Sunday, January 4, 2009

Food Crisis In India

“Of all the things before us, agriculture comes first”
-Jawaharlal Nehru

Agriculture was and is one of the largest employment sectors in the world, especially in India. More number of workers is employed in agriculture in compare to other sectors. In India, 70 percent earn their livelihood through agriculture. Although there has been a large number involved in agriculture, still there is a food crisis.

In India, agriculture got its dimension during green revolution. This introduced several new scientific methods, which increased food production several folds. But still, In India, 26 percent live below poverty line and several hundreds die due to malnutrition.

The main reason for food crisis in India and the world is increase in population. India is the second populated state with more than billion living in it. It is projected that the population will increase to 1.3 billion in 2020, and would leave behind China in 2050 if the population growth remains unchanged. To feed the large population we require millions of tons of food grain. It is estimated that India would require 343.0 million metric tons of food grains in 2020 to feed the whole population. There are only two ways to increase the productivity- by increasing the land under agriculture and by using scientific methods of agriculture. As we cannot increase land under agriculture as it is saturated, so we should head toward scientific method to boost the productivity. Scientific methods include better quality of fertilizer, genetically modified seeds (which are resistant to pests as well as have high productivity), better methods of irrigation and lots more.

The prices of important commodities are rising. Two-digit inflation rate has affected agriculture. Prices of commodities such as fertilizers and others used in agriculture have considerably gone up. So income from agriculture has been reduced and farmers are forced to leave agriculture.

Environmental scientists believe that our climate is changing very fast. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) warned us that climate change could cause change in the pattern of rainfall. The report says that North-western part would receive more rainfall rather that eastern part of the country. Just imagine that desert states such as Rajasthan would be flooded, whereas the land of clouds-Meghalaya would face water scarcity! This would affect agriculture. Uneven distribution of rain can convert agricultural land into barren. 70 percent of agricultural land in India is dependent on rain for irrigation. Climate change can cause Himalayan glaciers to melt, due to which there would be no existence of rivers such as Ganges or Yamuna, which originate from Himalayas. So, there will be severe drought in northern India and special arrangement must be taken in order to make agriculture possible.

Today, prices of fossils fuel is raising drastically. Where the price of crude oil was $50-$60 per barrel in year 2005, today, its price has been doubled; $120 (July) per barrel. Increase in prices of fossil fuels have not affected agriculture directly, but have affected it indirectly by reducing the production of food grains. Considering high demand of fossil fuel, farmers rather than cultivating food crops, they are now cultivating cash crops, which can produce bio fuel. Farmers get profit by cultivating crops such as Jatropha, which can produce bio fuel. So, production of food grains has considerably reduced.

As discussed earlier, to increase food production, area under agriculture should be increased. But rather than increasing, agricultural land is now being converted into industrial land. The recent example is of Singur, where thousand acre of agricultural land is converted into a car factory.

Urbanization is another problem. Agricultural lands are now being converted into housing plots and are converted into cities and towns. This has increased the pressure on agriculture.

Not only India, food crisis is now being worldwide. It’s a serious problem and it should not be over looked. However, United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has provided fund of billion dollar to recover this crisis. But still it’s not enough. Food crisis is not a short-term crisis. Its like a chain, several factors are responsible for food crisis. Once Mahatma Gandhi quoted before his assassination:

“Forget the past. Remember everyday dawns for us from
the moment we wake up. Let us all, ever one, wake up now”
-Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi

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