India is thriving to become global super power but on the other hand it is trailing in global hunger index. India has attained great milestones in space research and its economy is booming compared to many other developing countries but India ranks 94th out of 107 countries in global hunger index 2020, which is way more below most of the developing countries. A lot of Indian citizens are starving and struggling to get even one adequate square meal a day. Even People who managed to get their bread also suffers from malnutrition, which is another stressing issue in the health sector. Many Indian children below five years are suffering from wasting and stunting due to lack of food or nutritional food. This issue originates from their undernourished mothers who suffers from anaemia. Ensuring quality and healthy food to its citizens is the primary duty of the country. Let’s discuss the social, economic and political conditions involved in these issues and the way to resolve it.
AGRICULTURE, THE ORIGIN
Hunger and undernourishment start from unorganised agriculture. Despite the fact that global food supply is sufficient to feed all people, around 815 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Though India produces enough food to feed its entire population, India is still trailing in the Global Hunger Index. Despite the fact that the country has been food secure for the past decade, economic expansion and shifting demographics are changing food demand patterns. In India, the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the food basket varies by region. The design and development of more efficient integrated food production, processing, preservation, and distribution systems that will feed the nation’s shifting tastes is becoming increasingly important.
Because of insufficient warehouse and cold storage facilities, India wastes roughly 7% of its entire yearly food production and about 30% of its fruits and vegetables. Other countries are in a similar scenario. It is estimated that the food wasted in Africa could feed nearly 40 million people. Processing, storage, supply chain, and logistics are all becoming increasingly difficult as a result of hunger. According to the International Institute of Refrigeration, developing countries would save 200 million tonnes of food, or around 14% of their food supply, if they had the same level of refrigeration infrastructure as rich countries.
According to the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD), India has only 15% of the essential temperature-control transportation infrastructure and less than 1% of warehouses dedicated to shipping pre-conditioned agricultural produce. This absence of infrastructure is causing a lot of problems. Just 4% of the country’s food is transported via cold chains. Cold chains not only reduce post-harvest losses, but they also enable farmers to earn more by tapping into well-functioning remunerative markets while preserving the quality of their produce. Furthermore, as climate unpredictability and extremes increase, robust transportation infrastructure will enable food to be delivered from surplus to climate-stressed places, contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s objective of zero hunger.
The situation is exacerbated by India’s largely fragmented agricultural terrain. Despite being the world’s greatest banana producer, India only accounts for 0.3 percent of worldwide banana trade. The lack of large-scale commercial farms and limited consolidation among smallholders are the main reasons for this.
FOOD WASTE AND IT’S ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
Food waste and loss are not only a waste of resources, but they also contribute to huge greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste is estimated to account for 8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
To overcome the zero hunger challenge, it is critical to develop and upgrade rural infrastructure, train farmers in loss-reducing post-harvest practises, integrate small scale enterprises into value chains, organise smallholder farmers into farmer producer organisations, provide customised financial services, invest in agricultural research, and establish last-mile marketing channels. They’re also crucial for guaranteeing social justice, gender equality, and lowering agriculture’s carbon imprint.
WASTE TO WEALTH
While this is a huge challenge, it is also an opportunity that must be taken advantage of, particularly by enterprises participating in various stages of the food value chain. Private businesses have the skills, knowledge, and resources to invest in potential solutions. Solving the problem of food loss and waste has the potential to have a huge influence on society as well as the company’s bottom line. According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, resolving the problem of food loss and waste represents a $700 billion opportunity for private businesses.
Companies are also in a better position since they are more connected to the numerous parties involved in the food value chain and can influence their behaviour. The absence of regulation surrounding industry standards and procedures has also exacerbated the problem of food waste. Companies can assist raise public awareness about the issue by advocating for industry standards that restrict food waste. The government, on the other hand, can enact legislation penalizes businesses for wasting food in their supply chain and encourages food repurposing and recycling.
Currently, raw materials and completed commodities are only transported in one direction. To meet the zero hunger issue and combat poverty in all its forms, this flow must be turned into a two-way flow of commerce and good, nutritious food between farmers and consumers.
