.

*Ensuring livelihood is a step towards ensuring that people have adequate purchasing power to buy food.

47

One of the primary duties of the State is to raise the standard of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and to improve public health

The interpretation of Article 21 in the sense that it has been mentioned above has its origin in a petition by People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Despite the presence of food distribution schemes, and excess grain (for times of famine), Rajasthan was seeing the occurrence of a number of starvation deaths which prompted the People’s Union for Civil Liberties to go to court in 2001, pushing for the right to food, as an extension of the right to life. After two years of limited court intervention and governmental implementation, in 2003, the court ruled that the right to life was jeopardized by the shortcomings of these schemes. Noting the paradox of availability but not accessibility, it ordered the Famine Code to be enforced for three months, grain allocation for the food for work scheme be doubled and financial support for schemes be increased; ration shop licensees to stay open and provide grain to BPL families at set prices; publicity for the rights of BPL families to grain, all individuals without means of support to be granted an Antyodaya Anna Yozana ration card for free grain, and the progressive implementation of mid-day meal schemes in schools. It was then that while interpreting the Article 21, the Supreme Court of India found that the Government has a constitutional obligation to take steps to fight hunger and extreme poverty and to ensure a life with dignity for all individuals. In the light of this, this paper looks at the ways in which the Government has tried to fulfil its obligation to ensure food security, through Five Year Plans and various policies.

Food Security and Five Year Plans

Successive five year plans have laid down policies and strategies for achieving food security. The following section gives an overview of the 12 Five Year Plans with respect to food security. The section begins with a brief summary of the four phases of planning, then moves on to providing a glimpse of all 12 year plans and their diverse approaches to food security before delving into the details of each plan.

Planning can be divided into four phases, depending upon the idea of food security in the plan and the approach taken towards it, as shown below:

1950s -Mid 1960s:

In this phase, the concept of food security focused mainly on availability and stability of food. Planning focused on coping with localised situations of scarcity.

Mid 1960s -Mid 1990s:

This phase focused on food self-sufficiency and evolved long term strategy for policies and structures for the regulations, management and development of the country’s food economy. The phase with overall similar characteristics can still be distinguished into two sub-periods. From 1965 to about late 70s, the emphasis was on production and distribution. In 80s and till mid 90s, additional focus was on affordability and inclusivity.

Mid 1990s – 2012:

This phase saw a more direct approach to food security in terms of availability, accessibility as well as absorption through adequate support structures and focus on sectors like health, education and employment.

2012 – Present:

The current phase focuses on holistic food security by encompassing sustainability in addition to all the aspects of food security as outlined in all other planning phases. It marks the introduction of National Food Security Act, 2013 making food, a legal entitlement.

The following table gives a glimpse of all the Plans:

Plans

Duration

Thrust

(with respect to food security)

Approach to Food Security

1st Five Year Plan

1951-56

Production of food

Indirect through agricultural development and by building a stable system of food controls through rationing and procurement

2nd Five Year Plan

1956-61

Production of food

Indirect through increased production of food

3rd Five Year Plan

1961-66

Self-sufficiency in food grains

Incomplete as focussed only on food availability through increased agricultural production

4th Five Year Plan

1969-74

Production as well as distribution of food

Formulation of a specific food policy that focused on self-reliance in production, equitable distribution and price stability

5th Five Year Plan

1974-79

Containing inflation in food prices

Food became an important sector for investment planning but concrete measures for the ideology of food security were missing

6th Five Year Plan

1980-85

Removal of poverty

Indirect approach and food security wasn’t an essential objective, but an incidental one which led to enlisting of a National food Security System

7th Five Year Plan

1985-89

Food, work and productivity

Included self-sufficiency as well as distributional aspects, alongside a specific Nutrition Policy

1989-1991 – Emergency – No Five Year Plan enacted

8th Five Year Plan

1992-97

Health and self-sufficiency in food

Focussed on food availability as well as food affordability and accessibility

9th Five Year Plan

1997-2002

Food and Nutritional Security for all, particularly the vulnerable sections

Direct Approach as food security itself became an essential objective of the plan

10th Five Year Plan

2002-07

Nutritional security and agricultural production

Shifting the focus from household food security to nutrition security for the individual

11th Five Year Plan

2007-12

Focus on education, employment, health alongside inclusive development made food security an incidental thrust area

Interventions in agriculture to tackle supply side problems in the food grains sector and increasing purchasing power to ensure household food and nutrition security

12th Five Year Plan

2012-17

Food Security as Legal Entitlement

Addressed food security directly and completely by adding sustainability to other aspects

1st Five Year Plan (1951-56)

Context:

Existential Problems

Inadequate production of food grains

High Imports

Increasing Population

Underlying Sentiment:

“A well-defined food policy for the period of the Plan is an essential condition for the successful implementation of the Plan.”

Approach:

In the first plan, agricultural development received the highest precedence and the plan made a provision of INR 184 crores for the same.

The plan sought out to initiate a programme of public investment to give farmers the water, the power, the seeds and the manures they need in order to maintain a steady supply of food grains at reasonable prices (for consumers as well as producers). Steady supply at reasonable prices is a prerequisite for expanding real income, as against money income, so as to accrue the beneficial results of increased employment and incomes.

Plan:

For the period of the Plan, rationing and procurement together with certain minimum imports was regarded as the key to the maintenance of a stable system of food controls. The case for food controls was presented through its vitality for safeguarding the minimum consumption standards of the poorer classes, preventing excessive or ostentatious consumption by the well-to-do and facilitating the country’s programme of direct utilisation of unemployed manpower for investment.

Therefore, the plan outlined the following elements of food policy:

  1. Progressive reduction in imports and steady improvement in the system of internal procurement
  2. Retention of basic structure of food controls until the domestic consumption is stepped up to the extent of 7.5 million tonnes to consider an adequate and assured food supply.
  3. Price Stabilisation with setting Maxima and Minima and judicious purchases by Government at defined prices (evening out inter-State disparities)
  4. Income Stimulation through Capital Expenditure and Deficit Financing to ensure a high level of demand of food
  5. Permitting universal entitlement to food subsidy but restricting it to urban and food deficit regions
  6. Securing from each surplus State the maximum it can make available to the common pool and to organise the procurement and distribution of grains in each deficit State so as to restrict its drawings from the central pool to the minimum necessary
  7. Encouraging the use of wheat and other supplementary foods in place of rice, given the special difficulties associated with it, by making the public aware of the benefits of a varied diet

Therefore, all in all, the main thrust of the plan was to increase the domestic availability of food. It also looked at improving the accessibility of food through income redistribution and employment generation measures.


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