Friday, October 14, 2011


In to day's India, the most "entertaining" subject of discussion is poverty! Hardly a day passes without some one coming out with a figure for the percentage of families below poverty line and this is funny considering that no one knows where lies the poverty line! Many committees, government departments, Planning Commission (NPC), Social activists, Economic pundits all have their own views regarding this matter. The most ridiculous stand was that of the NPC which told the Supreme Court that Rs 32 (urban) and Rs 26 (rural)earning a day would be the cut off mark, those earning less than these figures being eligible to be called "poor"! Unfortunately the government of the day finds no time to devote to this issue as it is busy doing fire fighting operations against many scams which have surfaced during the last two years draining country's resources. The food security situation can be termed satisfactory if the present quantum of grains hoarded in FCI Warehouses is any indication but the million dollar question is whether these grains are reaching the targeted beneficiaries qualitatively and quantitatively. If international norms for food security are considered India as a country has to hang its head in shame because of its dismal position among the comity of nations! Here is a take on this vital issue that must concern every self respecting citizen of the country.

"India's food security situation continues to rank as "alarming" according to the International Food Policy Research Institute's Global Hunger Index, 2011. It ranks 67 of the 81 countries of the world with the worst food security status. This means that there are only 14 countries in the world whose people have a worse nutritional status. The GHI is composed of three equally weighted indicators - the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of children who are underweight and under-five child mortality. India's GHI for 2011 was 23.7 - lower than it was last year, but higher than it was 15 years ago - giving it a rank of 67. Pakistan, Nepal, Rwanda and Sudan all did better than India, while Bangladesh, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo were among the countries that did worse. While the DRC is the only country whose food security situation has deteriorated in the last ten years, India has the ignominy of being among the countries with the least improvement in the same period. It has however moved from having an "extremely alarming" food security situation - the worst grade given by IFPRI - to "alarming", that is, having a GHI between 20 and 29.9. China, Iran and Brazil are among the countries that have more than halved their GHI scores over the last decade. The UPA government was not able to introduce a Food Security Bill in the monsoon session and there is little agreement yet over who qualifies as poor enough to receive subsidized food grain".

With massive subsidies being "spent" on the poor, is it not pathetic that the government is still not sure who is really poor and how many are poor in the country ? Where are those subsidies flowing from the Exchequer ending up if poor is not benefited? The much talked about Public Distribution System (PDS) is in shambles with more than 60% of the foods meant for the poor being siphoned off by "thieves and criminals" with political and bureaucratic nexus. The so called Food Security Bill, being drafted since ages does not seem to be any where near the point of being implemented. The debate on making PDS universal is endless and going no where. If the country wishes to be counted among the top economic powerhouses in the world, this is definitely not the way to demonstrate its prowess! At this rate India may be struggling for years to come, even to overtake minor countries like Nepal, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Congo and others with no hope for real food security for its countless millions trapped in poverty!


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