US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a few days back, talked about the growing nutrition in India and China as one of the reasons for increased food prices. US President George Bush has also said something similar.
The Indian news media have used headlines such as "Now Bush Blames India for Food Shortage". Neither Bush nor Rice has blamed India, if one sees the transcripts carefully. They have only tried to explain why prices are going up.
Indians need not be touchy about this. Indian consumption has gone up, on an average. Later today Sainath will be making a convocation address in Chennai Music Academy. He is bound to talk about the poor people in India getting poorer and not getting enough to eat while the rich in India and the middle class are eating (wasting) more food.
Whether Indian Government can curb the food consumption of the rich or not, it must provide more food to the poor. The nutrition levels required for rural, poor children are considerably more than the current levels. The rich will simply not stop their profligate ways overnight (or for ever). This would mean, India will need more food and therefore will have to grow more food. This will require massive changes in the agricultural sector.
Indian farming is heavily fragmented. There is very little new investment in this space. Most small farmers are heavily indebted, despite the occasional debt write offs by the state and the central governments. The scientific approach required in growing food crops and preserving and marketing the same cannot be managed by the current farmers. Nor can a country depend solely on debt funding in this sector. Corporations should be allowed in to farming sector urgently. Venture capital should be allowed. Foreign investment should also be seriously considered.
All of this may sound horribly neocon!
I can't see any alternative though. If we keep dithering, we may not have enough food in the next 5 years and there will be riots in the streets. Annual growth rate of 8%+ will not mean a thing, then.