By Dr Arun Mitra

Nutritional security is essential for all-round development of an individual and the society. Only a physically and mentally healthy person can contribute for growth of the nation. Therefore it is imperative that various factors which contribute to nutrition security must be fulfilled. These include good living conditions, healthy working environment, sufficient remuneration to ensure purchasing capacity, diversified crop pattern, trading system based on justice and equality. The government is duty bound to ensure nutritional security of the citizens.

According to ‘State of Working India’ report, 82% of male and 92% of female workers earn less than Rs.10,000 a month. The Trade Unions have been demanding Rs.26000/- per month to be fixed as minimum wage to fulfil the bare minimum needs of an individual. They have also been demanding laws to ensure healthy living conditions and good working environment. There is need to ensure jobs and means of livelihood through various schemes.

Situation is however not conducive. Unemployment in India is expected to increase in the coming years. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had predicted in 2018 that India’s unemployment rate will double from 4% to 8% by 2024, even if the country’s economy continues to grow at a healthy rate. According to a private agency named Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) which publishes the daily and monthly unemployment rate of India, our unemployment rate in 2024 is 7.70%. In Urban India, it is 8.60% whereas in Rural India it is 7.30%. It may also be noted that women workforce in India is only 37% as compared to 50% globally.

These reports corroborate with the findings which declared India at 111 rank out of 125 countries in Global Hunger Index as with such low wages and high unemployment rate it is not possible to have a nutritious diet. This is a cause of much worry.

That there arose the need to supply 5 Kg of Grains and one Kilo Gram of Daal to 80 crore people, which is nearly 60% of population, is a reflection of abject poverty. The supply of Grains and Daal may fill their stomach but does not meet their requirements of micronutrients essential for over all physical and mental development.

A balanced nutritious diet means sufficient number of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and micro nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals. According to the Planetary Health Diet as suggested by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health the daily food should include Nuts: 50 g, Legumes (pulses, lentils, beans): 75 gm, Fish: 28 gm, Eggs: 13 gm / day ( 1 egg per week), Meat: 14 gm / Chicken: 29 gm, Carbohydrate: whole grain bread and rice, 232 gm, Carbohydrate: 50 gm of starchy vegetables like potato and yam, Dairy: 250 gm, Vegetables: 300 gm of non-starchy vegetables and 200 gm of fruit, Other: 31 g of sugar and Cooking oil : 50 g. Indian Council of Medical Research too has issued similar guidelines for Indians.

At the present market price the cost of this food per person comes to be around Rs.200/- per day. This means that a family of five members should spend Rs.1000/- per day or Rs.30000/- per month on food only. There is need to bring about changes in the policy framework so that income of the people must increase to sufficient level.

In addition it is important to increase the production of crops which help in providing nutritious food at affordable cost. Crop diversification can help in this. For this farmers must be assured minimum support price of their produce. The Vice Chancellor of the Punjab Agricultural University Dr S S Gosal has supported the farmers demand as it will help in diversification of crops. ‘Convincing farmers to adopt diversification without giving them basic income is not possible. We want assured MSP on all crops which are grown in Punjab if diversification has to succeed’, he said in an interview to the Indian Express on 16th February 2024.

It is being projected that at a higher price it will be difficult to procure the farmers’ produce as it will add to burden on the government. This is fallacious, says Prof Arun Kumar, a leading economist of our country. ‘Whatever the government procures would get sold in the market, so it would only need working capital which would be a fraction of the Rs.10 lakh crore bandied about’.

In our country there is need for permanent solution for public stockholding (PSH) programmes for food security, in which the MSP is a critical component. The developed countries have been constantly pressing the developing countries to cut down subsidies on agriculture. Pressure by the developed countries has to be resisted to frame laws to support our farmers and fulfil nutritional security of our people. Upcoming 13th Ministerial conference of the WTO at Abu Dhabi is an occasion for India to lead the developing countries in pressing our demands. In case of stiff machinations by the developed world we should move ahead to organise the developing countries under the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) which has 120 members, 17 Observer Countries and 10 Observer organizations, for a multilateral trade agreement. (IPA Service)