What are the obstacles in ensuring food security in India?

India’s food security policy has a primary objective to ensure the availability of food grains to the common people. The government of India has tried to combat food insecurity through a carefully designed food security system which includes the creation of buffer stock and a public distribution system. In spite of these efforts, there are several obstacles that create problems for ensuring food security in India.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) procures food grains from the farmers at the government announced minimum support price (MSP). The government used to provide subsidies on agriculture inputs such as fertilizers, power, and water. These subsidies have now reached unsustainable levels and have also led to large-scale inefficiencies in the use of these scarce inputs.

1. Excessive and imprudent use of fertilizers and water has led to waterlogging, salinity and depletion of essential micronutrients in the soil.

2. The high MSP, subsidies in input and committed FCI purchases have distorted the cropping pattern. Wheat and paddy crops are being grown more for the MSP they get. Punjab and Haryana are foremost examples. This has also created a serious imbalance in inter-crop parities.

3. The public distribution system which ensures the availability of food grains to the poor also doesn’t work as it is intended. The issue price is different for those below the poverty line (BPL) and those above the poverty line (APL). But the categorization being imperfect has led to the exclusion of a number of deserving poor people from having access to subsidized food grains.

4. It is also difficult to maintain the categorization as often the failure of one crop can make an APL family fall below the poverty line.

These issues need to be urgently addressed if India wants to gain food security for its population.