Since India’s independence, the mammoth task of feeding its hundreds of millions, most of whom are extremely poor, has been a major challenge to policymakers. In the coming decades, the issue of food insecurity is likely to affect almost all Indians. However, for the poorest amongst us, it could be catastrophic. India ranks 65 of 79 countries in the Global Hunger Index. This is extremely alarming.
In the past few years, uneven weather patterns combined with over exploited and depleting water resources in various parts of India have wreaked havoc on food security, particularly for small and marginal farmers, as well as the rural poor.
The recently launched Global Food Security Index (GFSI) estimates that in 2012, there are 224 million Indians, around 19 percent of the total population, who are undernourished. The same report also estimates that while the Indian government has various institutions designed to deal with the impact of inflation on food prices, it only spends 1 percent of agricultural GDP on research to build food security for the poorest. Overall, India ranked 66th on the GFSI. It is estimated that one in four of the world’s malnourished children is in India, more even than in sub-Saharan Africa.
Water insecurity, further exacerbated by climate change, is arguably the most important factor for India’s food security. India’s total water availability per capita is expected to decline to 1,240 cubic metres per person per year by 2030, perilously close to the 1,000 cubic metre benchmark set by the World Bank as ‘water scarce’.