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THE DÉJÀ-VU OF FOOD SECURITY AND THE RIGHT TO FOOD IN INDIA: RIGHT TO FOOD IN INDIA

Adnan Shakeel

THE DÉJÀ-VU OF FOOD SECURITY AND THE

RIGHT TO FOOD IN INDIA

 

DEVELOPMENT IN THEORY AND PRACTICE

 

This Article discusses the importance of the concept of food security at both the international and national levels. With the help of certain examples, it elucidates how the right to food came into existence from the shadow of the right to life in India. The paper also deals with food security and the right to food with respect to a sense of déjà vu. It point out that just as in the past India was characterised by hunger, poverty and food insecurity, presently even after becoming self-sufficient in food and with a strong foundation of the right to food, a number of people are still food insecure.

 

 

ADNAN SHAKEEL

 

INTRODUCTION

The basic concept of food security portrays a condition where a person has physical,economic and social access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food for living an active and healthy life. India after the first demographic survey of 1921 recorded a rapid population growth with a declining per capita availability of foodgrain. The population growth was so high that it was seen not just as a potential threat but also a major problem to be tackled. (Debabar Banerji, Family Planning in India: A Critique and a Perspective, New Delhi: People’s Publishing House, 1971 and Mohan Rao, “Family Planning Programme: Paradigm Shift in Strategy”, Economic and Political Weekly, vol35, no49, 2000, pp4317–22) The imbalance in rapid population growth and the declining availability of foodgrain gave rise to the phenomenon of food insecurity. To deal with the problem of population growth, the Government of India launched a population control programme in the 1950s through its Five Year Plans. (online at http://planningcommission. gov.in) A decade later in the 1960s, to provide food to the growing population and to fulfi l the basic condition of food security/availability, the government opted for the Green Revolution (seed–fertiliser technology). However, even after

the formulation of family planning programmes, the population continued to rise due to limited administrative capacity and poor management by the government—its organisations were not able to utilise the allocated funds properly and people’s participation was minimal. (Mahinder D Chaudhry, “Population Policy in India”, Population and Environment, vol11, no2, 1989, pp101–21) An increase in population was observed until the adoption of the 1976 National Population Policy. It made a

frontal attack on population growth and encouraged state governments to pass appropriate legislation to make family planning compulsory for citizens and to stop child bearing after three children, if the state so desired. (K Srinivasan, “Population Policies and Programmes since Independence: A Saga of Great Expectations and Poor Performance”,  Demography India, vol27, no1, 1998, pp1–22)

The scenario with respect to food after the adoption of seed–fertiliser technology, applied with the intention to solve the problem of food availability, shows that the Green Revolution was a success. With the adoption of modern agricultural methods India increased its foodgrain production tremendously from 50 million tonnes in 1950–51 to 265 million tonnes in 2013–14. (Parveen Kumar, “Food Security: The Challenges Ahead”, Yojana, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, vol54, October 2010, pp27–31, online at http://yojana.gov.in) During the 1970s, India declared itself a self-suffi cient and self-reliant nation in food. Between 1950–51 and 2006–07, the production of foodgrain in the country increased at an average rate of 2.5 per cent compared to the population growth rate, which averaged 2.1 per cent in same period. (MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, online at http://mssrf. org) In India, the concept of food availability is taken only as the availability of foodgrain, that is, cereals and pulses. In a developing agricultural country like

India with a huge population base, the concept does not include the availability of fruit, vegetable, milk, meat or other luxury food items. Thus for the present study, food availability simply means the availability of foodgrain. The matter of enquiry, with respect to a sense of déjà vu, is whether India has solved the problem of food availability and insecurity after adopting population control policies through family planning programmes, passing legislation for population control at the state level and adopting the Green Revolution for increasing the

per capita availability of foodgrain.