Says Food Security Act should have a common and differentiated system of entitlements

The proposed Food Security Act should have a common and differentiated system of entitlements to take care of the needs of the underprivileged in a country where millions of adults and children go to bed hungry everyday, M.S. Swaminathan, chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), said on Monday.

Delivering the ‘C. Subramaniam Centenary Lecture' on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his brainchild the Bharathidasan Institute of Management (BIM), Professor Swaminathan said while the common entitlements involved Universal Public Distribution System (PDS), clean drinking water and total sanitation, the differentiated entitlement could prescribe the quantity of wheat or rice or other grains to families living below poverty line.

The PDS, which addresses the basic needs of availability, access and absorption of foodgrains, is the backbone of food security in a country with an estimated 230 million undernourished rural people. India accounts for 27 per cent of the world's under nourished population, Professor Swaminathan said.

Calling for steps to bring the best of modern technologies to the farmers, he said it was unfortunate that India was the only country where farmers, who “keep us alive,” were taking their lives. The National Sample Survey showed that 45 per cent of farmers surveyed wanted to quit agriculture, he pointed out. “It is in our enlightened self-interest that farming is made sustainable. As I have said before, the future belongs to grains, not guns,” he said. The agriculture sector in India accounted for 15.7 per cent of the GDP in 2008-09 compared to 18.9 per cent in 2004-05. However, agriculture's role remains critical as it provides employment to over 52 per cent of the net workforce (about 70 crore people), he said.

Professor Swaminathan welcomed the fact that the National Policy for Farmers proposed to extend income security, encourage non-farming activities for remuneration and attract youth to farming.

Pointing out that by generating 17 million tonnes of wheat, the Green Revolution had produced in four years from 1964 the cumulative aggregate amount of what was produced in the preceding 4,000 years, he said India was expecting to produce 82 million tonnes of wheat in 2010 and 100 million tonnes in 2015.

An important challenge for the future farmers from global warming was to develop climate-resilient agriculture systems, as around 50 per cent of India's currently favourable, high-potential wheat production areas could be reclassified as heat-stressed, low-yield growing environment by 2050. For each degree rise in mean temperature, wheat yield loss in India was estimated to be about 6 million tonnes per year, Professor Swaminathan said.

Chief Secretary K. S. Sripathi underlined the importance of value-based management education to groom leaders rather than managers. Individuals and the institutions they work for need to be committed to values, he said. V. Krishnamurthy, chairman, National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council; S. Ramadorai, chairman, Board of Governors, BIM; P. S. Mani Sundaram, first Vice-Chancellor and Pyarelal Arya, first Director, also participated.