#IndiaGraphicSeries on Agriculture and Food Security

Join Soni and Lucky in their journey across India as they search for tough answers on food security and explore the complexity of Indian agriculture. The graphic series is created by Orijit Sen, Vidyun Sabhaney and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj, and done in collaboration with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung – South Asia

New updates every Monday and Wednesday, 19:00 India Time (GMT+05:30)

Chapter 1: Introducing Right to Food — 20 & 22 June 2022

Soni and Lucky are on a journey across India to find tough answers on the country’s food security and agriculture. Today, they are in  the state of Assam confronting the issue of #RighttoFood.

On one hot afternoon they stop in a village where they meet Uma who, despite being a cultivator herself, depends on the Public Distribution System for food. Uma explains that flooding due to unseasonal rain destroys their crop year on year. Her husband’s earning as a construction worker is not enough to feed their family of four.

While Soni and Lucky learned about the harsh reality of the difficulty in access to food from Uma, Ayesha, an anganwadi worker, stops by and introduces them to the idea of #RighttoFood, and what it means to millions of Indians who struggle with hunger.

In 2021, the Global Hunger Index ranked India at 101 out of 116 countries. This identified India as a country with one of the highest levels of under-nutrition in the world. 

Chapter 2: Hunger and Under-Nutrition in India — 27 & 29 June 2022

Still in  Assam, Ayesha, the anganwadi worker, takes Soni and Lucky through the staggering number of people who struggle with hunger and malnutrition in India. In 2021, 3 out of 10 children in India were stunted, a condition brought about by chronic undernutrition.

After learning from Ayesha about the staggering number of people who struggle with hunger and malnutrition in India, Uma also shares the shocking fact that most small farmers in her village don’t have enough to eat. The question is why?

Chapter 3: Why is Hunger Widespread in India? — 4 & 7 July 2022

Sony and Lucky are now talking with Madhavi, a teacher and an economist, in her office at a university. She contextualises India’s struggle with hunger for Lucky and Soni. They discuss India’s struggle with hunger on account of colonial policies in the past, and the inadequacy of the official poverty line today.

Soni and Lucky also explore the economic conditions and social inequities that make Indians vulnerable to hunger and malnourishment, and they discover that social inequities like gender and caste have a role to play, as well as climate change and other catastrophes.

According to UNICEF, a quarter of India’s women are under-nourished. Caste hierarchies also result in resources being dominated by upper-castes across religions. Natural disasters and extreme weather conditions can create physical barriers to accessing food or even destroy crops entirely.

Chapter 4: What is ‘Structural Re-Adjustment’? — 11 & 13 July 2022

“In 1991, India needed a loan from the IMF and World Bank. This loan came with conditions that required re-structuring the economy. These were called ‘Structural Adjustment Policy’.” 

Madhavi, who is an academic, discusses with Lucky and Soni  how Structural Adjustment Policies have led to privatisation of essential public goods like healthcare, education and others. How are these policies affecting farmers? They also discuss how the neoliberal policies have  meant expenditure has increased, whereas earning has decreased, leading to a situation where people – even farmers – are cutting back on even the absolute basics like food.

Chapter 5: The Road to PDS: A brief timeline — 18 & 20 July 2022

Soni, Lucky, with Uma, the farmer from Assam, and her kids cycle through the history of the Public Distribution System to discover how policy decisions changed its course and made it what it is today.

Public Distribution System is a system by which subsidized food can be purchased at Fair Price Shops. Locally, we call these ration shops. At these shops some food grains like wheat and rice, sugar and fuel such as kerosene are available.

As we continue to cycle through the history of the Public Distribution System (PDS), we see that while there have been some improvements, there is still a long way to go. The #RighttoFood campaign has said that in order to meet the food security and nutritional needs of the people of #India, the PDS must be universalised. 

After dropping Uma and her children off at the ration shop, Sony and Lucky cycle on to their next destination.

Chapter 6: How does the PDS work? — 1 & 3 August 2022

We travel with Soni and Lucky to Khanna mandi — Asia’s largest grain mandi — in Punjab, Soni’s home state, where we see how grain is procured. Step-by-step, we learn how farmers bring their grain to the market, how the government procures it, its storage and, finally, delivery to the ration shop where it is distributed to beneficiaries. We also learn from Soni’s family’s experience in farming on how farmers bring their grain to the market, how the government procures it, its storage and, finally, delivery to the ration shop where it is distributed to beneficiaries.

Chapter 7: Connecting the Dots: MSP, the Green Revolution and PDS (Part 1) — 8 August 2022

Soni and Lucky meet two farmers, Pritam Singh and Himmat Singh, at the Punjab agricultural mandi who explain how the Green Revolution, Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the PDS are connected. They discuss the many problems of the Green Revolution and how it has skewed agricultural practice in the country because of its emphasis on rice and wheat.