Eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan on Sunday said the recently enacted National Food Security Act was a laudable initiative.
It gave the legal right to food to about 70 per cent of the population, but its success largely depended on economical viability of farming and ecological sustainability.
He urged the government to address grievances and concerns of farmers across the country as their cooperation remains vital in achieving food security and self-sufficiency.
He was interacting with The Hindu on the sidelines of a national seminar on ‘Relevance and Challenges of the Food Security Act’ organised by Kochi Open Forum. Mr. Swaminathan said the Act could be smoothly implemented this year or next year as the country had sufficient grain stock, but it would be difficult in the subsequent years. He said environmental and ecological factors, and demographic challenges were adversely affecting the production of important crops.
He said the country needed to work out steps to attract the younger generation into farming. Farming must be technologically upgraded and made challenging and interesting to woo more youngsters.
“The role of the youth is an important factor in maintaining food safety in the long run,” he said.
The population of India was just 30 crore when the Bengal famine took place, but now the country had to feed 120 crore people. “The Act is significant as it marks a transition from the days in 60s when the country waited for ships carrying grains from other countries to legally empowering people with the right to food. Hitherto, we were dependent on the public distribution system for ensuring nutrients, but it covered only wheat and rice. The Food Security Act enlarges the food basket by adding pulses and millets,” he said.
It has a ‘life-cycle approach’ which is appreciable considering the degree of malnutrition in the country, he said.
Quoting from different surveys, Mr. Swaminathan said 40 per cent of children below the age of five in India faced malnutrition while 21 percent of newborn babies were underweight.
“In the global hunger index, India stands at 65 position among the listed 75 countries. In India, hungry millions coexist with grain mountains, which will not ensure food security. We must not allow food products to rot,” he said. The Act was revolutionary as it now covered 80 crore people in 75 per cent of villages and 50 per cent of towns, he said.