THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY VINEET KUMAR, A STUDENT OF NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY ODISHA.
“Food insecurity exists when all people, at all times, do not have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe ad nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
-Food and Agricultural Organisation (1996)
Over the two many years of fast development of the Indian economy, the urban economy is for the most part seen as having done exceptionally well. In any case, high urban monetary development need not without anyone else infer enhanced expectations for everyday comforts for every single urban inhabitant. Specifically, the later and proceeding with wonder of rising nourishment costs helps us that impressive segments to remember the urban populace might confront genuine sustenance shakiness even while the urban economy becomes quickly.
In spite of the significant progress that our country has made in food production and sufficiency over the last 50 years, most rural populations/communities have had to deal with uncertainties of food security on a daily basis year after year, most often generation after generation. In aggregate over one fifth of India’s population suffers from chronic hunger. Tracking the incidence of hunger over three reference periods, the United Nations plots the number of undernourished as 261.5 million, 215.6 million and 233.3 million respectively. One of the main reasons for the prevalence of food insecurityin India is the demand deflation that has been brought about byfalling agrarian incomes over the past decade. Our economytraditionally has had a significant amount of private ownershipof assets by a small section of the economic elite. The highdisparity in wealth between this small elite class and a considerable-sized poorer section of society has always given oureconomy a dualist nature, where growth-led policies adopted bythe government have co-existed with support-led measures.
Urban Food Insecurity
India’s urban areas are often neglected in Indian hunger studies. Malnutrition levels of urban, poor children in slums (54%) are the worst amongst all urban groups and even higher than children in rural areas (51%). Nutritional problems such as protein energy malnutrition (PEM), anemia and vitamin A deficiency continue to persist amongst these children. Food security worsened between 1998 and 2006 in more urbanized states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka; in Maharashtra, around 24% of population had a caloric intake of less than norm of 1,890 Keal per day, which is a direct measure of inadequate intake of food. Even in the affluent states within India, the percentage of underweight children younger than 3 years has risen in the last decade. In Mumbai, the capital pf Maharashtra and the commercial capital of India, more than half of the population lives in slums, and nearly 46% of the children are stunted, 36% are underweight and 45% of women suffer from anemia.
About 377 million of India’s population of 1.2 billion live in the urban areas. Urbanisation in India has increased from 27.81% in the 2001 Census to 31.16% in the 2011 Census, while the proportion of rural population has declined from 72.19% to 68.84%. The urban population in India is expected to increase to more than 550 million by 2030.Approximately a fifth (21%: 79 million) of the nation’s urban populace is accounted for to be living in amazing neediness, and around 93 million individuals (25%) live in urban ghettos in unhygienic conditions with lacking sterile and drinking water offices. The majority of urban slum population has limited or no access to public services and face problems with the Public Distribution System (PDS) for food.
For the poorest decile, despite some improvement during 1972 to 1989-90, cereals consumption was 10.95 kg. in the rural areas and 10.03 kg. in urban areas per month. This is still below the subsistence norm of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) of a minimum cereal consumption of 11.58 kg. per month. Even the lowest 30% of the urban population is not able to reach the minimum prescribed level of cereal consumption of the ICMR by the year 1990. This is a sad commentary on our achievement towards food security. Further, in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index 2010, India, ranking 31st, fell immediately behind Pakistan, both of them unpleasantly situated within the world’s 50 most “at risk” countries. In the updated Report on State of Food Insecurity in India, a collaborative product of the World Food Programme and M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, warning is given that
“rising urban inequality, significant underinvestment in urban health and nutrition infrastructure, an increasingly insecure workplace with mostly casual or contract employment or even less remunerative self-employment, growth of slums and slum populations lacking in the most elementary health and hygiene facilities including shelter, safe drinking water, sanitation, and drainage, all taken together, make for a situation of a permanent food and nutrition emergency in urban India. The mere availability of food in urban markets does not guarantee food security in an environment in which access has been seriously compromised both by patterns of employment and earnings, and by the rapid rise in the prices of essential commodities beginning with food and shelter.”
Rural Food Insecurity
Around 70% of the Indian population lives in rural areas, often working in the informal sector.In considering household level food security in India, it is important to consider the role that the food-based social safety nets have played, particularly given the long history of foodbased publicly funded safety nets in India, under the umbrella of the Public Distribution System (PDS). This is particularly relevant in the current context where the Government of India of India is in the process of legislating an ambitious Food Security bill, which seeks to provide subsidised foodgrains to 75% of the rural Indian population.
