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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 12 September 2023

 CONTENTS

  1. Ridding India of Food Insecurity
  2. Still Just Five

Ridding India of Food Insecurity


Context:

India might be the world’s quickest expanding major economy, but it is also grappling with an escalating surge in food price inflation. The increase in food prices initially surged significantly in 2019 and has continued to rise in most subsequent years. In July of this year, the annual inflation rate surpassed 11%, marking the highest level in a decade. One consequence of this persistent high food price inflation is that a segment of the population may be encountering difficulties in affording food that meets their nutritional needs.

Relevance:

  • GS Paper – 3-Food Security
  • GS Paper – 2-Government Policies & Interventions

Mains Question:

How does food-price inflation impact food security in India? What steps can be taken to address this issue? (15 marks, 250 words).

Reports/ Indices/ Data on food insecurity in India:

SourceFinding
‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ by Food and  Agriculture OrganizationAround 74% of the population is unable to afford a nutritious diet, which translates to approximately one billion people out of a total population of 1.4 billion in India.
The HinduA study conducted on the cost of food in Mumbai city from 2018 to 2023 revealed that during this period, the expense of cooking a homemade “thaali” increased by 65%. Meanwhile, the income of a manual laborer increased by 38%, and that of a salaried worker rose by 28%.
 National Family Health Survey 2019-21More than half of adult women were approximated to suffer from anemia. This is a direct consequence of food insecurity and nutritional deficiency.

Controlling Inflation:

  • Traditional macroeconomic policies, which are typically employed to control inflation, have proven to be ineffective in this context.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has struggled in this regard, as the inflation rate has consistently exceeded its target for the past four years.
  • Their strategy of reducing output in response to rising inflation, often referred to as “inflation targeting,” does not address the root causes of food price inflation, which primarily stem from supply-side issues.
  • It is important to acknowledge that central banks are not equipped to resolve this issue within a reasonable timeframe.
  • The key to addressing this problem lies in supply-side interventions aimed at ensuring a stable food supply and increasing land productivity to maintain consistent food prices.

Green Revolution and food security:

Achievements:

  • India possesses significant expertise in this field, notably demonstrated by its successful execution of the Green Revolution during the 1960s. During a period marked by severe food shortages resulting from consecutive droughts, the government initiated a supply-side strategy.
  • This approach involved providing farmers with high-yield seeds, affordable credit, and guaranteed prices through procurement, and it achieved remarkable success.
  • Within a few years, India achieved self-sufficiency in food production and was no longer reliant on food imports.
  • In the midst of the Cold War’s intense polarization, this achievement played a pivotal role in India’s quest for self-reliance.
  •  

Shortcomings:

  • Excessive reliance on chemical fertilizers, driven by subsidies, which led to soil degradation.There was also an overemphasis on procurement prices rather than boosting productivity to enhance farm incomes, which contributed to inflation.
  • Additionally, the policy primarily focused on cereals, overlooking pulses, which are a primary source of protein for most Indians.

Way Forward:

  • Cost of Food Production: The initial Green Revolution had a specific objective: to achieve food self-sufficiency in India. It remarkably succeeded in a relatively short period, albeit without giving due consideration to the production costs of food. Therefore, a second agricultural revolution is now imperative.
  • Yield: Comparatively, agricultural yields in India are lower than those in East Asia, indicating the potential for improvement. To tap into this potential, it’s crucial to extend irrigation coverage to cover 100% of the net sown area, remove restrictions on land leasing, accelerate agricultural research efforts, and reinstate extension services.
  • Fragmentation of land: The increased public expenditure on irrigation has not resulted in a corresponding expansion of irrigated land. It remains unclear whether this discrepancy is due to wastage or fund diversion. The ongoing fragmentation of already small land holdings reduces the capacity for making productive capital investments, and one solution to this issue is land leasing.
  • R&D: India’s network of public agricultural research institutions needs to be reinvigorated to restore the significant role they played in the 1960s.
  • Additionally, the concept of agricultural extension services has faded away, despite the gram sevak once being a familiar figure in villages, playing a vital role in disseminating best practices. This aspect of agricultural support should be reinstated.
  • These efforts should be integrated into a program aimed at significantly increasing protein production, an area where India currently faces a severe deficit.
  • Cooperative Federalism: The involvement of the states is pivotal in all the aforementioned areas. In the 1960s, the states chosen for the adoption of new agricultural technologies collaborated closely with the central government. This cooperative approach between the central government and states must be replicated to bring about positive changes nationwide, emphasizing cooperative federalism.
  • Simultaneously, it’s essential to assess whether the states are actively contributing to enhancing agricultural productivity rather than primarily relying on food allocations for their Public Distribution System from the central pool.

Conclusion:

An noteworthy aspect of the initial Green Revolution was that it  opted for a capitalist approach, relying on private enterprise, with the objective of achieving food self-sufficiency in India. It was the Green Revolution that made the first significant impact on poverty reduction in India, and as a result, the impoverished segments of the population did benefit from this strategy. Similarly, in the present context, to ensure that all Indians have sustained access to a healthy diet, no approach that aligns with ecological sustainability should be disregarded.


Still Just Five


Context:

The G20 meeting in New Delhi clearly demonstrated India’s increasing importance on the global stage. The fact that it was able to successfully craft a unified statement addressing significant matters, such as the conflict in Ukraine, underscored the extent of its global impact. Consequently, including India as a permanent member in an expanded UN Security Council would more accurately represent the current dynamics of the world.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2

  • Important International Institutions
  • Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests
  • Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India’s Interests

Mains Question:

How can India build upon its achievements in G20 to push for UNSC reforms? What are the challenges in this regard? (10 marks, 150 words).

Push For Reforms:

Over time, three groups have arisen to push for changes in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). These groups have contrasting perspectives on the kind of reforms needed:

  • G4 coalition consisting of India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan- the G4 advocates for permanent UNSC membership.
  • Uniting for Consensus bloc composed of regional rivals to the G4 like Pakistan, Italy, Argentina, and South Korea- Uniting for Consensus seeks an enlargement of non-permanent seats exclusively. Moreover, within the P5, China has adopted a stance aligned with the Uniting for Consensus faction to oppose the granting of permanent seats to India and Japan.
  • The African Union- It demands two permanent African seats with veto powers.

Neglect in reforming the UNSC:

  • The most recent expansion of the council occurred in 1965, aiming to increase the count of non-permanent, rotating members to 10. However, the composition of the five permanent members with veto power has remained unchanged since 1945, except for the transition from the Republic of China to the People’s Republic of China and the replacement of the Soviet Union by Russia.
  • This lack of change is primarily due to the significant hurdles involved in implementing reforms to the UN Security Council. Amending the UN Charter requires approval from two-thirds of UN member states through a vote, and it must subsequently receive ratification from the same number of member states. Importantly, this process necessitates the consent of all five permanent members of the UNSC (P5).

Conclusion:

Considering the current state of India-China relations, it’s improbable that Beijing will endorse New Delhi’s stance in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, a renewed effort is required for UN Security Council (UNSC) reforms to ensure the council’s continued relevance. As demonstrated by the Ukraine conflict and other ongoing crises, the absence of an expanded UNSC has resulted in significant neglect of issues affecting the Global South. To prevent the UN from following the path of the League of Nations, it is essential to include countries like India as permanent members of the UNSC.


March 2024
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