Dear Dr K,
On the United Nations’ World Social Justice Day (February 20), what do you think we can do about the growing problem of hunger and malnutrition in our country?
Roe T Chawal
As more and more agricultural land in our country is converted into land for factories, planned townships or other non-agricultural use, as a growing number of farmers are quitting their occupation either to migrate to cities from villages in search of work or to commit suicide, it is clear that there is no longer much of a future in farming.
India is a rising power, and our economy can no longer rely on agriculture the way it used to. Industry and services are the way forward for our economy.
You might ask where are we supposed to get food from? I will venture that experts in the government have foreseen that the future of food is no longer in farming. “We need to obtain food by other means entirely,” said Dr N Withheld, a senior advisor to the government on food-related issues, “and this could very well mean changing the definition of ‘food’ altogether”.
When I asked Dr Withheld what he meant by that, he explained that the government was indeed working on a Food Security Bill that could change the dire situation in which much of India’s population find themselves, by ensuring free and easy access to food for all.
But where will this food come from? I asked him, at which he asked me to stop interrupting and let him finish. There is actually quite a lot of food, he told me, but much of that is reserved for rotting in godowns. The solution, therefore, is not directly giving food to the hungry, but instead providing them with cash transfers, with which they can travel to wherever their nearest market is and buy food.
How is this a solution? I asked him, to which he said, “The secret is, with the rising prices of food and the declining value of the Indian currency, it will soon be the case that there is more nutritional value in a `10 note than the foodgrains you can buy with it.” This is why he says it is necessary to change our definition of food.
“Indians need to adapt to changing circumstances, and this might mean having to develop the ability to digest cellulose and derive nutrition from currency notes, sawdust, or whatever else is most cheaply available,” Dr Withheld said.
“The last thing we want to do is slow down our economy’s growth by actually feeding people. That would require us to fix the ailing agriculture industry, and I think we’re all agreed that it’s better for everyone if we just let it die.”
So there you have it: the solution to the hunger problem lies not in agriculture, but in learning to digest ‘food’ instead of food. So be prepared, and start munching on money right away.