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Food Security


Food Security:Modalities of Management

If you don’t diversify, incomes don’t rise. For that you need infrastructure and technology. Seeds are important. You need MNREGA and food security because a lesson of world history is that rise in wages triggers technical change in agriculture. Its not the other way around.
The Food Security Bill may be passed by the time this sees print and it seems better to get back to the village and see how we can have sustained agricultural and rural development growth as the basis of food security. Many years ago I had modelled in the Plans that redistribution always needs to be intertwined with growth. I know that in high growth areas poverty still remains and co-relations of growth with reduced poverty don’t help the women and men and their children are left out. But any food security scheme will only work best in the larger context of widespread and diversified agricultural and rural growth. So back to the village with some stories to anticipate what will really happen and what to do about it.
The typical image of agriculture in the eastern region is hard working poor farmers producing paddy in the monsoon, getting hit by floods and then again gambling in the winter rains, which when they fail lead to drought. Yields were traditionally high in this fertile soil, but did not rise. All that is changing, as we see the Second Green revolution in the Eastern Region. We need more and better versions of that for growth is in spasmodic spurts, rather than a continuous oiled machine and also not everywhere. When I last went there, the district was Midnapur; not as fertile as Hooghly or the 24 Parganas. As you drive out of Howrah, it is all factories, but surprise-surprise, there are now dairies and nurseries. After a few hours of driving we stopped by for a meal and the fish curry, rice and channa dal and topping off with a sandesh and mishti dohi, brought back my childhood in Calcutta. The waiter was happy that an obvious Pathan like character could eat fish and bhat in the Bengali style without first taking out the bones even when the fish was the delectable but not so easy to eat rohu. The Midnapur I landed up in was red laterite soil and the slope of the land didn’t retain water. It drained back into the rivers; an agricultural extension man’s nightmare.  


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