Since independence, the need for land reform in India is seen as a key to fulfill the constitutional obligation of guaranteeing adequate means of livelihood. However, as several studies observed, the Land Ceiling Act has never been effectively enforced. Still the structure of India agriculture is characterized by a large degree of inequality in the distribution of land. The absolute landless and near landless (land holdings below 0.5. acre) make up nearly half of the India population.
Lack of land reforms and neglect of remote tribal areas has also lead to another serious threat to India’s stability in the form of Naxalites (or Maoist’s) armed struggle. They have heavy influence in a large area, called Red-Corridor, which spreads from Nepal to Tamilnadu. This zone contains some of the poorest areas of the country. Reaching this mass will be a Herculean task for the governments because the Maoists will protect their constituency.
In 1991 India opened up its economy to free trade and foreign investments. Export of sugar and cotton, paper industries, hydro-electric dams and mining industries – they all put increasing pressure on farming land, fresh water sources, fishing grounds and forests. It is these resources, on which most Indians depend for their subsistence.
In 2006 the total population of India was estimated as 1027 million105, making it the second most populous country. 28.6 percent of the people live below the poverty line
- 27.8 percent of the population lives in urban areas with 23.6 percent of them being below poverty line and 14.8 percent living in slums.
- 72.2 percent of the population lives in the rural areas with 30.2 percent of them living below the poverty line.
- The rural poor mainly fall in the group of the most disadvantaged group of agricultural labor with very limited ownership of assets.
- The urban poor are usually laborers in the unorganized sector and are at times migrants from the rural areas.
Implementing right to food in India effectively means removing poverty, which prevents people from fully realizing their potential and enjoying their rights. In the Indian context, the perpetual poverty is due to several reasons: denial of rights like access to land, forests, water; displacement for developmental/industrial purposes, inefficient agricultural practices or change in governmental policies leading to a slow down in or closure of industry.
The production of food grains in the country increased from 50 million tons in 1950-51 to around 250 million tons in 2009, a sufficient amount to feed everybody in the country. India has managed to maintain a constant high level of food grains reserves. However this increase in food production did not translate in access to food for all and decrease in food insecurity.
30 percent of Indian population lives on 1700 kcal per day much below the minimum requirement of 2100 kcal. Greater part of the Indian population is still poor, with 28.6 percent living below the national poverty line (BPL) and 80 percent live on less than 2 USD per day. This indicates that a large part of the population cannot afford adequate food to maintain a healthy and sustainable life.
India has the largest number of undernourished people (over 230 million) in the world and the highest levels of child malnutrition, higher than most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
India has committed itself to attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. The first of the eight MDGs is to reduce by half the proportion of people suffering hunger by 2015. Reports indicate that India is lagging far behind in reaching the goal: recent studies indicate that hunger and food insecurity in India are increasing despite almost 10 percent annual economic growth. A brief look at the statistical data reveals the dramatic situation of under nourishment and poverty in India.
- 20 percent of the Indian population is undernourished
- Of which 60 million children are malnourished (globally: 146 million undernourished children).
- Almost half of the malnourished children are under five
- Nearly a third of children are born underweight, which indicates that their mothers themselves are underweight and undernourished.