India to take over 50 years to halve its poor and hungry

Investment in agriculture not enough to raise food output

India to take over 50 years to halve its poor and hungry

“India cannot halve its number of people starving until 2083, nearly 70 years after the Millennium Development Goals target date,” a report called “Who’s Really Fighting Hunger?” said.

Around a quarter of the world’s population, who are deprived of food live in India and 43 per cent of all children in the country under the age of five are malnourished, the study, prepared by London-based organisation ActionAid, says.

While India’s per capita income tripled between 1990 and 2005, the number of hungry people also increased by 53 million bringing the total number of chronically hungry people in India to a staggering 270 million, it says.

According to a score-card mentioned in the document, out of 28 nations ranked in the report, India got a dismal 21st rank while Brazil and China came first and second respectively.

Economic mismatch
When India went full steam with economic liberalisation, the number of people starving in the country also shot up by an extra 30 million. The major reason for this situation, according to the report, is the low Budget allocation for agriculture and rising food prices in India.

Though the Budget allocation for agriculture keeps increasing year after year, the amount is inadequate to reform food production. Lack of long term public investments, rising food prices compounded by constrained supplies and lack of land reforms are other major challenges ahead in tackling hunger.

From the 1990s onwards, the Indian government cut public investment, plummeting from a high of 13 per cent to only 6 per cent in 1999.

Ironically, as investment in agriculture stagnated, government expenditure on food subsidies rocketed. And as public support dwindled, smallholders found it increasingly hard to cope without the support previously given by the state.

 “Need of the hour is urgent reforms of the public distribution system to ensure equitable distribution of food grains. Land reforms would also help reduce hunger, since small and marginal farmers operating on less than two hectares each constitute 84 per cent of all farmers in the country,” says Executive Director, Sandeep Chachra.

The report revealed that hunger could cost poor nations $450 billion a year, more than 10 times the amount needed to halve hunger by 2015 and meet the first of the MDGs. 
It said 20 out of 28 poor nations are off track to halving hunger by 2015 and 12 of these are going backwards, despite the UN’s claims that the world is on track to meeting the MDG. 

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