Q) Discuss the key elements of India's food security architecture. Is it suited to India's present needs? (250 Words)
GS 3: Food security
Introduction: The current food security architecture of India was designed in the 1970s after the green revolution. It has stood the test of time and has helped in removing hunger from India to a large extent and has also helped in strengthening the farming community in India.
Structure of Indian Food security program:
(1) Procurement: FCI purchases 22 crops form farmers on a pre-announced Minimum support price(MSP) declared every year before sowing season. This is stored in granaries and forms buffer stock for the future utilization..
(2) Buffer Stock: Presently, stocking norms comprise of:
i. Operational stocks: for meeting monthly distributional requirement under TPDS and OWS. There is a four month requirement under it.
ii. Buffer Stock: [technically Food security stocks/reserves]: for meeting shortfall in procurement. The cabinet committee on economic affairs(CCEA) fixes the minimum buffer norms on quarterly basis. The excess stock is exported from time to time.
Food Stock available in the central governments’ pool is the stock held by:
i. State Government Agencies (SGAs)
ii. States which are taking part in the Decentralised Procurement Scheme
iii. Food Corporation of India(FCI)
(3) Public Distribution system(PDS): The operational stocks are distributed to poorer people on Issue Price. There are about 4.8L ration shops or fair price shops in the country.
Issue Price: These commodities are sold to people at lower prices than market price.
National Food Security Act(NFSA), 2013: to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
Coverage under NFSA
Under Targeted PDS: 75% of rural population & 50% of urban population is covered which is 66% of our total population or 81.34 crores persons, or about 16 crore households
2 crore Poorest households: are covered under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) who get 35 Kgs/household;
Other households get 5Kg of foodgrains/person/month at ?3/2/1 for rice/wheat/coarse grains per kg respectively.
Nutritional support to women and children:
Pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than ?6,000. This is covered under PM Matru Vandana Yojana(PMMVY).
Children up to 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards. This is covered under the Mid-Day Meal scheme and ICDS scheme.
Importance of the food security system in terms of current needs:
• Ensuring Food and Nutritional Security of the nation by strengthening Pillars of Food security
• Stabilising food prices: It allows the government to release more grains in the market when the prices are too high and absorb the excess quantity when production exceeds consumption.
• Maintain the buffer for crisis years: India has enough grains to face any adverse situations such as wars, pandemics and droughts.
• Redistribution of grains– from surplus such as Punjab and Haryana regions of the country to deficient regions like North eastern states.
• Enhanced Food Grain Production – After the green revolution India has transformed itself from a net importer of food to a net exporter.
• Stabilizing Farmers Income: As the farmers are assured MSP on 22 crops and FRP for sugarcane.
• Crisis management: For example during the lockdown the government could use this infrastructure to extend the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana.
Challenges in current times:
• Exclusion errors: Often many poor household are not recognized by the system. There is also a problem of wrong biometric identification in the Adhaar system
• Inclusion errors and leakage: Fake beneficiaries, diversion of good quality grains, being replaced by bad quality grains.
• Unsustainable use of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, power & water leading to water-logging, salinity & depletion of essential micronutrients in the soil.
• Hidden Hunger: Greater focus is given to rice, wheat and sugarcane is sufficient for calories but not for proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals. India ranks 94 in the Global hunger index out of 117 countries with high prevalence of stunting and wasting despite food sufficiency.
• Inadequate storage & High carrying cost: A performance audit by the CAG has revealed a serious shortfall in the government’s storage capacity. This leads to a log of wastage
• Inability to sell the stocks: When ration shops are unable to sell, a massive stock of food-grains piles up with the FCI.
• Poor quality of food grains: Often the best quality of the procured food grain is diverted and poor quality is injected in the system; Thus sometimes the beneficiaries refuse to take the grains.
• Inefficient distribution: The average level of consumption of PDS grain in all-India level is just 1kg/person/month. It is even lower in Bihar, Odisha & UP at less than 300gm/month;
• No Horticulture crops included: completely excluded from the system.
• International Pressure: The Buffer stock is seen as anti-market provision in the world and is challenged in the WTO.
Conclusion: There have been a raging debated regarding appropriate replacement of the system. The bio-mentric identification system needs to be refined to address the problem of exclusion errors. In the long term there needs to be inclusion of many more crops or the whole system can be replaced by a cash transfer such as universal basic income.