Skip to main content

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh* 

According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
The United Nations ranks sustainable development out of 100 points in the Social Development Goals. India scored 61.9 out of 100 points, while the rest of the BRICS countries China, Brazil, the Russian Federation, and South Africa scored 73.89, 72.67, 71.92, and 63.41 points respectively. In this regard, India's four smaller Asian neighbors — Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh have scored 69.27, 66.88, 65.93, and 63.51 points, respectively.
The report attributes India's decline in Sustainable Development to the challenges of eradicating hunger and food security. In addition, gender equality, solid infrastructure, sustainable industrialization, and the absence of innovations are some of the reasons why India's ranking has slipped.
The Global Hunger Index is created by Welthungerhife and Concern Worldwide Institution to raise awareness about hunger around the world. To understand the multifaceted nature of hunger, different countries are ranked on the basis of 4 indicators. The first indicator relates to people who are malnourished. The second indicator relates to children under 5 years of age who are underweight according to their height. The third indicator is for children under the age of 5 who are shorter in height. The fourth indicator relates to the death of children under 5 years of age.
Reports of hunger in various countries of the world under the title of 'Global Hunger Index' every year show that India is often ranked low in this regard. Ensuring food security for all the people of the country is essential to eradicate hunger. The country enacted the Food Security Act in 2013, which provides food security to 67 per cent of the population. According to the law, the beneficiaries are entitled to get 5 kg of food grains per month-rice at Rs 3, wheat at Rs 2 and coarse grains at Rs 1 per kg.
Given the food prices, the food security provided to two-thirds of the population looks very good. But when we look at the quantity of food grains, there is some frustration because 5 kg of food grains per person per month works out to 164 grams per day, which is not enough to satisfy the hunger of the workers. Ever since the enactment of this law, reports of non-receipt of ration, underweight, and very poor quality of food grains from various states of the country have been making headlines in newspapers / television channels.
Apart from these facts, one aspect that requires a lot of attention is to understand the true meaning of food security. According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, food security means a socio-economic approach for all people to have access to adequate, safe, and nutritious food at all times in order to live an active and healthy life. If we look at this definition of hunger, there will be more frustration.
To understand hunger and lack of food security in India, it is necessary to review the development model adopted in the country. After the independence of the country, the Planning Commission was set up in 1950 and Five Year Plans were introduced from 1951. The period 1951-80 is considered as the Planning Period. During this period, the rulers of the country adopted a mixed economic development model under which public sector enterprises were established, expanded and developed and private sector enterprises were regulated and monitored.
Various research studies conducted in the country revealed the fact that during the planning period (1951-80) employment opportunities in the public sector had increased, permanent jobs and services at concessional rates or free of cost were provided to the masses which led to reduction in economic inequalities. After 1980, planning was put into reverse gear.
The country's adoption of the New Economic Policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization since 1991 has targeted the planning and the NDA government by abolishing the Planning Commission has created NITI Aayog in which the capitalist / corporate world has been given an important place.
About half of the country's population depends on the agricultural sector for their livelihood. Dependents on the agricultural sector include farmers, agricultural labourers, and rural artisans. Different categories of farmers include large, medium, semi-medium, small, and marginal farmers. According to the 2015-16 Agricultural Census, the number of marginal and small farmers (who have less than 2 hectares of land) in the country is 86 per cent. These are farmers who, after meeting their household needs, have very few commodities to sell in the market.
Use of herbicides and machinery in New Agricultural Strategy to meet food grains needs has significantly reduced employment days in rural areas
Apart from this fact, the economic condition of marginal and small farmers has been deteriorating day by day due to the sluggish rise in MSP or market prices of agricultural commodities and skyrocketing prices of inputs used in agricultural production. In some states these farmers sell A-grade commodities in the market to meet their needs for clothes, medicines, etc., and to meet their needs related to these commodities, they buy the lowest grade commodities in the market.
Apart from farmers, there are two other classes in the agricultural sector – agricultural labourers and rural artisans – who generally belong to the Dalit and Backward classes, are the two rungs at the bottom of the ladder of the agricultural economy. They are kicked more often. As these two classes are landless, they have no other means of production except to sell their labour.
The ever-increasing use of herbicides and machinery in the package of New Agricultural Strategy to meet the country's food grains needs has significantly reduced the employment days of these two categories in the agricultural sector. Due to government policies making agriculture a loss-making business, weak unions of agricultural labourers and rural artisans and some other reasons, the wage rates of these sections have not increased sufficiently due to which their income and consumption levels are low.
The issue of gender equality is important for the development of women. According to the laws of the country, any kind of discrimination against women on the basis of gender is illegal and punishable. Despite this, various socio-economic, political and other forms of discrimination against women are common in the country. In addition to wage discrimination against women workers for equal work on the basis of gender, when the problem of declining employment arises, the sword of retrenchment is more on women.
Infrastructure can make a significant contribution in the Sustainable Development of a country. The Great Depression of the 1930s and many subsequent events in the world have proved that public sector infrastructure is important for the Sustainable Development of any country as it is not for profit but for the welfare of the people. During the planning period after the independence of the country, the public sector played an important role in the establishment, development, and expansion of infrastructure which contributed a lot to the Sustainable Development of the country.
As a result of the New Economic Policies adopted since 1991, great achievements are often claimed in terms of infrastructure establishment, development, and expansion. In this regard, the public sector has been pushed back and the private sector brought forward. The ultimate goal of the private sector is to maximize its profits. Thus, the achievements made in infrastructure during this period have benefited the private sector, while the general public has been / is being deprived of infrastructure facilities.
Industrialization can make a significant contribution in the Sustainable Development of any country. Since 1991, there have been many claims of industrial development in the country. In fact, large industrial units are developing very fast in which the increasing use of machines and automatic machines has greatly reduced the employment opportunities and changed the nature of employment from permanent to casual.
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are being ignored from various angles. These are the industrial enterprises which provide more employment opportunities to the workers. These facts show that the country has moved towards unsustainable industrialization which will further increase economic inequalities.
By adopting scientific thinking, new inventions can bring a lot of changes. New inventions will only be meaningful if they reach the masses. Research and development work in public sector institutions plays an important role in doing so. Some important inventions are being made in the country, but often it is happening in the private sector which is benefiting the capitalist / corporate world and keeping the general public away from the benefits of those inventions. Such phenomena are found in the fields of agriculture, industry, and services.
Grants for research and development to government universities and other institutions are either being reduced or eliminated altogether. When salaries and pensions are not paid on time in most of these institutions, how will the researchers working there be able to focus on making inventions?
India's rulers are never tire of propagating that the country would become an international economic superpower in the near future. They have become more skeptical about the country's economic growth rate by not paying attention to the country's Sustainable Development. When the economic growth rate is accelerating, they leave no stone unturned to pat themselves on the back.
When the economic growth rate stagnates or goes down or comes in negative, our rulers are quick to take pro-capitalist / corporate world and anti-people decisions in the name of economic reforms. For attaining Sustainable Development in any country, it is imperative that a development model be adopted in the country which ensures the establishment, expansion and development of public sector enterprises as well as regulating and monitoring the private sector enterprises. To do that we have to come back to planning. 
In addition to doing so for Sustainable Development of the country, it is also important to pay close attention to the environment as India ranks 168th in the United Nations’ report on the Environmental Performance Index prepared for 180 countries of the world.
---
* Former Professor, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, Patiala

