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Daily Current Affairs 04.10.2021 (Reimagining food systems with lessons from India, Chinese transgressions are testing India, say officials)

Daily Current Affairs 04.10.2021 (Reimagining food systems with lessons from India, Chinese transgressions are testing India, say officials)

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1.Reimagining food systems with lessons from India

With an alarming escalation in global hunger unfolding, reaching the goal of an equitable livelihood is a necessity

The first and historic United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) 2021 which was held in September this year, concluded after an intense ‘bottom-up’ process conceived in 2019 by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to find solutions and ‘catalyse momentum’ to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food and help address rising hunger.

In terms of larger goals, the food system transformation is considered essential in achieving the sustainable development agenda 2030. This makes strong sense as 11 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of 17 are directly related to the food system.

The summit involved several activities before the run-up to the meeting of the Head of States on September 23. While the dialogues on the five tracks identified have been under way for the past 18 months, the world has seen the fragility and vulnerability of food systems, highlighted by the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that is projected to double the global hunger figure.

Why the Food Systems Summit and what is the expectation from its outcome? Global food systems — the networks that are needed to produce and transform food, and ensure it reaches consumers, or the paths that food travels from production to plate — are in a state of crisis in many countries affecting the poor and the vulnerable. The flaws in food systems affect us all, but most of all they are affecting 811 million people in the world who go to bed hungry each night.

The summit created a mechanism for serious debates involving UN member states, civil society, non-governmental organisations, academics, researchers, individuals, and the private sector, which is to evolve transformative themes and ideas for reimagining food systems to enhance satisfaction of all stakeholders including future generations. The debate and response focused on five identified action tracks namely: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all; Shift to sustainable consumption patterns; Boost nature-positive production; Advance equitable livelihoods, and Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress.

The summit provided a historic opportunity to empower all people to leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get us back on track to achieve all 17 SDGs by 2030.

The Statement of Action emerging from the summit offers a concise set of ambitious, high-level principles and areas for action to support the global call to “Build back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

India constituted an inter-departmental group under the Chairmanship of one of us , with representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Rural Development, and others. Delhi-based U.N. agencies namely the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were also actively involved in the dialogue process. The group conducted national dialogues with various stakeholders of agri-food systems to explore national pathways towards creating sustainable and equitable food systems in India. Several individuals and civil society organisations contributed ideas to the portal which was created for this purpose.

Helping the developing world

There are lessons from India’s tryst with food insecurity. Several themes that have emerged in the discussions and dialogues leading up to the summit find resonance with India’s past and ongoing journey towards creating and improving food and livelihood security. The long journey from chronic food shortage to surplus food producer offers several interesting lessons for other developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the area of land reforms, public investments, institutional infrastructure, new regulatory systems, public support, and intervention in agri markets and prices and agri research and extension.

The period between 1991 to 2015, saw the diversification of agriculture beyond field crops and brought greater focus on the horticulture, dairy, animal husbandry, and fishery sectors. The learnings encompassed elements of nutritional health, food safety and standards, sustainability, deployment of space technology, and the like.

Safety nets, challenges

One of India’s greatest contributions to equity in food is its National Food Security Act 2013 that anchors the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Mid-Day meals (MDM), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Today, India’s food safety nets collectively reach over a billion people.

Food safety nets and inclusion are linked with public procurement and buffer stock policy. This was visible during the global food crises 2008-2012 and more recently during the COVID-19 pandemic fallout, whereby vulnerable and marginalised families in India continued to be buffered against the food crisis by its robust TPDS and buffer stock of food grains.

A look at the challenges and the way forward towards 2050. Climate change and unsustainable use of land and water resources are the most formidable challenges food systems face today. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has set the alarm bells ringing, highlighting the urgency to act now.

Dietary diversity, nutrition, and related health outcomes are another area of concern as a focus on rice and wheat has created nutritional challenges of its own. India has taken a bold decision to fortify rice supplied through the Public Distribution System with iron. Agricultural research institutes are about to release varieties of many crops having much higher nutrition as a long-term solution for undernutrition and malnutrition.

