By Meghana Rathore:
“…The service of lndia means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over….”
These words by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru marked a new beginning for our nation. They exude a sense of integrity, belief and pride. But can we credit ourselves with having taken up the responsibility of ending suffering over the years, successfully? No, we cannot. Because even today, 1/4th of the Indian population goes to bed hungry. India stands at 63rd position on the Global Hunger Index. A report by FAO suggests that India stands far behind in meeting its Hunger Reduction Targets. The state of affairs appear even abysmal if we look at the number of undernourished children. The total no. of malnourished children comprise of more than 40% in 10 states of India, which includes even the capital city Delhi.
The list of such reports are unending.
Although India happens to be self-sufficient in the production of food grains, access remains a major concern. The government has promulgated policies and initiatives to bridge this gap. Even private organizations have stepped in to eradicate this problem from its structural roots. Following are some of these initiatives that have been undertaken in the bid to put an end to this epidemic:
1. Food Security Bill 2013:Â This is onne of the largest food security scheme across the world, it became an act on September 12th, 2013. This bill was tabled in the parliament back in 2011 and since then, has been discussed and debated widely till it became an act. Under the provisions of this law, beneficiaries would get five kg of grain per person per month, including rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse grains at Re 1 per kg. The bill proposes meal entitlement to specific groups, including pregnant women and lactating mothers, children between six months and 14 years, malnourished kids, disaster-affected people, and those who are destitute, homeless and starving. The roll out entails covering 75% of the rural population, since they happen to be the most deprived section, and up to 50%of the urban population. We are yet to see the results of this act which was previously perceived as a burden on the already fragile economy, but with the macro arenas of the economy improving, we can expect a proper roll out of the Food Security Bill.
2. Integrated Child Development Scheme: ICDS was launched in 1975 in India, and has since then, worked for the overall development of children below 6 years primarily, and also women. Its main provisions are supplementary feeding, immunization, and raising awareness about health and nutrition amidst its beneficiaries. According to reports, it has made major strides in its implementation and has helped in reducing malnutrition amongst children aged between 0-3 years drastically. Also, by focusing on expectant mothers, this scheme has helped target the most ignored section bearing the brunt of this evil.
3. TDPS and PDS (Targeted Public Distribution system and Public Distribution System): The TDPS was introduced in India in 1997. The PDS in India is one of the largest distribution system of its type across the globe. It ensures the availability of food at subsidized prices at the household level to the poor. Every household is entitled to a stipulated and periodically revised quantity of food grain per month. Allocation to states are made on the basis of average consumption in the past.
4. The Fight Hunger First Initiative Program: The south Asian regional program of Welt Hunger Hilfe covers India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and the core idea of their numerous program is ensuring food and nutritional security to the rural poor. With schemes like the PDS, ICDS etc. showing backlogs and not being enough to meet the requisite levels of effectiveness, it’s imperative that such functional organizations pitch in. The Fight Hunger First initiative was taken up in 2011 to improve access of communities of rights and entitlements accrued to them by government schemes, examples are: employment, child nutrition, food supplies and primary education. This initiative focused on 5 of the most backward states i.e. Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Karnataka. FHFI seeks to support community and grass-root organizations in activating the Indian authorities to provide minimum social support in the sectors mentioned above.
To everyone’s chagrin, despite being self-sufficient in food, India remains trapped in the vices of chronic hunger problems. Improving access can be a major stride in the run towards attaining the goals of eradicating hunger. Also, a more participatory approach has to be adopted forÂ the realization of these goals at a micro level.