India’s Food Aid Programmes – UPSC GS2

Food Production in India:
  • India has made notable progress in food production over the years.
  • In 2020, India produced over 300 million tonnes of cereals.
  • These record harvests over the last few years can be attributed to several enabling policies in the realm of land reforms, public investments, institutional infrastructure, new regulatory systems, intervention in Agri markets and prices and Agri research.
  • In 2021, India exported a record 20 million tonnes of rice and wheat.
Food Procurement and Distribution Schemes:
  • India has a robust public procurement and buffer stock policy.
  • India has built up a food stock of 100 million tonnes.
  • Schemes like the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Mid-Day meals (MDM), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) based on India’s National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 have helped create a food safety net for the vulnerable sections. This food safety net collectively reaches over a billion people in India.
  • Vulnerable and marginalised families in India continued to receive food grains through the TPDS during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) introduced in 2020 provided relief to 800 million beneficiaries covered under the NFSA from COVID-19 induced economic hardships.
Status of Global Hunger:
  • In 2019, 650 million people around the world suffered from chronic hunger.
  • Global hunger is increasing driven by the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, poverty, and inequality.
  • The global hunger problem is leading to a high burden of malnutrition. Around 150 million children are stunted and 50 million are wasted. Almost 50% of children and two billion adults suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Apart from leading to malnutrition, hunger also results in creating a humanitarian crisis. Hunger creates a cycle that people can’t escape from. It causes individuals to be less productive and more prone to disease, which in turn makes them less able to improve their livelihoods or earn a better income.
India’s food aid programmes:
  • India has recently committed 50,000 Metric Tonnes (MT) of food assistance to Afghanistan in the form of wheat. India is coordinating this food assistance through the United Nations Food Programme.
  • India has also extended over a million metric tonnes in the past, including 75,000 metric tonnes in 2021 in partnership with the WFP.
  • In the past two years, India has provided food aid to several countries in Africa (Zimbabwe) and the Middle East/West Asia (Yemen) to overcome natural calamities and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • India’s action in the domain of food assistance is based on the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – a humanitarian outlook that sees the world as one family. This concept is relevant not just for global peace, cooperation, environment protection but also for humanitarian response including rising global hunger and leaving no one behind.
Way forward:
  • India while addressing domestic nutritional security must also take up more responsibility in delivering the goal of Zero Global Hunger. In this direction, India should build a robust partnership with the World Food Programme to contribute to addressing food emergencies
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