Surplus and low nutrition

It is ironic that despite being a net exporter and food surplus country at the aggregate level, India has a 50% higher prevalence of undernutrition compared to the world average. But the proportion of the undernourished population declined from 21.6% during 2004-06 to 15.4% during 2018-20. The high prevalence of undernutrition in the country does not seem to be due to food shortage or the low availability of food. The Government of India and States are seriously concerned about this paradoxical situation of being food surplus and at the same time, having 15% of the population undernourished. They are trying to address other possible reasons for low nutrition through several nutritional interventions. As announced recently, the supply of fortified rice in PDS and Poshan Abhiyan are the two steps among many to address the challenge of undernutrition and malnutrition.

Reducing food wastage or loss of food is a mammoth challenge and is linked to the efficiency of the food supply chain. Food wastage in India exceeds ₹1-lakh crore.

Why the world must eliminate hunger is the next point. An alarming escalation in global hunger is unfolding, with the ‘dramatic worsening’ of world hunger in 2020, much of it likely related to the fallout of COVID-19. While the pandemic’s impact has yet to be fully mapped, ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report, estimates that around a tenth of the global population was undernourished last year.

It is important to reiterate that hunger and food insecurity are key drivers of conflict and instability across the world. ‘Food is peace’, is a catchphrase often used to highlight how hunger and conflict feed on each other. The Nobel Peace Prize 2020 conferred on the United Nations WFP highlighted the importance of addressing hunger to prevent conflicts and create stability. The citation communiqué articulated this well by quoting the line: “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.”

For equity, sustainability

We are on the cusp of a transformation to make the world free of hunger by 2030 and deliver promises for SDGs, with strong cooperation and partnership between governments, citizens, civil society organisations, and the private sector. We must collaborate to invest, innovate, and create lasting solutions in sustainable agriculture contribution to equitable livelihood, food security, and nutrition. India has so much to offer from its successes, and learning also, to prepare itself for the next 20 to 30 years. This surely requires reimagining the food system towards the goal of balancing growth and sustainability, mitigating climate change, ensuring healthy, safe, quality, and affordable food, maintaining biodiversity, improving resilience, and offering an attractive income and work environment to smallholders and youth. Achieving the goal of “Advancing equitable livelihood” requires that the food systems transformation is anchored around small- and medium-scale production, family farmers, indigenous peoples, women, and workers in food value chains.

Background

Recently, the first and historic United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) 2021 concluded after an intense ‘bottom-up process conceived in 2019 by the UN Secretary-General to find solutions and ‘catalyse momentum’ to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food and help address rising hunger.

In terms of larger goals, the food system transformation is considered essential in achieving the sustainable development agenda 2030. This makes strong sense as 11 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of 17 are directly related to the food system.

In this context, it is imperative that the developing countries learn from the success of Indian food security.

Role Model For Other Countries

  • Lessons From India’ Tryst With Food Insecurity: The long journey from chronic food shortage to surplus food producer offers several interesting lessons for other developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the area of land reforms, public investments, institutional infrastructure, new regulatory systems, public support, and intervention in agri markets and prices and agri research and extension.
  • Diversification of Agriculture: The period between 1991 to 2015, saw the diversification of agriculture beyond field crops and brought greater focus on the horticulture, dairy, animal husbandry, and fishery sectors.
    • The learnings encompassed elements of nutritional health, food safety and standards, sustainability, deployment of space technology, and the like.
  • Equitable Distribution of Food: One of India’s greatest contributions to equity in food is its National Food Security Act 2013 that anchors the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Mid-Day meals (MDM), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
    • Today, India’s food safety nets collectively reach over a billion people.
  • Food Distribution: Food safety nets and inclusion are linked with public procurement and buffer stock policy.
    • This was visible during the global food crises 2008-2012 and more recently during the COVID-19 pandemic fallout, whereby vulnerable and marginalised families in India continued to be buffered against the food crisis by its robust TPDS and buffer stock of food grains.

