Report on the state of food insecurity in urban India

Report on the state of food insecurity in urban India

A review of the global context in respect of food security shows that the slow growth rate of food production has led to a decline in per capita output of grain between the 1970s and the first decade of the twenty-first century, due in most part to the inability/unwillingness of governments to raise and spend required resources by way of public investment on rural and agricultural development. This is equally apparent in the areas of urban infrastructure and public health, given the policy framework of far greater reliance on markets and private investments, and a much lesser role for governments. The result: difficulties in tackling problems relating to all three dimensions of food security, namely, availability, access and absorption, especially affecting the world’s poor, including the urban poor.

Since 2001, the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and the World Food Programme have released the Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India (2001), Food Insecurity Atlas of Urban India (FIAUI-2002), and Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India (RSFIRI-2008). This paper is an update of the Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Urban India and a companion exercise to RSFIRI, using new and enlarged data now available from sources like NSSO, NFHS and Census 2001. The focus is on chronic food insecurity, with the main concern being with describing and analysing the status and challenge of urban food security in the contemporary context across India’s major States. Mapping the relative position of the States on a food insecurity scale on the basis of a select set of indicators is part of this exercise.

The author uses 11 indicators to analyse the state of food insecurity on urban India and based on the level of food and nutrition insecurity, the States were placed into one of five categories: very low, low, moderate, high and very high. The findings suggests that the food security situation may have deteriorated rather than improved for a sizeable segment of the urban population in the country between 1998-2000 and 2004-2006. When one takes into account the fact that these are urban average indicator values, and that urban inequality has worsened in the period since 1991, the implications for the food security status of the urban poor or slum dwellers are worrying, to say the least.

In conclusion, while suggesting more state-specific, disaggregated research in some states, the author makes some recommendations towards ensuring food and nutrition security for all in India.