India’s hunger challenge remains a critical issue that demands immediate attention. Despite being one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the country continues to grapple with alarming levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis, pushing millions of vulnerable individuals into the depths of hunger. Addressing this challenge necessitates a multi-pronged approach, focusing on not only enhancing food production and distribution but also improving access to nutritious meals and healthcare. As a nation with immense agricultural potential and a burgeoning population, India’s ability to tackle its hunger problem not only impacts the well-being of its citizens but also carries global significance in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger. To effectively combat this issue, comprehensive policies and targeted interventions are imperative, ensuring that no one in this diverse and culturally rich nation has to endure the pain of hunger.
Tag: GS Paper-2: Issues related to women; Social empowerment; Gender; Government policies and interventions.
India’s growth story; Way forward: Gender-led development.
Accelerating economic growth and making it more inclusive, coupled with an increase in farm productivity, can help end malnutrition
Decoding the editorial: India’s growth story
- It turned India from a “ship to mouth” economy to the largest exporter of rice.
- It has also enabled India to give free rice or wheat (5kg/month/person) to more than 800 million people under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana, thus improving their economic access to basic staples.
- It helped India emerge as the largest producer of milk (222 MT), with the US coming at number two with just 102 MT of milk production.
Gene revolution in cotton
- It was triggered by the then PM’s decision in 2002 to introduce Bt cotton, making India the largest producer of cotton (39 million bales in 2013-14, up from just 13 million bales in 2002-03).
Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation post-1991
- Its biggest achievement that can be seen today is in foreign exchange reserves that hover around $600 billion, up from a meagre $ 1.4 billion in July 1991.
- This has made the Indian economy much more resilient to any external shocks.
- In the absence of this, India could have been in a similar crisis as some of our neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Reduction in poverty
- When India got freedom more than 80 percent of people were in extreme poverty, which today hovers around 15 percent as per MDPI and about 11 percent based on income criterion ($2.15 PPP).
- But the pace of reduction has been much faster since 2005-06 than at any time in the past.
- India seems to be on track to almost abolish poverty in the next five to 10 years.
- As per the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MDPI) by NITI Aayog, in the last five years, from 2015-16 to 2019-21, the government has lifted 135 million people out of poverty.
- As per the UNDP, India lifted 415 million people out of poverty (MDPI) over the period 2005-06 to 2019-21.
Malnutrition is still on the table
- Although India made reasonably good progress in reducing infant mortality from 57 per 1,000 in 2005-06 to 35 per 1,000 in 2019-21, the progress on other indicators of malnutrition is not very satisfactory.
- On top of this, climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, from heat waves to flash floods, pose a big challenge not only to India’s food system but also poverty alleviation gains could reverse with these shocks.
Way forward: Gender-led development
Incentivise and improve the access and quality of education for women.
- This can be done through liberal scholarships, especially after 10th grade to Master’s level.
- This can give high returns, limiting family size and contributing significantly to the nation’s growth story.
- Research has found that women’s education beyond 12th grade is a key determinant of nutrition amongst children, as is access to better sanitation and more nutritious food.
Increasing women’s participation rate in our labour force (age group 15-59 years).
- It is pitiably low at about 30 percent (2021-22).
Providing necessary skills to women.
- India is giving training to women in 15,000 self-help groups, and these women will fly drones for agriculture use.
- If implemented, India could be at the top rank in women-driven drones.
Improve productivity in agriculture while making food more nutritious and the food system more climate resilient.
- This will require doubling or even tripling R&D expenditures in agriculture to make abundant food available at reasonably competitive prices.
- Putting export controls and stocking limits to push prices down is no solution.
- The Punjab Agriculture University which played a yeoman’s role in spreading the Green Revolution, and still ranks at the top, can be roped in to usher in a new revolution of sustainable growth and more nutritious food in agriculture.
Source: Indian Express
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1: What is the extent of India’s hunger?
Answer: Hunger in India is a pervasive issue, with millions of people suffering from food insecurity. According to the Global Hunger Index, India’s hunger levels are categorized as “serious.” As of my last knowledge update in 2022, approximately 14% of the population was undernourished, indicating a significant challenge that needs to be addressed.
2: What are the main factors contributing to hunger in India?
Answer: The factors contributing to hunger in India are multifaceted. They include poverty, unequal distribution of food resources, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate healthcare, food price fluctuations, and poor infrastructure for food distribution. Additionally, social issues like gender inequality and limited access to education play a role in exacerbating hunger.
3: How does the government address the issue of hunger in India?
Answer: The Indian government has various programs and schemes aimed at addressing hunger and malnutrition. Some of these initiatives include the Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-Day Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and the National Food Security Act. These programs focus on providing subsidized food, nutritious meals to children, and maternity benefits to vulnerable populations.
4: What are the challenges in combating hunger in India?
Answer: Challenges in combating hunger in India include unequal distribution of food resources, lack of infrastructure for efficient food distribution, issues related to corruption and leakages in welfare programs, and the complexities of reaching remote and marginalized communities. Additionally, the impacts of climate change on agriculture can also exacerbate food insecurity.
5: How can individuals and organizations contribute to addressing India’s hunger challenge?
Answer: Individuals and organizations can contribute to addressing hunger in India through various means, including supporting local food banks and NGOs, participating in food drives, raising awareness about the issue, and advocating for policies that promote food security and equitable access to nutrition. Additionally, supporting initiatives that focus on sustainable agriculture, education, and women’s empowerment can help alleviate hunger in the long term.
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