Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his 30th episode of his fortnightly radio address to the nation, Mann Ki Baat,
expressed concern about food wastage in the country. He said, “Since I have started doing this programme, many people
have expressed their concerns to me on food wastage. We take more than required on our plate which we are not able to
finish even.” He urged his fellow citizens to think about how much food we waste and how many hungry mouths the
leftovers can feed. Calling it a social evil, he praised individuals and NGOs that collects the leftovers from hotels
and restaurants to feed the poor.
Even though India produces the world’s highest quantity of milk and is one of the biggest producers of grains and pulses
we see a huge wastage of food and grains in storage as well as in transport. Another area where we waste lot of food is
due to lack of refrigeration facilities for the huge quantities of fruits and vegetables which are produced. Many of our
states and regions produce excessive quantities of fruits and vegetables and have to send it to other parts of the
nation or abroad in order not just to recover the cost but also to earn some profit. Even though there has been lot of
talk about ensuring an effective cold chain nationally one has to wonder when that will be a reality.
Few days after our Prime Minister raised his concern in his radio address, the central government is mulling over
portion sizes of food served by restaurants. Many of our eateries have the popular buffet system which has caught on not just in major cities but also in our tier 1 and tier 2 cities which are witnessing a rapid growth in hospitality business and quick service restaurant (QSR) business.
Echoing prime minister’s thoughts on the serious issue of food wastage, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, the minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution has come out to say, “If a person can eat only two prawns, why should he or she beserved six? If a person eats two idlis, why serve four! It’s wastage of food and also money people pay for somethingthat they don’t eat.”
Paswan, like much of India, comes from a less privileged background and understands a good number of our population goes to bed hungry. This move has the potential to solve the issue of hunger in India, especially since we don’t have a
definite food security bill. Needless to say one can only expect loads of support from organisations which are involved
in feeding the poor. Also, our primary school programmes have seen sustained growth over the years mainly because of the mid-day meal schemes in many remote parts of the nation. Many corporates have also come forward to support efforts like
this where lack of food should not be a deterrent for our future citizens from attending primary schools.
One the other side of the coin we should also look at how an individual who pays for his or her food looks at this whole
issue. It can be viewed as an intrusion into one’s privacy or dictating terms to someone who does not like to be told
about a very personal choice of how much one should eat etc.
We have to strike a balance on this sensitive issue as the whole nation across class and social barriers are united by
one factor; the right to food.