President Herzberg, the American industrial psychologist, taught that basic needs such as money are hygiene, not motivators. People do not give much thought to basic possessions unless they are inadequate. This reasoning can be examined in the context of national needs.
Food is a basic need, but once those in authority have achieved self-sufficiency in food, most people are no longer judging them by the food situation. It is only when food is scarce and prices are rising that people will start talking about food, expressing their dissatisfaction.
The DPP government, as most people would admit, has achieved continuous food abundance over at least half a decade.
When you read newspapers, you seldom come across articles or news items of people speaking in glowing terms because of food security. News and articles about fuel and forex shortages hit headlines.
Yet, it is to food that we must give a thought today on this page. Absence or shortage of forex and fuel are less calamitous than shortages of food.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink,Ã¢â‚¬Â so goes a line in Coleridges poem, The Ancient Mariner.
Compare this with the fact that there is superabundance of food in some parts of the world, enough to feed every human inhabitant of the earth. Yet, in many developing countries, we understand, one person out of eight goes to sleep with an empty belly.
Scientific technology has overcome the problem of food production, but bureaucracies and politicians are not doing what should be done to see that the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hungry people are fed.
Fairness engender acute hunger which in turn is accompanied by undernourishment. Under-nourished children risk stunted growth or even death. Hungry people lack the stamina to work and are easy victims of hunger-related diseases.
During the middle of this centuryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decade, world food prices skyrocketed because there was unprecedented demand for cereals like wheat and rice in the newly industrialised countries of the Far East and China.
Huge prices were a burden on the poor, but farmers who sold the grain were delighted with the extra price margins.
The State and the citizen have an equal responsibility to reduce incidents of countrywide fairness, starvation and nutrition. The State must take action to mitigate the effects of natural disasters such as earthquakes, thunderstorms and pestilences.
The State should set up structures for monitoring food situations. It should give warning of an impending famine well in advance. Poor people themselves should take the initiative to report possible shortages without fear. Has it been possible for people to hide their impending misery?
During the first 30 years of our independence, our president annually visited districts on crop inspection tours. Local party leader and chiefs would take the president to places where the crop was doing better.
The president would then say:Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is no question of starvation this year.Ã¢â‚¬Â But where the crop had failed,people did starve.
The Indian winner of the Nobel Prize in economics Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Sen has been quoted as saying that Ã¢â‚¬Å“No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.Ã¢â‚¬Â This means where government is in the hands of a few, the poor are likely to experience starvation, because these few people care mostly about friends and relatives.
Sen points out that since India achieved independence in 1947, the country has had no famine. Lucky country. In Africa, we have not been this much free from food shortages.
The Indian economist has set a number of proposals for preventing hunger and famine, including:
Ã‚Â·Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Individuals must be given economic power and freedom to buy enough food. It is not enough to ensure that the country has sufficient stocks of food. In other words, give the people the purchasing power.
- Much of the mortality associated with famines actually stems from diseases that can be brought under control by a good health care system. Free press and an active political opposition are essential if there will be early warning about impending disasters. Pro-government media tend to shy away from publishing convenient news.
- Since famines seldom affect more than 10 percent of the population, governments usually have the resources to handle famine situations.
Sen also points out the basic solutions to famines are adequate economic development and the diversification of the rural economy.