Challenges in Achieving Food Security

  • Climate Change and Unsustainable Agriculture: Climate change and unsustainable use of land and water resources are the most formidable challenges food systems face today.
    • The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has set the alarm bells ringing, highlighting the urgency to act now.
  • Dietary diversity, nutrition, and related health outcomes are another area of concern as a focus on rice and wheat has created nutritional challenges of its own.
    • India has taken a bold decision to fortify rice supplied through the Public Distribution System with iron.
    • Agricultural research institutes are about to release varieties of many crops having much higher nutrition as a long-term solution for undernutrition and malnutrition.
  • Prevalence of Undernourishment: It is ironic that despite being a net exporter and food surplus country at the aggregate level, India has a 50% higher prevalence of undernutrition compared to the world average.
    • The high prevalence of undernutrition in the country does not seem to be due to food shortage or the low availability of food.
    • The Government of India and States are seriously concerned about this paradoxical situation of being food surplus and at the same time, having 15% of the population undernourished.
      • They are trying to address other possible reasons for low nutrition through several nutritional interventions. As announced recently, the supply of fortified rice in PDS and Poshan Abhiyan are the two steps among many to address the challenge of undernutrition and malnutrition.
  • Reducing food wastage or loss of food is a mammoth challenge and is linked to the efficiency of the food supply chain.
    • Food wastage in India exceeds Rs. 1-lakh crore.

2.Chinese transgressions are testing India, say officials

Need felt for better operational synergy between the Army and the ITBP

The transgression by Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers at Barahoti in Uttarakhand in August is part of a pattern of large-size patrols by China to assert their claim while also testing India across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), say Defence Ministry officials.

In this regard, there is a need for better operational synergy between the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), to avoid any surprises as in Galwan, which is presently severely lacking, Army and Defence officials said. The Army is set to raise the issue with the government, it has been learnt.

Chinese transgression in the middle sector is not new but there is an increase in the number of PLA troops coming in. It is a pattern, two officials said. In the August incident, PLA troops came in from multiple locations within the Barahoti bowl, one of them said, adding that the last transgression in Barahoti was around the same time last year, but this time it was on a much higher scale. This area is one of the mutually agreed disputed areas on the LAC.

Pre-emptive move

Over 100 PLA troops, along with a large number of horses, came in about 4 km to 5 km inside the Barahoti ridgeline, across the Tun Jun La, which is the LAC in the area, and returned after a few hours, at least two officials confirmed. There are some makeshift wooden bridges constructed for Indian patrols to cross, they said. Against the backdrop of the development, the China Study Group met on Friday to discuss the development, it has been learnt.

“One of the reasons for the increased number of troops in the Chinese patrols is to prevent any surprise, or avoid being overwhelmed by Indian troops in case there is a flare-up, as the Indian Army and the ITBP are located all along and close to the LAC. In contrast, the PLA’s base from the LAC in the Barahoti area is 30 km on their side and they will take time to respond,” another official said.

This is especially so after the violent clash at Galwan last year which saw the first combat fatalities on the LAC in decades, the official said, while also noting that India’s infrastructure has vastly improved over the years.

The Army is co-located with the ITBP at Rimkhim about 8 km from the LAC, but the responsibility of policing and patrols is with the ITBP, the officials noted. In many other places along the LAC too, patrolling duty and tasking is with the ITBP while the Army has bases all along, they said.

Though the Army and the ITBP are co-located in many places, various pre-functions like rehearsing and area domination are presently not there, one of the officials said, stating that this causes delays in reacting to any contingency. “At such places, there is need for a joint mechanism. These operational linkages should be there,” the official stressed.

The issue of giving operational control of the ITBP to the Army has been a matter of contention between the Defence and Home Ministries for a long time. The ITBP was raised in the aftermath of the 1962 war with China. It primarily guards the 3,488 km-long LAC and is under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Stating that all operational requirements of the ITBP are decided by the Army, a Home Ministry official, however, said the force maintains an independent chain of command and reports to the MHA. “They (the ITBP) act as parallel eyes and ears on the LAC,” the official said.

As per data given by the Defence Ministry in 2019, there were 326 transgressions along the LAC by the PLA in 2018, 426 transgressions in 2017, and 273 transgressions in 2016. A third Defence official said the number of transgressions in 2019 was close to 600.

The majority of the transgressions in the last five years are in the western sector, while there is an increasing trend of transgressions in the eastern and middle sectors, the official noted.

Equipment build-up

As reported by The Hindu last week, the PLA has set up surveillance equipment and cameras opposite Kio Dhura pass in the middle sector. Yellow-coloured balloon-shaped surveillance equipment is co-located with a windmill and solar panel at the site, according to intelligence inputs.

On Saturday, during a visit to forward areas in eastern Ladakh, Army Chief General Manoj Naravane stated that China had deployed troops all across eastern Ladakh and the northern front, right up to India’s Eastern Command in the forward areas.

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