India’s food problem dates back prior to independence. In the beginning, India’s food problem was one of scarcity, shortage of rice after the separation of Myanmar (Burma) from India in 1937 and shortage of wheat, also after the partition of the country in 1947. Initially, the major concern of the Government was to increase the domestic supplies either through increased production or through imports or through both. In the second half of the 1950s and during the 1960s the major concern of the Government shifted to control of food grains prices. The Government of India entered into an agreement in 1956 with the USA known as PL 480 agreement for the import of rice and wheat. The Government found the PL 480 food imports a good tool to stabilize food prices in the country. In fact, PL 480 imports were the basis of our agricultural and industrial development.
The Government set up the Food grains Policy Committee in 1966 to review the food problem afresh. The committee found India’s dependence on food imports was not likely to be easy in future. It took serious note of the fact that the food aid was used openly to influence the internal economic policies and foreign affairs policies of the Government. Between 1967-68 and 1989-90, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had recorded annual growth rates of 5.4, 4.0 and 3.4 per cent, respectively in food grains production. These states are the backbone of our public distribution system.
The food problem is not any more one of shortage or of high prices but how to enable the lower income groups to purchase the available food grains and how to make use of the huge food stocks to help accelerate the process of economic growth. The food for work programme has been designed since 1977-78 to provide work for the rural poor, the unemployed and the famine stricken people and at the same time create durable community assets. The Government is also implementing a scheme to provide food grains to the weaker sections, especially in the tribal areas at a price well below the already subsidized price in the public distribution system. There has been a general agreement that the food problem in India is mainly due to the increasing population (consequently increasing food demand), inadequate supply of food grains and some aspects of the Government’s policy on food.
Measures to Solve the Food Problem India’s food problem is older than our independence but it is a pity that no permanent solution has been found all these years. The Government of India has taken various steps to solve the food problem, which are discussed ahead.
D. Measures to Increase Production Technological changes : Among the measures to increase the production of food grains, the least controversial are technological changes. Intensive cultivation through use of improved varieties and the liberal use of irrigation and fertilizers is being vigorously extended in the country ushering in the green revolution. The latest step is to bring about a break through in rainfed and dry land agriculture.
Organizational approach :
The second approach to agricultural development is the organizational approach i.e., by adequate and efficient organization, which includes not only the governmental administrative system but the entire framework of official and semi-official institutions and agencies. It is opined that the efforts to increase agricultural production through technological changes have not been very successful mainly because of an inadequate and ineffective organization. Institutional changes the other way to increase agricultural production is through bringing institutional changes i.e., through land reforms.
The present agrarian structure is such that there are no incentives for increased produc- tion. With tiny holdings, which are scattered all over the village, with a system of landholdings in which the tenant has no security of tenure, it is not wise to expect the tiller to put his best efforts to increase food production. The Government has been pursuing many land reform measures such as consolidation of holdings, ceiling on holdings, regulation of tenures and the formation of cooperative farms. Since there are many loopholes in the regulation of land reforms, there is urgent need to plug these loopholes through effective legislations on the part of the Government.