Thursday, October 28, 2010

35 kilograms of Food Security

India is ranked 67th among 84 vulnerable countries in the Global Hunger Index by the International Food Policy Research institute.Our National advisory council (NAC) recommended the food security act to 75% of Indians through public distribution systems (PDS) on 23rd Oct, 2010. The proposed food security bill has to be approved in the legislature which is going to be started in next financial year and completely covered by 2014 in all over India. NAC suggested the two broad categories of beneficiaries’ i.e. Priority and General instead of Below Poverty Line (BPL) norms and both these categories will have to be defined by the government.

The 75% of Indians will get the food grains on the subsidized prices who are 90% of rural and 50% of urban.
The Priority category is defined as 46% of rural poor and 28% of urban poor.
The General category is defined as 44% of rural below middle class and 22% of below middle class.
The Priority category household will get 35 kgs of food grains (Rice, wheat, millet) per month with subsidized prices of Rs.3, Rs.2 and Re.1 sequentially.
The General category household will get 20 kgs of food grains (Rice, wheat, millet) per month with the price which is not exceeding half the current minimum support price for the grains.
The scheme would cost the government an additional Rs 15,000 crores in the first phase and it’s going to be Rs 23,231 crore additional cost after the implementation of the final phase. The country would be requiring 58 million tones food grain annually to fulfill this legal commitment.

I believe that some amendments are required in the proposed Food security act. Food security means that not only providing of 35 kilograms of subsidized food grains but that should ensure the nutrition security and health also. Is 35 kgs are enough to feed the family? As per some research norms, the average consumption of food grains in India is 178 kgs/ year/ person (15 kgs /month/person) and the average Indian family size is 4.8 members. So each family must requires the minimum quantity of 65 kgs of food grains. Edible oil and pulses are the good sources for nutritional values and calories. The per capita consumption of edible oils is 13 kgs per year (1.08kgs per month) but it is still less than what nutritionists recommend and lower than world average of 16 kgs. Each household needs 5kgs of edible oil for the nutritional values. The per capita availability of pulses is around 15 kg a year (1.25kgs per month), far below the nutritionists' recommendation of 20 kg per capita. So each family requires 6 kgs of pulses.

The Government is implementing several food schemes to provide the supplementary nutrition values among the people i.e. Mid day meals in schools, anganwadi, Nutrition programme for adolescent girls. All these schemes are meant for children, adolescents, pregnant women and lactating women. But, the working class poor people are still in calorie deficient and they definitely need the nutrients to get strength, endurance and productivity at their workplace. As I fell, the comprehensive food security means nutritional security. The edible oil and pulses are essential for human beings to sustain proteins, vitamins and minerals. Inclusion of the both of them with food grains list under PDS is good for unconditional food security or else the hunger will be perennial.

The public distribution systems is not functioning efficiently, it’s all corrupted and controlled by the politicians. The PDS food ration is going to the black markets instead of welfare of poor. Ration cards are the main documents to avail the PDS ration, there is a lot of corruption in issuing ration cards. Take this serious example of Andhra Pradesh… as per Chief Minister’s statement, 2.04 crores of white ration cards were issued to the BPL families. The average family size in Andhra Pradesh is 3.9 per sons. So… the Andhra Pradesh has (2.04 crore families * 3.9 per sons) 7.96 crores of people who are in below poverty line out of 8.0 crores of total population. Is it Andhra Pradesh completely in below Poverty line??????? That’s how the corruption in issuing ration cards to ineligible people.

Simply distributing the food grains with subsidized prices is not going to be end of the hunger. The Government has to focus on production, procuring, preserving and proper distribution of food grains. As everybody knows that the Supreme Court intervention on millions of tonnes food grain wastage due to insufficient storage facilities, the judicial body recommended the government to distribute the starving people instead of letting rotten. The government has to concentrate on food grains storage facilities, infrastructure and supply chain. Food security act will not only serving the poor but also encourages the production of food grains which is direct benefit to the farmers since the consumption pattern is going to be more. India needs to be self sufficient in food grain production to meet this new demand by utilizing the science and technology.However, we welcome the food security bill and wish this legislation is going to fill the empty stomachs of starved poor.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Micro Credit – Macro crisis

The Father of Microfinance and Nobel peace prize winner Mr. Muhammad Yunus would never expect that the social mission of microfinance is going to be bad in India. He is the founder of Grameen Bank and he developed the concept of Micro credit model In Bangladesh to eradicate the poverty in rural community. The fundamental of microfinance / Micro credit is to empower the poor people by giving the small loans with low interest rate. In the past few days, 24 number of rural Micro finance borrowers have committed suicides in Andhra Pradesh who are harassed by the Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs).