However, in recent years a reduction in the state intervention(PDS, food-for-work, direct aid programmes) coupled with arapid opening up of the agricultural sector to foreign competitionfrom vastly subsidised foodgrains from developed countries(which leads to a change in composition of output and a loweringof agricultural prices) has led to a rise in rural poverty and lowering of food security.
Food as a Human Right
A more recent development in the effort to achieve food and nutrition security in India has been the intervention of the Supreme Court in the form of a series of directives to Central and State Governments to implement, within stipulated time periods, programmes meant to eliminate undernutrition and malnutrition (Ramachandran, P, 2004). The judicial intervention rose from a public interest litigation filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). The Right to Food Campaign, which has been nearly connected with the prosecution and resulting activities and activities, is an essential advancement in this connection. This battle draws from a more late way to deal with the issue of nourishment instability in India, that is, of the human right to nourishment. This approach contends that in worldwide law, the privilege to nourishment has been perceived through different assentions and traditions, for example, the Universal Announcement of Human Rights (UDHR), the Worldwide Covenant on Economic, Social and Instructive Rights (ICES) and particular traditions like the Convention on the Elimination of all structures of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Tradition on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Genocide Prevention (Anand, 2004).
It further contends that India as a signatory to some of these contracts like CEDAW has the legitimate commitment to approve the terms of the treaty/ies it has marked (the historic point instance of Vishaka vs Rajasthan in 1997 tended to this issue). Also, it has been argued that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which states that “everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food” clearly outlines the obligation of the State to guarantee the citizens of India their right to food. This suggests the need to increase the role of the State in food subsidies, meal provision schemes and other policy interventions. Further, it is not enough that the State create policies (which in this case constitute the remedies available to the rights holders themselves) to alleviate food insecurity but that it must also identify the nature of the rights holders and their rights, the nature of the duty-bearers and their obligations and most importantly identify and describe the nature of the agents of accountability, and the procedures through which they ensure that the duty bearers meet their obligations to the rights holders.
shanta kumar committee report
High Level Committee (HCL) on restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI) has submitted its report to the Government. It was submitted by Shri Shanta Kumar, Chairman of the Committee to the Prime Minister, Shri NarendraModi on 21st Jan, 2015. The HCL was set up by the Government on 20th August, 2014.The major issue before the Committee was how to make the entire food grain management system more efficient by reorienting the role of FCI in MSP operations, procurement, storage and distribution of grains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).The Committee had wide meetings with a few Chief Ministers, Food Secretaries and different partners in different States. Proposals from open were welcomed through different daily papers too.
The HLC had wide consultations with various stakeholders in its several meetings in different parts of the country. It also invited comments through advertisements in newspapers and electronic media. HLC would like to gratefully acknowledge that it has benefitted immensely from this consultative process, and many of its recommendations are based on very intensive discussions with stakeholders.
- In order to conceive reorienting the role of FCI and its consequent restructuring, one has to revisit the basic objectives with which FCI was created, and what was the background of food situation at that time. It is against that backdrop, one has to see how far FCI has achieved its objectives, what the current situation on foodgrain front, what are the new challenges with regard to food security, and how best these challenges can be met with a reoriented or restructured institution like FCI.
Major Recommendations of HLC
The High Level Committee worked for at least 6 months to deal with the important issues at hand and come up with some innovative and feasible steps to overcome the problem of food shortage and poverty. The major recommendations of the Committee are as follows:
· Procurement Related Issues
- The FCI should hand over all procurement operations of wheat, paddy, and rice to states that have gained sufficient experience in this regard and have created reasonable infrastructure for procurement. The FCI will accept only the surplus (after deducting the needs of the states under the NFSA) from these state governments (not millers) to be moved to deficit states. The FCI should move on helping those states where farmers suffer from distress sales at prices much below MSP, and which are dominated by small holdings.
- Centre should make it clear to states that in case of any bonus being given by them on top of MSP, it will not accept grains under the central pool beyond the quantity needed by the state for its own PDS and OWS.
- The statutory levies including commissions need to be brought down uniformly to 3 per cent, or at most 4 per cent of MSP, and this should be included in the MSP itself (states losing revenue due to this rationalization of levies can be compensated through a diversification package for the next three-five years);
- The Government of India must provide better price support operations for pulses and oilseeds and dovetail their MSP policy with trade policy so that their landed costs are not below their MSP.
- Cash transfers in PDS should be gradually introduced, starting with large cities with more than 1 million population; extending it to grain surplus states; and then giving deficit states for the option of cash or physical grain distribution.
· PDS and NFSA Related Issues
- Given that leakages in the PDS range from 40 to 50 per cent, the GoI should defer implementation of the NFSA in states that have not done end to end computerization; have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify; and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from PDS.
- Coverage of population should be brought down to around 40 percent.
- BPL families and some even above that they be given 7kg/person.
- On central issue prices, while Antyodya households can be given grains at ` 3/2/1/kg for the time being, but pricing for priority households must be linked to MSP.
· Stocking and Movement Related Issues
- FCI should outsource its stocking operations to various agencies.
- Covered and plinth (CAP) storage should be gradually phased out with no grain stocks remaining in CAP for more than 3 months.
- Silo bag technology and conventional storages wherever possible should replace CAP.
· Buffer Stocking Operations and Liquidation Policy
- DFPD/FCI have to work in tandem to liquidate stocks in OMSS or in export markets, whenever stocks go beyond the buffer stock norms. A transparent liquidation policy is the need of hour, which should automatically kick-in when FCI is faced with surplus stocks than buffer norms.
- Greater flexibility to FCI with business orientation to operate in OMSS and export markets is needed.
· Labour Related Issues
- FCI engages large number of workers (loaders) to get the job of loading/unloading done smoothly and in time. Currently there are roughly 16,000 departmental workers, about 26,000 workers that operate under Direct Payment System (DPS), some under no work no pay, and about one lakh contract workers. A departmental worker (loader) costs FCI about Rs 79,500/per month (April-Nov 2014 data) vis-a-vis DPS worker at Rs 26,000/per month and contract labour costs about Rs 10,000/per month. Some of the departmental labours (more than 300) have received wages (including arrears) even more than Rs 4 lakhs/per month in August 2014.
- The depots should be put on priority for mechanization so that reliance on departmentallabour reduces. If need be, FCI should be allowed to hire people under DPS/NWNP system. Further, HLC recommends that the condition of contract labour, which works the hardest and are the largest in number, should be improved by giving them better facilities.
· Direct Subsidy to Farmers
- Since the whole system of food management operates within the ambit of providing food security at a national as well as at household level, it must be realized that farmers need due incentives to raise productivity and overall food production in the country. Most of the OECD countries as well as large emerging economies do support their farmers. India also gives large subsidy on fertilizers (more than Rs 72,000 crores in budget of FY 2015 plus pending bills of about Rs 30,000-35,000 crores).
- HLC prescribes that agriculturists given direct money sponsorship (of about Rs. 7000/ha) and manure division can then be deregulated. This would plug redirection of urea to non-agrarian utilizations and to neighbouring nations, and raise the proficiency of manure use. It might be noticed this kind of direct money sponsorship to agriculturists will go far to help the individuals who take credits from cash loan specialists at extravagant financing costs to purchase composts or different inputs, along these lines easing some pain in the agrarian part.
· End to End Computerization
- HLC recommends total end to end computerization of the entire food management system, starting from procurement from farmers, to stocking, movement and finally distribution through TPDS. It can be done on real time basis, and some states have done a commendable job on computerizing the procurement operations. But itsdovetailing with movement and distribution in TPDS has been a weak link, and that is where much of the diversions take place.
· The New Face of the FCI
- The new face of the FCI will be much the same as an office for advancements in the nourishment administration framework with the essential centre of making rivalry in each portion of the foodgrain inventory network, from acquirement to stocking to development lastly circulation under the TPDS, so general expenses of the framework are significantly lessened and spillages stopped and it serves a bigger number of ranchers and purchasers.
The Shanta Kumar Committee has tried to address the very problems at the hand. It can be concluded from the report that an independent approach was taken while addressing these issues. As everything has two sides of it, so does this report. It provides a possible systematic way to deal with the current issues of food security but raises some questions also on the working of present administration on the same issue.
critiques of the shanta kumar committee report
According to The Hindu:
“The Shanta Kumar Committee report, on a range of issues relating to procurement, storage and distribution of food grains is not only deeply flawed in its reading of the situation on food security, but also short on facts. It was prepared under the guidance of the Prime Minister’s Office.”
