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BW Businessworld

India Should Go Local For Food Security

A report published by India Water Portal (a community promoted by National Knowledge Commission of India) indicates if the country needs food security, then it should go local

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In a conversation with BW Businessworld, Union minister for Food processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal, had said that food wastage in terms of revenue is close to Rs 1 lakh crore.

A report published by India Water Portal (a community promoted by National Knowledge Commission of India) indicates if the country needs food security, then it should go local.

Greater urbanisation and industrialisation has led to increase in land rates. While land is fetching the maximum value, the demand for food is also rising due to improved spending power of Indians and increasing food wastage. Waterlogging and salinity are also turning fertile fields into waste at many places. While there needs to be a ban on acquisition of farm land for non-agricultural purposes, waste land should be reclaimed.

According to the State of Agriculture report 2013, there is 25 million hectare of cultivable fallow land in this country, which can give around 40 million tonne grain. Integration of this reclamation work with rural job guarantee scheme can give good results.

As per international food information service (IFIS), Indians spend a high proportion of their incomes on food and groceries, compared to consumers in other countries, and food consumption and demand are expected to grow considerably over the next few years.

Food is already the largest retail consumption category in India, accounting for approximately 31 per cent of the country’s consumption basket, compared to nine per cent in the US, 17 per cent in Brazil and 25 per cent in China. In value terms, the Indian food market is the 6th largest in the world, with 70 per cent of sales coming from the retail sector.

Despite being the second highest producer of wheat and rice in the world, India accounts for one third of world's hungry. Grains rot in the granaries and pilferage has been rampant in the ambitious public distribution system which has failed to reach the needy.

Chhattisgarh has done well in checking the rot by shifting the management of the public distribution system outlets from private licensees to community-based organisations such as ‘Gram Panchayats’ (village councils,) female self-help groups and co-operative societies. Online tracking of food supplies has also gone a long way in ensuring that poor do not sleep empty stomach.

Decentralisation of control and procurement plus distribution at local level can be worth emulating to ensure food security and well-fed population. In several villages of Bihar, Odisha and southern states, concept of common village granary has been in practice traditionally.

Anyone in need of food can approach the village committee and take the quantity of grain needed on a condition that he will return the grains along with interest during the next harvest when he would most likely get some manual labour work in the fields. As is evident, Indian farming is facing several daunting challenges but the solutions are also at hand. However, these would only be successfully implemented when involvement of people is ensured as decision makers, monitors and evaluators.

Tags assigned to this article:
harsimrat kaur badal food security India Water Bill