The Andhra Pradesh state government has been following the best model of Indira Kranthi Patham by Society for elimination of Rural Poverty ( which arranges the loans from nationalized banks to the Self help groups with subsidized interest rate. In the early 1990s, the Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) model was also very successful one in Andhra Pradesh. From the past few years, the micro finance sector is growing massively. Most of MFIs are forcing the poor women to enroll and majority of them are already members in self-help groups who are well nurtured by the Government schemes. They indulge in very unethical practices in collecting their loan money. The MFIs are humiliating and dampen the self respect of the borrowers, those deeds are pushing them to suicides. The MFIs are charging very high interest rates i.e more than 30% per annum from the poor borrowers and enjoying this money with high paid salaries and perks to their CEOs. They are just like private money lenders in corporate way by utilizing the Self Help groups.

On October14th, the AP state government came out with legislation to control the MFIs. That is a good sign to help the poor rural borrowers from the clutches of fraudulent MFIs. As per new ordinanace, the government is going to help the MFI’s victims by debt-swapping through commercial banks by providing new loans with low interest rates. We hope the new ordinance will control and regulate the Micro finance system and Reserve Bank of India intervention must be required to formulate the guidelines for MFIs. The ordinance is here:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Solidarity to 490 Millions of Small farmers

Agriculture in India has long history, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. India is a land of 490 million small farmers of total 600 million and having the average land size of 3.2 acres (1.3 hectares). They are cultivating their small farms with the support of their family members and local labor. Small Farms have always been the most efficient for sustainable and bio-diversified way of agriculture. Small farms have tremendous scope for increasing productivity because the natural capital - the soil, the water, and the ecology can be improved through conservation and rejuvenation.60% of the farm produces comes from the small farms only which are assuring food security, rural employment, generating the revenue in the form of taxes, cess and foreign currency through exports. But India lost her 200,000 of quality farmers from past 15 years who are committed suicides and around 100 million of farmers are living on less than a dollar per day. 40% of the small farmers are being forced to leave the agriculture and migrating to towns and cities.

Farmers are dragged in to such kind of plights due to various reasons like spurious seeds, poor quality pesticides, non availability of fertilizers, delayed monsoons, ineffective irrigation system, mounting debts, exploitation by private money-lenders and banks, lack of insurance, Government polices and so on… The main problems for the ill-fated farmers are their Indebtedness and credit crisis, because the income from their farms is not sufficient to their farm investment and their generic living expenditure. The farm incomes are connected with the farm produce prices which are not remunerative and farmers are getting very less share for their produces paid by the consumer. Commercial Banks are also responsible for farmers’ perils, they are not extending enough agriculture loans to farmers. Some small farmers are not qualified to avail the credit facilities due to bankers’ abusive norms which are forcing them to turn to private money lenders with exorbitant interest rates. The government improper models of industrialization are pushing the rural communities off the land. The small farmers are migrating to cities as construction labor, apartment watchmen and positively they don’t want their children as to become farmers. Very few young people are coming into farming … If this situation continues, India can’t expect food security and it’s going to be the REPUBLIC OF HUNGER.

In fact, India needs small farmers because her peace, her land sovereignty, her food sovereignty is in their hands. They are the pillars of the country’s development. There is a need to encourage the small farmers by providing easy access to credit facilities, Reserve Bank of India has to control the rural banks/commercial bank to extend the agri loans to small farmers and Tenant farmers. The government has to make sure the supply of quality seeds, prompt distribution of fertilizers, extension support, marketing, and insurance to small farmers. Public Private Partnership is required to promote organic farming among the small farmers. Government should provide subsidized for farm equipment, proper training and techniques to use innovative tools to avoid physical drudgery. Basic literacy and women farmers’ encouragement programmes should be evolved to their family and rural community development.  The government should enact the collective farming / Contract farming with the modality of merging small farm land holdings under farmers cooperatives, make the farmers as independent share holder and collectively utilizing the supply chain/value chain with farmers operated marketing societies or private processors. (Just like dairy cooperatives). Government should reinforce the rural communities by providing basic welfare amenities like drinking water, electricity, transportation, primary health and sanitation.

We hope…all the small farmers avail the modern technologies and market opportunities to strengthen their economic status as well as nation’s prosperity. This is a part of campaign to get the United Nations to declare International Year of Family farming. Please Visit: