April 04, 2017 @ 01:15 PM

April 04, 2017 @ 01:15 PM

K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai

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Abundance of Food Grain and Hunger in India

Extempore Speech is one of the tools to test CAT aspirant on assessing overall communication and personality so it is also equally important and crucial component of selection process. 
 
In our series of articles on "Extempore Speech" which will certainly help you to achieve mission CAT 2012.Today’s topic is:  “Abundance of Food Grain and Hunger in India”
 
The abundance of food grain in India is a misleading indicator of the Indian food grain supply situation on at least two accounts: the fact, that the godowns are overflowing insinuates that the farmers must be well and at the same time, as India is a net exporter of food grains, the population should be well-fed, which obviously is not the case. Many years after the "Green Revolution" which brought India self-sufficiency, food security is once again widely discussed among various circles and on different levels. 
 
With Green Revolution India does became self-sufficient but still we get reports that many millions of Indians starve or suffer from chronic malnutrition because they are too poor to buy food at market prices. It is an equally reported fact that every year many millions of tonnes of food grain are left to rot for lack of adequate storage. This happens every year. And every year the government procures more and more food grain, more and more of which goes to scandalous waste.
 
The government is the country's single biggest buyer of grain. It does so in the name of 'national food security' (a cruel misnomer in a country where an estimated 30% or more of the population lives on the edge of starvation or beyond) and to ensure that farmers get a remunerative price for what they grow and are not forced to make distress sales when there is a bumper crop. On the other hand, the government's intervention — while pleasing the farmers' lobby by assuring agriculturists a minimum basic price for their produce — not only drives up the price of food and makes it unaffordable for the poor but also results in colossal wastage as there is not enough “sarkari” storage space for all the accumulated food stocks.
 
By June this year, India reportedly had total food stocks in the central pool of over 750 lakh tonnes. Of this, over 230 lakh tonnes of wheat in the three states of Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh alone will have to be stored in what is called CAP i.e. kept out in the open on wooden plinths covered with tarpaulin, thus vulnerable to the vagaries of weather like monsoon rain.
 
Now the question is - Why doesn't the government build enough proper godowns to store all the grain it buys? 
 
As per the official data, it doesn't have the money to do it. If it spent money building the godowns, it wouldn't be able to buy the grains that are supposed to be stored in them without almost doubling the already high food subsidy bill. 
 
Indian public food grains management has outlived its’ usefulness. The government successfully used food grains price stabilization as a major policy instrument when it embarked on promoting the Green Revolution. However, times have changed: policies and public agencies that may have been appropriate forty years ago are not necessarily optimal today. Private markets and institutions have strengthened significantly – or could be strengthened significantly – and should be entrusted with many of the functions that parastatals, or other government agencies, have traditionally performed. Holding on to old practices delays reaping the benefits that changing current policies have to offer.  
 
The changing scenario demands a much different role for government in the future than it has exercised in the past. Food security is much more than food grain availability alone and more than the responsibility of a few surplus states like Punjab or Andhra Pradesh. In the changing environment, it is as important to specify what government should not do as well as what it should do. It is equally important to present policies as a package in order to provide tradeoffs to gain the necessary political support. The role of government, therefore, should be to provide:
 
1) Public goods – particularly infrastructure and research – and 
2) Policies to facilitate, guide, and monitor an inclusive process so that the pace of transition accelerates and benefits are distributed widely.
 
To ensure that no starvation death takes place and people are saved from malnutrition as far as possible, the Supreme Court on May 14, and 2011directed the Centre to release five million tonnes of food grains immediately for distribution in 150 most poverty-stricken districts or other poorer segments in the country. Then on July 16, 2011 our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a second "green revolution" to feed the country's burgeoning population that is forecast to overtake China in numbers by 2025.
 
According to him, we all look back proudly to our green revolution which helped us overcome food shortages and banish the spectra of starvation but now, we clearly need a second green revolution that is broad-based, inclusive and sustainable. He said so noting the agriculture productivity has plateaued and yields continue to be much lower than what is attainable.
 
The prime minister also called for spending outlay on agriculture research and development to double or even triple by 2020 as per the projected demand for food grains that says food grains will grow to 280 million tons by 2020-21.
 
On the other hand, many believe that growing more food grains is not a solution for the hunger problem of the country. Increasing production cannot alleviate hunger because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution of economic power that determines who can buy the additional food.
 
For example, the "Green revolution" sponsored by international support organs, increased grain production significantly. Still the books note that in India, grain production and exports have climbed while hunger has persisted.
 
 

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