India is a food surplus nation when consider our large and growing production, as well as stockpiles of grain. In addition, grain is subsidised heavily for BPL (below poverty line) families. In some states, low income families can get grain for as low as ₹2 per kilo.
So, except for problems of poor distribution or poor access which continue to plague us, the calorific deficit or “starvation” problem is structurally solved. There is no economic reason why people would starve or have insufficient calories.
However, the nutrition security problem in India is acute and shows no signs of getting better.
Most of the world looks at child nutrition status as a broad indicator of the nutrition status of the population. For example, the Global Health Index (GHI) uses the following indicators to rank a country: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting, and child stunting.
India performs very poorly and is ranked a low 103. Most of our neighbors do much better – China (25), Nepal (72), Myanmar (68), Sri Lanka (67) and Bangladesh (86). More than 20 African countries are much better off than India. Check the numbers here – https://www.globalhungerindex.org/results/
I would like to take the broader view of nutrition security, rather than food security, as the indicator we must use going forward. This should therefore, include the population vulnerable to poor health and disease due to protein and micronutrient deficiencies. I suspect that if that was done, India would fare much worse than the GHI indicates.
The vast majority of our population (well above 90 percent) suffers from micronutrient deficiencies (when you look at the basket of 185 micronutrients, which this company measures in its tests – www.fitterfly.in ). I suspect that well above 60 percent of the population also suffers from inadequate protein intake.
Solving these problems is not difficult, and excellent low cost and consumer friendly approaches exist. However, they cannot be solved by consuming more grain.
A nutrition adequacy revolution is needed in India. The human, economic and social costs of not addressing the nutrition security problem are very large indeed.