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Food Security

Thursday December 30 2004 08:15 IST

By Karmayogi

The UN is decried as a spent force. It is often described as a forum where member nations find an occasion to let off steam. The US withdrew from the UN for a period and in many of her initiatives ignored the existence of the UN.

The issue of Kashmir referred to the UN 50 years ago still hangs fire. Surely the UN is not as effective as it was intended to be. Life has many surprises. One of them is the usefulness of the useless. The service that the various bodies of the UN have rendered is immense. FAO, the Food and Agricultural Organisation set up under the UN, is one such body. Its activities are multifarious and its utility enormous.

The phrase Food Security is in use for over 30 years. Whoever coined it, coined it with a perception of wisdom. In the sixties, there was an alarm in view of the vast food shortage anticipated. FAO warned the concerned nations of the dire consequences well ahead of time.

Some rose to the occasion and acted with determination. Everyone was made aware of the importance of food production, especially in view of the bulging population. Today FAO declares that the world grows enough food for the increased population. Now FAO talks of Food Security. Abundant availability of food is the first essential. Availability does not ensure a RIGHT to food.

Not even the right generates security. As far as food is concerned, the availability of food becomes real only when there is purchasing power to buy food. Surveys declare scarcity exists only when people are unemployed. Guarantees of employment will guarantee the availability of food on the table.

But security is a sense, far removed from availability and right. It was prophetic of Bharathi, the national poet of Tamilnadu, to have said that we would destroy the earth if food is not available for a single soul.

A seven year child travels from one continent to another by air because there is a sense of security in air travel. Uneducated, old ladies are able to go to USA from India because of this sense of security. Security is a sense of the whole Being granted not by law but by the ease and comfort of the atmosphere. Thank God the famines FAO predicted in the sixties did not become a reality. Storage godowns are overflowing with excess grains.

That is abundant availability. It does not confer to the individual a legal right to food. Law grants the right to vote, to education, to justice. It is not customary to confer a right to food. In the USSR when there was full employment, such a right was implied. No country thinks of granting a right to food. Still, that RIGHT has a vast implication for the existence of MAN.

A sense of security about food will gather in the personality of Man when the country is prosperous, food is abundant and when he knows that society will not countenance even a single soul going hungry.
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