India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades. Gross Domestic Product has increased 4.5 times and per capita consumption has increased 3 times. Similarly, food grain production has increased almost 2 times. However, despite phenomenal industrial and economic growth, while India produces sufficient food to feed its population, it is unable to provide access to food to a large number of people, especially women and children.
Hunger in India is a complex issue. It is widespread and the causes are different across various regions. According to latest (FAO) Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates in ."The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015" report, 194.6 million people is undernourished in India. By this measure India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Also 51% of women between 15 to 59 years of age are anemic and 44% of children under 5 are underweight. Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria. The Global Hunger Index 2014 ranks India at 55 out of 76 countries on the basis of three leading indicators -- prevalence of underweight children under 5 years, under 5 child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population. On the other hand, it is estimated that nearly 40 percent of the fruits and vegetables, and 20 percent of the food grains that are produced are lost due to inefficient supply chain management and do not reach the consumer markets.
Why is the hunger in India so alarming?
The food grain production is touching new heights every year and we are producing more than sufficient to feed our people without relying on external support. However, sufficient food production is not the only criteria to provide food security in a country and eliminate hunger. Another critical factor that contributes to large scale hunger in India is the purchasing capacity of the households for nutritious and quality food. The households living below poverty line (BPL) do not have sufficient means to ensure food and nutritional security.
National Sample Survey Organisation-India (NSSO) data reveals that BPL households in rural India are spending as high as 70% of the consumption expenditure meeting their food requirements. The situation is similar with APL (above poverty line) which spends 50% on the same. The urban working class spends nearly 30%. Rising food prices, infrastructure constraints in supply chain, available agricultural land, and high dependency on monsoon, production technology and techniques, poor management and distribution of food commodities, efficiency and transparency of the system, and several other factors are worsening the food security scenario of the country. India needs to invest heavily in the agriculture sector which employs almost 50% of the country's workforce and contributes 13.7% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013, including the allied sectors.