Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharmais a Food and Trade Policy analyst. He chairs the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security. His blog Ground Realitycan be read at is also a member of Bhoomi Advisory Board.

For over two decades now, agriculture has suffered neglect, as successive governments, led by World Bank-prescribed growth models, have issued disproportionate doles to industry.While current allocations do not spell much hope, Devinder Sharma suggests what the Modi government can still do to reverse the trend.

Devinder Sharma writes about capitalism which continues to make the super - rich richer and the poor, even more poor. What the poor get as financial support (or by way of cheap food, housing and energy) is called a ‘subsidy’, but what the rich and affluent get, and that is several times more, is termed as ‘incentive’.

“Over the past 50 years, we are seeing that diets around the world are changing and they are becoming more similar - what we call the ‘globalised diet,’” Colin Khoury, a scientist from the Colombia-based Centre for Tropical Agriculture told the BBC. “This diet is composed of big, major crops like wheat, rice, potato and sugar. It also includes crops that were not important 50 years ago but have become very important now, particularly oil crops like soybean.” While wheat has long been a staple crop, it is now a key food in more than 97 per cent of countries listed in UN data.

While addressing a joint session of Parliament, President Pranab Mukherjee said “in due course the direct benefits transfer system will also cover wages and subsidies on food.” The enthusiasm for routing the food subsidy in the form of cash transfers has great political advantages but at the same time has serious fallouts in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The political advantage was spelt out by Rahul Gandhi the other day when he made it abundantly clear that cash transfers could win them not only 2014 but also the 2019 general elections.

During the last few months of 2009, three major International Summits took place. There was a Food Summit in Rome, attended by about 60 Heads of State, the World Trade Organization’s UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) and the Copenhagen Summit, which the whole world has been talking about it as it deals with climate change. They were meant to deal with the Food Crisis, Trade Crisis and the Climate Change Crisis. There are links which are quite obvious between these three meets, which were however never focused upon.

The correlation between hunger and economic growth is robustly positive - the greater the economic growth, the greater the number of people going to bed hungry. This challenges the widely held view that economic growth pulls the poor out of poverty and hunger.

Hunger is keeping pace with economic growth. At a time when the economy is growing at an average of 7 to 8%, hunger too is on the rise.