Ridding India of Food Insecurity

  • India may be the fastest growing large economy of the world, but it is also facing accelerating food-price inflation.
  • The rise in the price of food first accelerated sharply in 2019, and has climbed in most years thereafter.
  • In July this year, annual inflation exceeded 11%, the highest in a decade.

Data about the Affordability of a Healthy Diet

International Agencies


State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

  • By Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • It estimates the proportion of the population across countries unable to afford a healthy diet.
  • The figure for India in 2021 – 74% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet.
  • Given a population of 1,400 million, this makes for approximately one billion Indians.
  • A shrinking ability of households to finance their food requirement is evident also in studies undertaken in India itself.

Indian Agencies

  • In Mumbai city over 2018-2023,the cost of preparing a thaali at home has risen by 65%, and in this period, the average wage of a manual worker rose by 38% and that of a salaried worker by 28%.

Impediments in containing Rising Food Prices

  • Macroeconomic policy relied upon to control inflation has proved to be useless in the context.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has failed in this task, with the inflation rate mostly higher than the target for four years by now.
  • Its approach of contracting output when the inflation rate rises does nothing to manage food inflation stemming from the supply side.
  • Central banks are incapable of solving this problem and it must be said within any time frame.

Green Revolution

  • The Green Revolution aided India’s quest to be self-reliant in the highly polarised climate of the Cold War.
  • Western economists have pointed to the success of the United States’ mission to land a human on the moon as an example of an entrepreneurial state.
  • However, the Green Revolution in India, at a time when it was a miserably poor country tasked with ensuring food security for a staggeringly enormous number of people, is possibly more significant.

Green Revolution in India

  • The term “green revolution” describes the dramatic rise in food grain output, particularly for wheat and rice, that began in the middle of the 20th century and was largely attributed to the introduction of new, high-yielding variety (HYV) seeds into developing nations.
  • The goal of the green revolution was to produce enough food grains on its own.
  • Large-scale alterations were made to conventional farming methods starting in the 1960s.
  • Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, the advisor to India’s minister of agriculture, extended an invitation to Norman Borlaug to visit.
  • In India, M.S Swaminathan is regarded as the father of the Indian Green Revolution.
  • The Green Revolution in India began in 1968, led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and resulted in an increase in food grain output, particularly in Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • The development of new synthetic insecticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers occurred during this time.
  • It solved India’s issue of food insecurity.
  • A number of institutional support programmes were put into place, including minimum support prices for food grains and procurement as well as public grain distribution (mostly rice and wheat).
  • India began to export grains for food as a result.
  • India is presently the second-largest producer of both rice and wheat in the world, as well as the biggest exporter of rice.

Lessons From the Green Revolution

  • Focus on the Supply Side

    • It can ensure that food is produced at a steady price by raising the yield on land.
    • During the Green Revolution, under extreme food shortage following two successive droughts, the government worked on a supply-side response.
    • The government provided farmers with high-yielding seeds, cheap credit, and assured prices through procurement.
    • This succeeded spectacularly and within a few years India was no longer dependent on food imports.
  • Not repeating mistakes made by the Government

    • During the Green Revolution some mistakes were made such as rampant use of chemical fertilisers, fuelled by subsidy, which degraded the soil.
    • There was also the reliance on procurement prices rather than productivity increase to ensure farm incomes, which fuelled inflation.
    • The policy was almost exclusively focused on cereals rather than pulses, the main source of protein for most Indians.
    • However, rather than being critical about the errors made during a successful economic policy intervention, the government should be correcting them now.

A way forward to Eliminate Food Insecurity from India

  • A Specific Goal of Lowering the Production Cost

    • The Green Revolution had a target of making India self-sufficient in food.
    • But it did not pay any attention to the cost of producing food.
    • For this, a second agricultural revolution is needed now.
    • To contain the rising price of food would require action on many fronts; a mission mode is necessary.
    • As for policy, procurement prices, cash transfers, the Public Distribution System (PDS), and priority lending requirements of public sector banks are not sufficient.
  • Focus on Yield Increasing Interventions

    • Yield increasing interventions are needed to at least contain the cost of production, if not to lower it.
    • Agricultural yield is lower in India than in East Asia.
    • There is a serious need to extend irrigation to 100% of the net sown area, an end to restrictions on leasing of land, a quickening of agricultural research and the re-institution of extension.
  • Increasing the role of public Agricultural Research Institutes

    • India’s network of public agricultural research institutes needs to be energised to resume the sterling role they had played in the 1960s.
  • Reviving the Role of Gram Sevak

    • Gram sevak used to play a crucial role in the spreading of best practices and the need of the hour is that it must be revived.
    • These initiatives should be fit together into a programme for the manifold increase of protein production, which India is severely deficient in.
  • Co-operative Federalism

    • In the 1960s, the States that were chosen for the spread of the new technology worked closely with the central government.
    • This would have to be replicated in order to make a difference to the country, with the central government taking the States along in a spirit of co-operative federalism.
    • At the same time, states must be held accountable.
    • States should play their part to enhance agricultural productivity rather than relying on food allocations to their PDS from the central pool.
  • A Non-Ideological Approach

  • To make a difference on the ground, a non-ideological approach would be needed, whether at the Centre or in the States.
  • For instance, during the first Green Revolution by relying on private enterprise the then PM chose a capitalist approach (to make India self-sufficient in food), unmindful of any damage that would be caused to her socialist image.


  • It was the Green Revolution that made the first dent on poverty in India. So, the poor did benefit from this strategy.
  • Similarly, in order to ensure that all Indians have permanent access to a healthy diet and to contain food inflation, a new approach is needed now.