By Neelabjo Mukherjee:

Atkins Diet, Mediterranean diet, Parisian diet, Dukan diet; men and women of the upper class are constantly on the lookout for methods of curtailing their consumption and burning those layers of fat that lie underneath the designer clothing adorning their frames. But ironically, they belong to the same country where over 200 million people are not secure when it comes to food, making India home to the largest number of undernourished people in the world. Unfortunately, the situation seems to be worsening with time. According to a recent survey, an average poor family in 2007 had about 100 kgs less food per year than it did in 1997. This article aims to suggest a few measures which can counter the deep rooted problem of hunger and poverty prevailing in the country.

AHRC-HAC-002-2009

Proper Public Distribution System:  The ration shop owners indulge in various malpractices like hoarding and black-marketing. In general, they replace the stock provided by FCI with that of inferior quality and sell off the actual stock at high prices through the black market. The BPL card is grossly misused and even those with a sizable income obtain BPL cards through political connections and avail the opportunities specific to those falling under the BPL scheme. Vigilant squads should be posted in every other village to check such corrupt practices which have destroyed the system.

Proper storage and market facilities: In India most farmers are under the fear that if they produce more than the increased supply, it would cause a fall in the price level. This is one of the main reasons behind the shortage of food grains which can only be solved by a proper storage system and market facilities. More number of cold storages with proper facilities has to be built and the system of minimum support price should not be only restricted to rice and wheat but also extended to other food grains.

Increase in Agricultural productivity: Farmers should be provided with the latest machinery and equipment such as HYV seeds, pesticides, insecticides etc.They should also be trained to use the machinery so that it does not become garbage in the backyard as in most cases.

● Cooperative Farming: In rural India, most of the agricultural land is fragmented as a result of the laws of inheritance. It is impractical to use machinery on such fragmented and scattered agricultural lands. In these circumstances, consolidated cooperative farming is the only way out.

● Microcredit programmes or Self-help groups: This system as started by Mohammed Younus in Bangladesh can be successfully implemented in our country. It gives rural women an opportunity to supplement the meagre income of their husbands.

These measures can go on to provide a long term solution to the prevailing problem of hunger and poverty. Although it sounds very hunky dory on pen and paper, the execution and implementation is where every other policy fails in India. This is because of the widespread corruption which has trickled down to every nook and corner of the country. Thus, the government and the common man has to move hand in hand to check malpractice so that the agricultural system provides enough food to feed entire population.

Comments
Harvey Specter
Posted at 4:36 pm June 15, 2013
Raj
Reply
Author

I’m pretty sure that such measures have been discussed time and again. But they rarely work. Because they ask for the same thing that makes these well-intentioned plans fail in the first place.
Rather than having a PDS as a regular feature, we must abolish it. Only during emergencies such as floods, famine or war should such a scheme be there. Our focus should be on a long term approach to ensure a good supply of food and to raise the productivity of poor people, so they can earn more. The reason why the PDS fails is because it gives huge incentives for black-marketing and hoarding. Instead people can be given food vouchers of certain worth or money through account transfers and they can buy their food from the open market an at market prices. And posting vigiliant squads won’t help either. Who watches the watchers? Another set of vigilant squads?

Regarding the other issues, many of them can be solved by removing regulations and restrictions on large business from entering the agricultural sector and also by the removal of unnecessary wasteful Govt. bodies including the FCI. The godowns etc. that FCI operates can be run by the private sector too and there is no need for the Govt. to do the same. Currently the FCI has no need to take initiative to improve its facilities and prevent corruption since they don’t stand to profit from doing their jobs properly and they won’t get fired for not improving. If they were a privately run organization, they would have shut down long ago. It is a criminal waste of tax-payers money to give these corrupt and lazy officials their salaries and pensions.

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