The state of India’s nutrition is a result of a variety of issues, ranging from economic, social, and cultural to political. To address separate yet interrelated aspects of nutritional security, numerous inter-sectoral policies are required. The implementation of the National Nutrition Policy by the Indian government in 1993 was one of the significant efforts taken by the government to address malnutrition. It was a Department of Women and Child Development-led multi-sectoral plan for eradicating malnutrition. It made direct (short-term) measures such as food fortification, fighting micronutrient deficiency, and so on, in addition to long-term indirect policy measures such as improved dietary patterns, food security, nutritional surveillance, community participation, and so on. Various methods, such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Special Nutrition Program, Wheat Based Nutrition Program, and others, were already in place to tackle malnutrition at the time. Despite the fact that malnutrition rates have decreased over time, they remain high. While the government has implemented several measures to enhance nutrition throughout the years, worries about malnutrition have persisted despite progress. While a comprehensive examination and evaluation of these policies is beyond the scope of this research, we do examine the relevant national policies briefly here.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES ON FOOD SECURITY
The main nutrition programmes in India are the National Health Mission and the ICDS, which address the recommended interventions in child and maternal health. Scholarship has evaluated the impact of ICDS on nutritional status of children both at the micro and macro level, these studies show a mixed impact. However, evidence also points to the challenges of quality, problems of implementation, leakages, corruption and infrastructure bottlenecks and delays.
The National Food Security Act 2013 aims to ensure greater access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices under the Targeted Public Distribution System launched in 1997. Some studies have shown its positive impact reflected in increase in coverage of beneficiaries and improved transportation of food grains, while others have pointed towards delays in implementation.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 is in place to ensure food security for the most vulnerable communities. Ration distribution through fair price shops, mid-day meal programmes at schools, nutrition and maternity benefit programmes for children and pregnant mothers at anganwadis fall within the Act.
SUPPLEMENTS AND NUTRIENTS
Supplements can make a huge difference in malnutrition condition in India but the expenses are major problem. Supplements like “SPIRULINA” a seaweed, which can be a great alternate source of nutritional. Spirulina contains almost all nutrition a human need, particularly protein. Typically, a 100g of spirulina powder contains 57g of protein. Where protein insufficiency causes wasting and stunting in children, a tablet of spirulina can help improve this condition. Wasting rates among children are increased in India. India’s high rates of malnutrition are almost double of Sub Saharan Africa, while the growth rate in India is much higher. Second, India faces a large number of anaemic women in the reproductive age group. Anaemia in children and women is also very high. This is an urgent situation that needs to be tackled. While discussion and debates of malnutrition are around absolute hunger and poverty, hidden hunger is a growing challenge and a more complex situation. In the short run, it is possible to tackle this with food supplements, in the long run people need to be empowered enough to be able to take care of their diets, especially the women. It has been seen from data that under-nourished mothers give birth to more malnourished children, it thus is a public health emergency to bring about reductions in anaemia.
In Poverty and Famines, Amartya Sen introduced the idea of ‘exchange entitlement decline’ as a reason for starvation and famines. It is characterised by an adverse shift in the exchange value of endowments for food. It essentially means the occupation, a section of people are engaged in is not remunerative enough to buy adequate food.
Lastly, we notice that there are many nutrition related programs running in India, the ICDS being the longest-running program, yet each of them is faced with challenges of quality, implementation, and corruption issues. A strong political commitment is required to ensure the convergence of these programs to ensure better nutritional outcomes for the Indian population. As we discussed above, the solution for zero hunger should start from preserving agricultural goods to give cooked and healthy meal to the underprivileged through community kitchens like the AMMA CANTEEN in Tamilnadu which provides meals to people for minimum as Rs.5-10 also supplements can be an another way for tackling undernourishment in short run. Progress should be a complete growth, when one sect of community grows and the other remains low or declining more is not progress perhaps it’s inflammation, which make no good in long run. Along with the government, private and NGO organizations should work together to resolve this issue, because no greatness can be achieved with an empty stomach.