In the short run, the committee recommends that the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 be curtailed. In particular, the NFSA entails providing subsidised food to about 67 per cent of the population, and the committee recommends that the coverage be brought down to 40 per cent. In the medium run, the committee recommends that the current public distribution system (PDS) be replaced by a cash transfer system. This will mean that the state will no longer have to be responsible for distributing food to vulnerable sections of the population. Hence, the state will no longer need to procure food from farmers, and store it. Since the current system of procurement, storage and transportation is primarily managed by the FCI, the medium term vision of the HLC implies that the FCI can, in due course, be folded up.Though the Shanta Kumar Committee has pointed out that FCI has excess stocks of food grains, it is not enough reason to curtail the existing food management system.
It asserts that only 6 per cent of all farmers have benefitted from MSP through sale of foodgrains to an official procurement agency quoting from an NSSO report (70th round). But analysts of the survey have found discrepancies between the survey’s estimates of the foodgrains sold to official procurement agencies and the actual amount of foodgrains procured by officialagencies for that year.
For Kharif, the NSSO survey estimates 13 million tonnes were sold to a procurement agency while the actual procurement that year by government agencies was 34 million tonnes. For rabi the gap is even larger, 10 million tonnes estimated in the survey while the actual amount procured by an official agency was 38 million tonnes.
Further, the Shanta Kumar Committee report makes these hazardous strides further by upholding constrained acquirement as the authoritatively proclaimed strategy.
This is straightforwardly connected to its proposal to scrap the current Food Security Act. The Committee needs to decrease the scope from 67 for every penny to 40 for each penny of the populace. It likewise needs to twofold the costs that these foodgrains are to be sold under the present Act by connecting the cost to the MSP. This implies reviving the false and undermined APL and BPL estimations and denying just as needy individuals of financed grains. Truth be told, as the Left has reliably contended and battled for, it is just a universalised PDS which can meet the prerequisite to make India hunger free. The Shanta Kumar Committee needs to dispose of even the deficient procurements under the current FSA and to push the nation back to the most noticeably bad days of nourishment unreliability.
Ironically such a recommendation comes at a time when the UN agencies monitoring country wise performances towards meeting Millennium goals have praised India for its reduction of malnutrition giving credit for this to food security systems like the “ICDS as well as the public distribution system.” In spite of the reduction which brings India from the “most alarming category” to the “seriously affected” category, India is still home to the largest malnourished population in the world, its rank in the Global Hunger Index at 55 out of 120 countries, is only slightly ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh but worse than Sri Lanka and Nepal.The Shanta Kumar Committee recommendations of unbundling the FCI, allowing the free play of market forces in procurement and storage, and restricting the FSA, are in tune with the demands raised by the western world led by the US in the WTO against India’s systems of procurement, storage and distribution. The India -US agreement to end the stalemate in the WTO process is clearly premised on the changes being suggested by the Committee.
The Committee, headed by former Union food minister and former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Shanta Kumar, submitted its report which missed the mark concerning suggesting unbundling of the FCI, a thought that Prime Minister Modi had proposed at a decision rally last February. He needed FCI to be trifurcated: one division implied for acquiring picks up, the other for capacity and the third for conveyance.
The Committee, rather, has proposed a wholesale cleaning of what it sees as “Augean stables” in the sorted out agricultural area that advantages insignificant pilferers and composed intruders to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore consistently. The report’s reach is wide. It incorporates a redo of the NFSA, uniform countrywide duties, closing down a large number of FCI’s 200-odd workplaces and moving operations to the disregarded conditions of eastern and focal India. It additionally needs decontrol of the intensely sponsored urea, outsourcing of stocking operations, cutting key stores of food grains and wholesale modernisation of capacity and development. Notwithstanding, read without a logical content, every real proposition offers ascend to uneasiness.
“”Implementing this report will be beneficial. When crores of farmers who are deprived of the benefits of minimum support price start getting direct input subsidy in cash, they will feel someone is looking out for them. When FCI work is cut or simplified, the scope for corruption will also reduce.”
-Shanta Kumar, chairman of committee on restructuring of FCI
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Supra note 15
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Supra note 37
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