Food Security and Nutrition in India
Within the ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has laid down that the right to food is a fundamental requirement that falls under the right to life. Since Independence, so many programs and initiatives by the Government have evolved to solve the problem of eliminating hunger in the country. Still, newspaper reports suggest that India has about half the world's under-nourished children and a general decline in consumption (per capita calorie) in the last few decades.
Popular Food and Nutrition Programmes in India
There is considerable buzz about the Food Security Bill. If enacted, this will emerge as the country's most important initiative since 1947 in addressing the issue of hunger and under-nutrition in India.
Here are some well-known programmes that were introduced by the Government of India to improve the problem of under-nutrition:
- Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
- Kishori Shakti Yojana, a nutrition programme for adolescent girls
- Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls.
- Mid-day Meals Programmes
- Sarva Siksha Abhiyan
- National Rural Health Mission
- National Urban Health Mission
- Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana
- National Food Security Mission
- National Horticulture Mission
- Rajiv Gandhi Drinking Water Mission
- Total Sanitation Campaign
- Swarna Jayanthi Gram Swarajgar Yojana
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme
- Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Annapoorna
The list looks impressive but the issue of child nutrition is still weak. Newspaper reports by The Hindu state that 42.5% of children who are below five years of age are underweight. Also, about 40% of children who are below three years old are undernourished.
How to Ensure Food Security for all
Food security is not just about ensuring the people of the country, particularly children from rural areas, have enough food to eat. Food security has several dimensions to it such as economic, physical, and social access to achieving balanced diet, good quality health care, safe drinking water, and environmental hygiene. Other important aspects to keep track of are:
- availability of food in the public distribution system and the market
- the ability of families below poverty line to have access to subsidized food distribution system
- types of schemes that support women with newborns to buy food
- quality and governance of such food accessibility and delivery
- a holistic life cycle approach that begins with food security for pregnant women and ending with old or disabled persons
Goals of the National Food Security Bill
While experts believe that the Food Security Bill should continue to offer general and common offerings to the public, the structure should also provide a more holistic approach by internalizing these aspects in its scope such as:
- safe drinking water
- effective public distribution system
- proper sanitation
- hygienic toilets
- primary healthcare
- special schemes for those who are economically vulnerable or physically handicapped.