• The all-India percentage of households reporting getting two square meals every day throughout the year has gradually increased over the last 16 years from 94.5% in 1993-94 to about 99% in 2009-10 in rural India and from about 98% in 1993-94 to 99.6% in 2009-10 in urban India. The gap between the rural and urban percentages has narrowed appreciably £
• In India, underweight prevalence rate among children aged 0-59 months declined from 64 percent in 1993 to 61 percent in 2006 among the poorest 20 percent while the same declined from 37 percent in 1993 to 25 percent in 2006 among the richest 20 percent. Therefore, a greater reduction in underweight prevalence occurred in the richest 20% of households than in the poorest 20% Þ
• Total number of undernourished people in India stood at 240 million during 1990-1992, 224 million during 1999-2001, 238 million during 2004-06, 227 million during 2007-2009 and 217 million during 2010-2012 €
• About 870 million people globally are estimated to have been undernourished (in terms of dietary energy supply) in the period 2010–12. This figure represents 12.5 percent of the global population or one in eight people €
• The additional fiscal cost involved in policy responses to 2006–08 price spike was 19.1 percent of total fiscal revenue in India in 2008 α
• In India productivity losses to individuals are estimated at more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings, and GDP loss to undernutrition runs as high as 3–4 percent (World Bank 2009) α
• The proportion of undernourished in total population in India during 2006-08 was 19 percent, while that for China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan during the same time period were 10 percent, 26 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively#@
• Average calorie intake per diem in rural area India has declined from 2309 kcal in 1983 to 2011 kcal in 1998*
• Per capita yearly net availability of foodgrains has declined from 199.0 kg during 1897-1902 to 141.50 kg in 2002-03*
£ NSS 66th Round Report titled: Perceived Adequacy of Food Consumption in Indian Households (February, 2013) July 2009-June 2010, MoSPI, GoI, http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/nss_report_547.pdf
Þ 2013 Hunger Report-Within Reach Global Development Goals (2012), published by Bread for the World Institute, http://www.hungerreport.org/2013/report
€ The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, FAO, WFP, IFAD,
OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2012-2021
α Global Monitoring Report 2012: Food Prices, Nutrition, and the Millennium Development Goals
#@ The State of Food Insecurity in the World: How does international price volatility affect domestic economies and food security? (2011), IFAD, WFP and FAO
* Patnaik, Utsa (2003): Agrarian Crisis and Distress in Rural India, Macroscan
Liberalisation has brought handsome gains for India’s middle classes. Life is good and getting better; more and more people are holidaying abroad; buying of vehicles or property has never been easier. Slimming and low calorie diets are a rage. There has also been spectacular rise in social and economic inequalities but the per capita food availability and the calorie intake of the desperately poor people have both fallen since liberalisation. The situation has only worsened in the past two years with the prices of food grain, pulses and vegetables hitting the roof. India continues to be home to one third of the world’s underweight children.
Unlike the last centuries, the incidence of widespread hunger is unpardonable in today’s world, partly because of the global availability of food being a whole lot more than the mankind’s requirement, and partly because easy global connectivity has made it possible to address food emergencies very quickly. However, what has not changed through the ages is the lack of policies targeted specifically at eradicating hunger or at augmenting incomes at the lowest levels.
India is currently drafting a food security law which aims to fight hunger and extreme poverty. It seeks to make the families below the poverty line (BPL) entitled to 25 kg of wheat or rice at Rs 3 per kg. The law is clearly, and laudably, aimed at addressing hunger through policy intervention. In a way the right to life has always been meaningless in the absence of a right to food but then causing death through faulty state policies has never been a cognizable offence anywhere in the world. Maybe the time has come now to think on those lines.