Sunday, September 26, 2010

Food security: UP improves dramatically

India's urban food security situation improved modestly between 1998-2000 and 2004-06. Surprisingly, Uttar Pradesh showed the most dramatic improvement of all states, in almost all indices related to urban food security.

This was revealed in a Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Urban India jointly prepared by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and the United Nations World Food Programme. The report, which was released on Saturday, was based on government data for 15 major states.

Punjab remained the least food-insecure of all states, the report said.

The report has noted that the three states that witnessed a spate of farmer suicides Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh were also states where urban food insecurity had worsened between 1998-2000 and 2004-06. Considering that Karnataka and Andhra were generally highlighted as urban growth exemplars, the report suggested that their poor performance was a reason for critical reflection on the underlying model of urban growth.

Even as the report indicated improvement in the food security situation, it cautioned that since it was average indicators which were being considered and since urban inequality had worsened in the period since 1991, the implications for the food security status of the urban poor or slum dwellers was rather worrying. Several indices, categorised as outcome measures and input measures, were used to measure food insecurity, since data on urban food availability was difficult to obtain.

Output measures included anaemia prevalence and chronic energy deficiency among married women aged 15-49 years and proportion of anaemic, stunted and underweight children in the 6-35 age group. Input measures included the proportion of the urban population consuming less than 1890 Kcal per consumer unit per day, the percentage of the population not having access to safe drinking water and toilets and the number of regularly employed persons among male and female workers per 1,000.

While Punjab remained least food insecure among all states, even states that continued to figure at the bottom both in 1998-2000 and in 2004-06 such as Bihar, Orissa and MP showed improvement in their food security status. Among these states at the bottom, Rajasthan though ahead of the others, showed the most sluggish performance in terms of improvement in status during the relevant period.