Dan Banik: The Hungry Nation: Food Policy and Food Politics in India
In Food Ethics, 2016.
India has the largest number of hungry people in the world. Improvements in nutritional status have not kept pace with the country’s impressive success in spurring economic growth in the past few decades. This essay revisits India’s success in preventing famine and compares it to the country’s inability to improve the food security of hundreds of millions of its citizens. Why is the Indian performance on reducing hunger not any better? And why is India’s democracy able to prevent famines but not more effectively combat undernutrition? An important result of the right to food movement and the resulting judicial activism was the enactment of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013, which has attracted considerable attention regarding its potential to radically improve the food security of over 800 million Indians. I critically examine the historical development of the NFSA including its current provisions against the backdrop of heated debates over four broad sets of interrelated issues—availability of adequate funds, the specific roles and duties of various levels of government in India’s federal political set-up, the distinction between food security and nutritional security and the extent to which the country proposes to reform existing social protection programmes aimed at improving food security.