Food Insecurity: Who are food-insecure in India? | Hunger

Although a large section of people suffers from nutrition and food insecurity in India. The worst affected groups are landless people with little or no land to depend upon, traditional artisans, providers of traditional services, petty self-employed workers, and destitute including beggars.

In the urban areas, the food-insecure families are those whose working members are generally employed in ill-paid occupations and the casual labor market. These workers are largely engaged in seasonal activities and are paid very low wages that just ensure bare survival.

Story of Ahmad

Ahmad is a rickshaw puller in Bangalore. He has shifted from Jhumri Taliah along with his 3 brothers, 2 sisters, and old parents. He stays in a jhuggi. The survival of all members of his family depends on his daily earnings from pulling a rickshaw.

However, he does not have secured employment and his earnings fluctuate every day. During some days he gets enough earning for him to save some amount after buying all his day-to-day necessities. On other days, he barely earns enough to buy his daily necessities. However, fortunately, Ahmad has a yellow card, which is PDS Card for below-the poverty line people. With this card, Ahmad gets a sufficient quantity of wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene oil for his daily use.

He gets these essentials at half of the market price. He purchases his monthly stock during a particular day when the ration shop is opened for below-poverty people. In this way, Ahmad is able to eke out his survival with less than sufficient earnings for his big family where he is the only earning member.

The social composition along with the inability to buy food also plays a role in food insecurity. The SCs, STs and some sections of the OBCs (lower castes among them) who have either poor land-based or very low land productivity are prone to food insecurity. The people affected by natural disasters, who have to migrate to other areas in search of work, are also among the most food-insecure people.

A high incidence of malnutrition prevails among women. This is a matter of serious concern as it puts even the unborn baby at risk of malnutrition. A large proportion of pregnant and nursing mothers and children under the age of 5 years constitute an important segment of the food insecure population.

The food insecure people are disproportionately large in some regions of the country, such as economically backward states with a high incidence of poverty, tribal and remote areas, regions more prone to natural disasters, etc.

In fact, the states of Uttar Pradesh (eastern and south-eastern parts), Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Chattisgarh, parts of Madhya Pradesh, and Maharasthra account for the largest number of food-insecure people in the country.


Hunger is another aspect indicating food insecurity. Hunger is not just an expression of poverty, it brings about poverty. The attainment of food security, therefore, involves eliminating current hunger and reducing the risks of future hunger.

Hunger has chronic and seasonal dimensions. Chronic hunger is a consequence of diets persistently inadequate in terms of quantity and/or quality. Poor people suffer from chronic hunger because of their very low income and in turn inability to buy food even for survival.

Seasonal hunger is related to cycles of food growing and harvesting. This is prevalent in rural areas because of the seasonal nature of agricultural activities and in urban areas because of the casual labor, e.g., there is less work for casual construction labor during the rainy season.

This type of hunger exists when a person is unable to get work for the entire year. The percentage of seasonal, as well as chronic hunger, has declined in India as shown in the above table. India is aiming at Self-sufficiency in Foodgrains since Independence.

After independence, Indian policymakers adopted all measures to achieve self-sufficiency in food grains. India adopted a new strategy in agriculture, which resulted in the Green Revolution especially in the production of wheat and rice.

Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, officially recorded the impressive strides of the Green revolution in agriculture by releasing a special stamp entitled Wheat Revolution in July 1968. The success of wheat was later replicated in rice. The increase in foodgrains was, however, disproportionate.

The highest rate of growth was achieved in Punjab and Haryana, where foodgrain production jumped from 7.23 million tonnes in 1964.65 to reach an all-time high of 30.33 million tonnes in 1995.96.

Production in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, and the northeastern states continued to stagger. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, recorded significant increases in rice yield.

Read More: Food Security in India: Economics Class 9, Chapter 4 Notes

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