Poverty, Food & Hunger in India

The country has four major religions, which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and the Sikhism though Christian, Muslims and Jews can also be found in some parts of the country (Leathers & Foster, 2009). Despite the major industrialization in India, the country has faced major poverty, hunger and disease challenges that have prevented it from achieving its overall goals.

Level of poverty in India

Poverty is widespread in India, affecting both the rural and urban centers with people struggling to afford the basic amenities and the government failing in its social roles. Before 2005, the official measure of poverty in India was based on the nature of food security in the country and the per capita expenditure of the Indian people. Poverty in India is not a problem of modern times along, but began during the early centuries, spread through during the British colonial rule and into independence. The intensity of poverty in the country peaked in 1920s when famine and disease killed a number of Indians, destroyed the crops and killed the animals (Leathers & Foster, 2009).

Though the government attempted to prevent mass death from famine and hunger after the country gained independence in 1947, the level of poverty remained high, reaching the highest historical levels in 1960. However, the country began witnessing rapid economic growth from the early 90s, which led to a sharp decline in the extreme poverty levels in India. Despite the progress made by the government, majority of those who lived above the poverty line were faced with lack of essential basic needs such as safe drinking water, sanitation services, access to adequate housing, health facilities and malnutrition (Leathers & Foster, 2009).

The latest purchasing power parity places India at a higher economic position but this tool of measuring development and poverty has failed to include other economic indices such as per capita income of the country. India has had the lowest per capita income since independence and this has demonstrated the high level of chronic poverty in the country (Leathers & Foster, 2009). The poverty gap in the country is so high that pundits have questioned the number of years that will have to pass before India Bridge it and ensure that all its citizens live a worthy and meaningful life.

According to Goldman Sachs, the per capita income of India by 2025 will be a paltry $3,005, which is close to the value that the country recorded in 2006. Other countries within the BRICs where India belongs such as Brazil and china have recorded progressive growth in their per capita income and a bridging of the poverty gap. The projection of the two countries by 2025 is believed to be $13,000 based on estimates of the country’s gross domestic products and purchasing power parity. In 2013, India recorded a gross domestic product per capita of $1,165, which is the equivalent of 9% of the average recorded in other world economies (Leathers & Foster, 2009). However, this is an impressive performance compared to the GDP per capita recorded in 1960 after India attained independence from British, which stood at $228.34.

Income distribution in India

In 2013, the World Bank ranked India at number 120 out of 164 based on the country’s nominal per capita income, which stood at $1,570. However, the purchasing power parity of India recorded a high of $5,350 and was ranked sixth out of an equal number of participants, a demonstration of the country’s income distribution (Food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations, 2014). India has 247 million households and an average of 5 people per household according to the census that was released in 2011. Indian GDP is contributed by major towns and cities while rural areas large behind, contributing less than a third of the country’s gross domestic product.

The urban centers and cities have witnessed significant economic growth and this has enabled the regions to contribute a significant proportion of the country’s GDP. Such statistics have contributed to the high rural to urban migration in India that has contributed to decongestion and increased the pressure on the few social amenities provided by the government (Yusuf, 2014). Rural India is dependent solely on agriculture, which is subsistence; thus contributing little to the growth of the country’s GDP and per capita income as compared to the urban centers and cities (Food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations, 2014).

Despite the vast and arable agriculture land in the rural areas, residents prefer subsistence farming which cannot contribute significantly to economic growth in the country. Between 2008 and 2009, the World Bank estimated that agriculture in India registered only 1.6% growth, a factor that has also contributed to the high-income inequality in India (Leathers & Foster, 2009). While the urban regions contribute a major fraction to the country’s gross domestic product from industrial activities and the service industry, lack of growth in the agriculture sector has diminished the contribution of the rural folks who rely on agriculture and related activities (Food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations, 2014). The high levels of income disparity in India has also been attributed to the rising levels of urbanization as estimates show that the income of urban residents is more than 4 times that of the rural Indians (Yusuf, 2014).

