Exuding confidence that the Food Security Bill would be endorsed in the ongoing session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said rights-based approach to food could be sustained only if greater attention was paid to farmers and farming. Speaking at the silver jubilee celebrations of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here, he said the year 2013 marks a significant milestone in the country’s agricultural and social history due to promulgation of National Food Security Ordinance.
With the implementation of the legislation, availability of food at an affordable cost will be a legal right to over two third’s of the country’s population, he noted.
The president expressed hope that the Bill would be endorsed in the Monsoon session. “The initiative is believed to be the world’s largest social protection measure against hunger. Every Indian can be proud of this transition from the days of Bengal Famine of 1943 in which over three million people died, to the implementation of the Right to Food with our own home grown food,” he added. Land was a shrinking resource for agriculture and hence, the country has no option but to produce more from less land. “This is where farmer participatory research programme as well as the farmer to farmer learning institutions like Farm Schools promoted by MSSRF are extremely valuable,” he added.
On the occasion, Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director General, Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, handed over the Plaque of Recognition of the Kuttanad Below Sea Level Farming System as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy received it from the President.
Governor K Rosaiah, MS Swaminathan, founder chairman, MSSRF, Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister K Damodaran, Madhura Swaminathan, Chair, MSSRF Board of Trustees and N Ram, senior trustee, MSSRF were among those who spoke on the occasion.
The president also expressed concern over the prevalence of widespread malnutrition in India. “To ensure adequate food production, we should harness the best in frontier technologies and blend them with the ecological prudence of rural and tribal men and women,” he added. The President added that malnutrition had serious long term consequences since malnourished babies suffer from several handicaps including reduced cognitive and learning capacity.
“Under-nutrition or calorie-deprivation arising from inadequate purchasing power must be eliminated and this is exactly what the National Food Security initiative seeks to achieve,” the President observed. Protein hunger caused by the deficiency of protein-rich foods like pulses in the diet must be brought to an end, he said and recalled that with this objective, he had, as Union Finance Minister, proposed in the budget for 2011-12, the organisation of 60,000 pulse villages which would strive to end the demand-supply gap in the area of pulses. The year 2012-13 saw a record production of 18.45 million tonnes of pulses, he added.
On the measures to set right the ‘hidden hunger’ caused by micro-nutrient deficiencies such as iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, Vitamin B12 etc., the President said financial provision for organising nutri-farms where agricultural remedies could be applied to overcome nutritional maladies had been included in the budget for 2013-“Credit for this idea goes to MS Swaminathan,” he added.