We have many food assistance programmes but not food for all, as the latest Hunger Watch Survey II has found. Food insecurity still hounds people at household level though India is self-sufficient in food at national level. The food assistance programmes that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been claiming time and again to be robust, have actually failed for millions, especially during the past two years of the pandemic.
The survey by the Right to Hunger Campaign conducted between December 2021 and January 2022 has just revealed that about 60 per cent of the households went without healthy food while food insecurity hounds 79 per cent of them. It clearly presents a case for rethinking about the programmes as to why they are failing to even reach the vulnerable people who are in greatest need of food assistance because they are not able to earn even their livelihoods, since the percentage is too high to ignore.
The survey of the economically weak households has also found that about 66 per cent of them have reported decline in their incomes. Obviously, to return to the pre-pandemic level Modi government would need to work hard in the right direction – ie putting the people at the centre of the economic recovery, rather than going for the so called economic reform which helps only billionaires to grow at the cost of the common people. The present survey is also in the line of other recent surveys, one of them had found 86 per cent of people suffering loss to their incomes. Since the labour market situation is too bad to support the unemployed people, we urgently need some social security system in place to at least feed our people.
It should be the most important thing to do for the Modi government, since the survey has found that among those who suffered a decline in their income, close to 60 per cent has reported that their current income was even less than half of what they have been earning before the pandemic. It is indeed a matter of great concern if we take into account how the Indian economy was suffering from an unprecedented crisis that had brought down the GDP growth rate of the country to merely 4 per cent and unemployment 45 year high. The income going down by half even from that level is enshrined with untold miseries.
Such miseries are reflected in the findings of the present survey that said a close to 45 per cent of the households had some outstanding debt. Among those with the outstanding debt, 21 per cent have total debt exceeding Rs50,000. All these reflected in the food intake of the common people.
Using the Global Food Insecurity Experience Scale (GFIES), the survey has brought such a worrisome analysis on diet and food intake that no sensible person can ignore. It showed that 79 per cent of the households suffered one or the other form of food insecurity while 25 per cent even reported severe food insecurity. More than 60 per cent worried about not having enough food and were unable to eat healthy or nutritious food or could eat only a few kinds of foods in the month preceding the survey.
Worse than these people were those who ran even out of food. About 45 per cent of the households reported running out of food in the month preceding the survey and close to a third of the households surveyed reported that they or someone in their households had to skip a meal or sleep without eating.
The nutritional quality had also greatly deteriorated. As many as 41 per cent of households surveyed reported deterioration compared to the pre-pandemic level. There was even alarming level of deterioration in intake of pulses. Only 34 per cent have reported that their households had enough pulses consumption in the month preceding the survey.
This miserable condition persisted despite 84 per cent of the surveyed households reported that they had ration cards. Among them 90 per cent reported that they had even received subsidized grains. As much as 68 per cent of the households who had ration cards under the National Food Security Act, reported that they had received grains under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. However, the question remains as to why 16 per cent are still waiting for ration cards, and why about 10 per cent of the cardholders could not get subsidized grains? Why about 32 per cent could not regularly get grains under PM-GKAY? It should also be a matter of concern that about 25 per cent of the households who have eligible children reported they did not receive the provisions under the Mid-day Meal Scheme of nutrition supplements under Integrated Child Development Scheme.
The findings clearly indicate the worse ground reality, and the wide gap between achievements and the claims of Modi government due to lack of proper monitoring of the programmes and also defects in the planning and programme implementation. Modi government must do something else to provide food for all, because his great promises, claims, and faulty plans and programmes failed to feed millions of empty stomachs. (IPA Service)