Comments

Baghel singh sohi said…
Text is truthful based on facts. As per agricultural laws FRIDAY FCI is to be windup, and then what would happen to PDS of India. People will die of hunger and malnutrition

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

How GMOs would destroy non-GMO crops: Aruna Rodrigues' key submissions in SC

Counterview Desk The introduction of Bt and HT crops will harm the health of 1 billion Indians and their animals, believes Aruna Rodrigues, who has made some 60 submissions to the Supreme Court (SC) during the last 20 years. As lead petitioner who filed Public Interest Litigation in 2005, during a spate of intense hearings, which ended on 18 January 2024, she fought in the Apex Court to prevent the commercialization of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Indian agriculture. 

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .

Corporatizing Indian agriculture 'to enhance' farmer efficiency, market competitiveness

By Shashank Shukla*  Today, amidst the ongoing farmers' protest, one of the key demands raised is for India to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO). Let us delve into the feasibility of such a move and explore its historical context within India's globalization trajectory.

Interpreting UAPA bail provisions: Is Supreme Court setting the clock back?

By Kavita Srivastava*, Dr V Suresh** The Supreme Court in its ruling on 7th February, 2024 in   `Gurvinder Singh v State of Punjab’ held that its own well-developed jurisprudence that "Bail is the rule and jail the exception" will not apply to those charged under the UAPA.

A 'distorted narrative' of Indian politics: Congress failing to look beyond LS polls

By Prem Singh*  About 15 days ago, I told a senior journalist friend that there are not even two   months left for the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi is roaming around on a delectation (tafreeh). The friend probably found my comment exasperating and replied that he is not on a delectation trip. The conversation between us on this topic ended there. 

Livelihood issues return to national agenda ahead of LS polls: SKM on Bharat Bandh

Counterview Desk  Top farmers' network, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) has claimed big success of Grameen Bharat Bandh and industrial /sectoral strikes, stating, the “struggle reflected anger of farmers, workers and rural people across India”, adding, the move on February 16 succeeded in bringing back peoples’ livelihood issues in the national agenda just ahead of the general election to the Lok Sabha.