Structure of Indian diet

The structure of Indian diet is influenced by several factors including the physical, climatic, ethnic and religious diversity of the country, which has more than a billion people. Indians speak over 25 languages and belong to eight major religious groups, a fact that has contributed to the country’s variation in the diet and food preferences. Indians are accustomed to having four meals every day which include breakfast, lunch and dinner plus two other supplementary meals in between (Leathers & Foster, 2009).

According to a research conducted by the Hindu-CNN-IBN state of the national survey, only 33% of Indians are pure vegetarians. Despite variations caused by meal preferences, Indian diets have some commonalities that include a meal of starch such as wheat, rice, millet or corn and lentils. These meals are in most cases supplemented by vegetables, fish and meat, spices and condiments (FAO, IFAD & WFP, 2014). In India, no alcohol is consumed at meals with the average common beverage in the country being a glass of water and tea especially after dinner depending on the religion of the group. Little changes have been recorded on the average Indian meal as such customs have been practiced over the years and adopted by a majority of the Indians, influenced only by the culture and religion (Yusuf, 2014).

Level of food insecurity in India

Despite recording impressive development over the last 20 years, India has grappled with food security challenge, as majority of the rural population are unable to access the country’s staple food supply (Dutta, 2013). The largest share of the world population that is considered to be facing food insecurity comes from India despite the move by the country to export wheat and rice surpluses. Food security is achieved in a country if the right nutritional target is achieved based on the international food security assessment value of 2,100 calories per capita per day (Jabir, Hassan & Shamshad, 2014). The total number of Indians grappling with issues of food security based on recent estimates by the food and agriculture organization is 255 million, 36.1% of the 707 million countries.

India has also been placed among the 76 low income countries faced with major food insecurity issue that the government must address in order to eliminate issues associated with malnutrition and hunger. Despite the fact that the government spends much of the country’s GDP on providing subsidized food to the people, long-term solutions must be developed to ensure that the challenges facing the country are eliminated food good. Based on recent estimates, the Indian government spent 1% of the GDP on the aid program over the past few years as a way of helping those faced with severe cases of food insecurity (Dutta, 2013). Despite the high prevalence of infectious diseases in the country, a major shift is currently being witnessed towards non-communicable diseases.

According to a meeting that took place in Chennai during the 3rd Madras diabetes research foundation symposium, evidence of the high level of infectious disease was presented. Apart from diabetes, India has an increasing prevalence of heart diseases, cancer among other lifestyle conditions. Though the government has made major efforts towards cancer and heart disease research, effort must no shift towards managing other conditions such as diabetes and obesity (Jabir, Hassan & Shamshad, 2014). Most of these conditions increase the susceptibility of an individual to suffer from other conditions such as high blood pressure (FAO, IFAD & WFP, 2014).

Comparison of food insecurity to neighboring countries

Food insecurity is spread throughout countries within southeastern Asia including Indian neighbors such as china, Pakistan and Nepal. According to the United Nations report on poverty and hunger, minority groups in Pakistan and Nepal suffer from persistent food insecurity attributable to lack of government intervention (Dutta, 2013). In India and Nepal, the report has blamed caste based discrimination on the high levels of food insecurity in some areas as compared to others, a situation that is also reflected by Pakistan (Jabir, Hassan & Shamshad, 2014). Agricultural production in countries such as Myanmar, Pakistan, Bhutan and Nepal has been frustrated by lack of government efforts to ensure that the issue of food insecurity in addressed conclusively. In conclusion, addressing food insecurity in India and its neighboring countries require a concerted contribution of the governments together with the food and agriculture organization. Lack of focus on agriculturally productive rural areas in India has contributed to low agricultural production despite an increasing demand. Government policies have also been accused of lack of consideration in adopting importation policies, which encourage the selling of surplus wheat and rice to other countries as opposed to storage for future use

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