The Indian Government is pushing a huge Food Security Bill in this upcoming Monsoon session of the Parliament. Personally, I am against this scheme, as it promises to provide food at subsidized rates to people below the poverty line. There are reasons as to why I am against it, and over time I will detail this.
Most noted intellectuals talk about the huge financial burden this will impose upon the country, and they are absolutely correct. I have mentioned this in a past entry, and I stand by it.
No one really talks about improving the storage of grain. 30% of our grain rots every year. And, no one really talks about plugging the leaks in the public distribution system. However, these are issues for later.
What the Food Security Bill does, is that it promises, largely rice and wheat, at hugely subsidized rates. This does – hopefully – address the issue of calorific intake, if implemented well.
The Government already has a Mid-Day Meal scheme on for kids, and this is a good scheme. Again, implemented well, it addresses the issue of calories. Implemented badly, as we saw recently in Bihar, and the kids end up getting food laced with pesticide, and dying. Of course no one in the Government is held accountable for such disasters.
Now, a few years ago, the company that I was associated with at that time, did a little experiment. We put some vitamins into their food, and found that, at the end of six months, the kids had much higher levels of mental and physical energy.
Now, we all know that, for a healthy baby to transform into a healthy adult, you need to have a balanced diet, with a good blend of macro- and micro-nutrients. It is not enough to simply stick protein or fibre or vitamins into your body. They need to go into your body in a balanced manner. This needs to be coupled with proper levels of rest and exercise. Of course, if you want to read a good blog on this subject, then I can only point you to the musings of my good friend, Michael McBurney (http://mimcburney.com)
Empty calories are good when you are addressing the issues of calorific deficiency, but not does not do the complete job. What needs to be addressed, is the whole area of “Nutrition Security“, and this is a vastly more complex subject than simply announcing a subsidy on rice.
The problem with a diet built up largely on empty calories like rice, is that it creates the conditions for the onset of huge problems like diabetes in later life. There is a huge cost issue that is implicit here in terms of health costs, productivity loss etc.
However, while the Government is happy to spend lots of money on subsidies, when you approach the Government, and ask them to spend on providing a healthy diet, the officials immediately tell you that they have budgetary constraints! I have never been able to understand this. Maybe, one day, I will.
What we need to build, is a nation of healthy adults. This starts in in childhood. Nay, I will go further. It starts with healthy adults, who beget healthy babies, who grow into healthy adults, who further beget healthy babies. The cycle needs to start now, and needs to be sustained.