The Food Security Policy in India has been changing over the years from
combating era of food shortages to era of food surplus. The country is
witnessing on the one side huge stock of food, on the other side food
security at the household level is yet to be achieved. In the wake of
liberalisation there is a need for safety net for ensuring food security
for the poor. Food Security of the poor is threatened in view of large
scale increasing of unemployment and migration of labour due to reduction
of livelihood opportunities in rural area. Small farm holdings are not
viable due to several factors. In this backdrop the interest of the small
and marginal food producers can no longer be seen separately from those
of the food consumers. Currently several programmes apart from TPDS are
being implemented by the government to provide food security for the poor.
There are also several micro-level experiments that are going on to ensure
food security for the poor. Therefore, there is a need to evolve a direction
for ensuring food security for the poor at this juncture. The seminar
discussed all aspects of the food and nutrition security that are prevalent
in the country and suggested measures to improve food security for the
Food and Nutrition Security
- Panchayati Raj Institutions should be involved in food and nutrition
security efforts in most vulnerable pockets in drought prone and rainfed
areas. This can be done by establishing food grain banks with community
initiative and supported by the PDS.
- There is a need to stabilise population giving emphasis on family
planning to control population explosion which has a bearing on food
security. This is a very important determinant of food security at
the national, state, village and household levels. Panchayats should
be involved in these efforts
- There is a need for strengthening of ICDS programme and mid-day
meal programmes for food security of children and women. Awareness
about the nutritional aspects may be created at the household and
individual level for combating malnutrition related diseases by Anganwadi
workers with involvement of SHGs and panchayats. It is also essential
to educate people about the nutrition values of locally produced coarse
- Women have the responsibility of ensuring household food security
along with management of households. Therefore, priority should be
given on women for ensuring household food security to combat malnutrition.
- To ensure food security of migrant labour, there should be a system
of registration and issuance of ration cards by involving local bodies,
government and other local agencies.
- Hunger mapping should be done by state government. Mapping of most
vulnerable pockets on food security and malnutrition should be undertaken
to ensure household food and nutrition security. Monitoring of hunger
should be done by district collector, BDO with involvement of local
bodies/Institution at every level. Accordingly a food security package
can be developed to rush when the circumstances demand in hunger and
- In dry land areas procurement, storage and distribution should be
taken up on course cereals.
- For improving food security at village level especially in drought
prone areas cultivable fallow should be used optimally to produce
food grains including local millets needed by the village community.
In addition traditional food storage system based on locational food
cultural appropriateness should be devised for participatory technology
development. Efforts should be made to build community storage facilities.
Improvement in PDS Management
- PDS should be reformed by decentralising the procurement storage
and distribution of food grains across the country particularly in
dry land and rainfed areas. This should be the responsibility of state
and central government.
- Emphasis on minor millets apart from rice and wheat should be encouraged
for distribution in a decentralised manner in PDS giving pivotal role
to Panchayati Raj Institutions.
- There is a need for expanding the PDS basket to include cereals,
coarse grains with region specific coarse cereals, pulses and other
essential commodities in rural areas to be provided at affordable
- For targeting the PDS benefits, identification of BPL households
should be done involving Gram Sabha at the village level. There is
also need for identification of poverty zones for better targeting
in bringing in transparency in identification of needy people.
- Quality of food grains supplied through PDS should be ensured at
procurement, storage and distribution levels.
- There is a need to improve delivery system in PDS management at
local level involving women SHGs and panchayats. Delivery system should
be more sensitive to household vulnerability. It should be participatory
to make it cost effective.
- To maintain transparency there is a need to have a food security
committee at Gram Panchayat level.
- There is a need for strengthening vigilance and enforcement to check
diversion and other deficiencies in PDS system.
- The PDS should maintain sustained supply system through FPS during
a month. In a month poor should be allowed to lift his entitled quota
in 3 to 4 instalments instead of with one go from fair price shops.
This is because he lacks purchasing power and finds difficulty in
arranging cash to lift the quota.
- The margin of fair price dealer should be enhanced to make it more
- There is a need to develop decentralised community level food security
system through local production, local storage and local distribution
- The department of food and civil supplies should be named as food
security department at central and state government level to give
importance to the food security.
Production, livelihood system and food security
- Food security goes beyond the supply and availability of grains.
It should therefore, embrace associated securities like livelihood
security, employment security, fodder security, fuel wood security
and ecological security all of which are taken care in traditional
farming systems which need to be encouraged.
- More than 80% of farmers are small and marginal farmers having small
holdings. Their economic viability can be ensured only through integrated
farming which diversified crop cultivation and live stock rearing.
