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Ensuring Food Security

Though concepts of food security have acquired a variety of interpretations, it acquires a meaning where it also connotes nutritional security at the household level. Nowhere in developed and in the developing world has this notion become operationalised. Ensuring nutritional security requires that the three vital institutions - the state, the market and civil society, each recognises its own role and responsibility in warding off hunger, and ensuring food security.

Banishing hunger and ensuring food security to all citizens has beenaccepted as the primary responsibility of the state towards its citizens, and is repeatedly endorsed at various national, regional and international fora. The concept of food security is interpreted in a variety of ways. However, physical and economic access to food at the household level, at all times, to ensure healthy and active life is the crux of food security. In practice, food security is, generally, equated with the absence of hunger, or at best provision of pre-determined number of calories at the household level. This notion of food security and the resultant policies and programmes have failed to achieve the principal goal of food security, i e, enabling households to lead a healthy and active life.

These days, hunger understood as starvation is not a pervasive phenomenon in our part of the world: not even in the poorer countries of the region. Incidence of hunger, defined as the absence of two meals a day, is limited to small number of people mostly in isolated pockets and inaccessible places, that too during certain parts of the year. For example, in India according to National Sample Survey, people who claimed that they did not have two square meals in a day constituted 19 per cent of total rural population in 1983 and were reduced to 7 per cent in 1993. Even while recognising difficulties in interpreting meaning of ‘square meal’ – basically, a culturally, socially and psychologically determined notion – one can safely assume that stark hunger is not a widespread phenomenon in most of the Asian countries.

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