Disgusting, isn’t it? Well, the visuals of food rotting speak volumes of the criminal apathy, neglect and callousness with which we, as a nation, have failed to address the shameful scourge of hunger. For a country that has the dubious distinction of having the largest population of hungry in the world — close to 320 million — and with 42 percent of children officially clubbed as malnourished, the spectacle of massive quantities of food being allowed to go waste is an unpardonable crime. What is still worse is that hunger proliferates in a country that claims to be the world’s largest democracy.
For nearly five years, procurement has hovered at 50-60 million tonnes. Someone had worked it out that if we keep a bag of grain over another, and stack 60 million tonnes in a vertical row, we could actually walk to the moon and back. With so much of surplus grain, and with unmanageable quantities of fruits and vegetables rotting by the roadside, there is no justification for growing hunger. At the same time, it is baffling to find staple food being exported while the population of the hungry and malnourished continues to multiply. No wonder, hunger continues to keep pace with economic growth.
Over the years, farming has become a big gamble. It is not only the worrisome vagaries of weather that more often than not plays havoc, farmers are also faced with a strange phenomenon — produce and perish. Take the case of Suryabhagwan, a farmer in the
East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. This year,
he voluntarily announced that he would rather work as a ‘coolie’ than undertake
paddy cultivation. Already under heavy debt and knowing that another season of
paddy cultivation will only add to his indebtedness, his call for a ‘crop
holiday’ soon reverberated. Within weeks, the idea spread like wildfire, with
the result that now more than 1 lakh hectares in the two irrigated districts of
East and West Godavari lie barren.
AP is a paddy growing area. While production has been steadily on an upswing over the years, adequate market infrastructure for procurement has not been created. The result is that despite a very high production capacity, there is little space for storage. This is not only true of AP or for that matter
Haryana, the country’s food bowl, but extends to the whole country. The tragedy
manifested after the initial years of the Green Revolution, when food became
abundantly available. The focus then shifted away from agriculture. With public
sector investment drastically falling over the past few decades, agriculture
was left at the mercy of the rain gods. Protecting every single grain of food
produced to feed the growing population of deprived sections never became a
While production increased, the accompanying market and storage infrastructure were not created.
not even have the capacity to handle and absorb an excess production of 5
percent, whether it is of wheat, potato or cotton. Whatever the policymakers
may say, the neglect of agriculture was deliberate. It is essentially designed
to open up agriculture to private investment. Farmers have been the victims of
a bigger and hidden design to push them out of agriculture. The more they
produce, the more they suffer. Produce and perish, and thereby make way for
corporate agriculture. India
Source: Tehelka, Dec 31, 2011