This would enhance employment and income levels of poor farmer and
there by the food security will be ensured. This can be achieved by
revival of agricultural extension system with agriculture, R&D
systems, NGOs and community initiative.
- Dryland farming and wasteland development should become the focus
of agricultural extension as an instrument of food security. Suitable
input, credit, insurance, technology and marketing support must be
a part of this package.
- Cultivation and marketing of minor millets should be encouraged
on priority as it has the twine advantage of reducing pressure on
water, which happens with water guzzling crops like paddy as well
as providing better food security at the local level. It also offers
the advantage of reducing the overall cost of cultivation especially
when it is taken up in conjunction with animal husbandry and mixed
- There is a need to encourage farmers to develop local seed variety
in their areas rather than using hybrid seeds. There is a need to
establish gene banks at village level and to promote organic farming
to improve soil conditions in order to ensure food security.
- Watershed development approach is appropriate for integrating multi
agency role in improving farm productivity, integrated farming system
along with environment development will ensure sustainable food security
in rural area.
- Rural credit system should not be viewed just as agricultural credit.
It should be designed as a livelihood base credit system which includes
both farm credit as well as credit for social consumption. To ensure
proper flow of credit to the small and marginal farmers and most vulnerable
groups, SHG approach has been found useful. In order to enhance the
credit flow these SHGs can be federated into cooperative on small
cluster basis to be supported by NABARD to ensure food production
and food security.
In addition to food security, equally important is water security
particularly in areas where people are totally dependent on ground
water. The experience shows that no effective regulatory mechanism
has been evolved to control over exploitation of ground water by the
rich. Ground water being a natural resource should be shared by all,
whether they possess land or not. It is therefore, necessary to evolve
both legislative measures as well as community watch dog system to
ensure optimum use of ground water and its proper distribution.
- In drought prone and water scarce areas cultivation of wet crops
(like paddy and sugarcane) should be completely prohibited.
- Forests are also important source of providing livelihood to the
tribals. The existing conservation laws restrict their access to minor
forest produce thus affecting their livelihood system. It is therefore,
necessary that forest conservation of laws should be designed in such
a manner which will help in conservation as well as access to minor
forest produce as a source of livelihood for tribals. In this regard
JFM system with adequate awareness and capacity building of tribals
and other forest dwellers should be improved.
- Market access to the small producers is one of the major constraints
in the recent times, contract farming/ contract marketing and direct
marketing have come up in some parts of the country. However, these
systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. As an alternative
marketing of agriculture and other commodities produced by the poor
can be done through organising cooperative marketing system with involvement
- There are good number of people who are landless, assetless and
their livelihood is based either on wage employment, or village community
resources or on both. In order to strengthen their livelihood system
the community resources, such as land, water bodies, village commons
should be developed and be made accessible to poor landless families.
- In the wake of WTO and liberalised economy trade in agricultural
commodities is likely to affect land market, cropping pattern, tenancy
system and small landholders. In order to meet the challenges it is
necessary that the small landholders be provided technology to produce
high value crops, so that their income levels are enhanced and they
derive benefit from the emerging scenario.
Awareness and capacity building
- Awareness and capacity building should focus on four important issues.
- Food & Nutritional security
- Awareness about optimal utilisation of natural resources to optimise
their use for enhancing production and livelihood option for the poor
within the overall environmental limitation.
- Awareness about WALTA Act prevalent in AP, Maharashtra & MP.
Awareness about various government programmes which are for the benefit
of the poor and their ability to get benefit from this.
- Awareness about emerging international trade in farming and farm
based commodity under WTO regime. Farmers and other rural producers
should have access to market information system, quality consciousness
about their produce and opportunities available to them in the national
and international market.
Important Measures required by the Government
- State & region specific welfare programmes with focus on food
and nutritional security for the poor should be evolved and promoted.
- The Government extension network should be revamped to help small
farmers for post harvest management of food grains, storage godowns
at village level and processing so that wastage of agriculture produce
which is nearly one fifth of the total produce could be minimised
to ensure food security to the poor.
- Food for work programme and SGSY should be focussed on dry land
and drought prone villages and other vulnerable areas with proper
targetting of village poor.
- Establishment of national, state and district level food security
management centres to monitor hunger and malnutrition and enforce
food security measures.
- Programmes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana, Annapurna needs to be targetted
- A stakeholder approach needs to be adopted by Governments in handling
the issue of food security with participation of local community (Grama
Sabha), PRIs, NGOs, departments of Agriculture, Civil Supplies and
Health departments. Convergence and collaboration between various
players within and outside government must be the strategy for the
- Coordination between various food-security schemes like PDS, Mid-day
meal scheme, ICDS, etc., to be ensured through suitable coordinating
mechanisms by the States
Dr. A.C. Jena