India is a large and populous developing country that is creating it mark in the global arena. However, its large population and developing status poses a threat to its food security and health system. For instance, in terms of food security, India is ranked 71 out of 113 countries. Besides, almost half of the country’s children are malnourished. This country report focuses in India’s food and energy security, the disease threats it faces, and its health system.
Although food security is a global concern, it is more critical in countries with large populations. India has experienced food insecurity for many years, and several reasons have contributed to this situation. India carries about a quarter of the world’s hunger burden, with about 195 million people in the country being malnourished. Poverty is a big contributor to India’s food insecurity. India is a developing country with high levels of poverty in its citizenry. Notably, 68.8% of it over 1.4 million people live on less that $2 per day, which means that two-thirds of Indians live in poverty (Pillay and Kumar 596). Consequently, many Indians cannot afford a decent meal every day and scores of others sleep hungry regularly. Corruption is another contributing factor to India’s food insecurity considering that the country is raked 85 out of 180 countries in the corruption perceptions index (CPI). Its public sector is largely dishonest because many public officials divert public resources for private use without any serious consequences (Katyal para 2). Consequently, money that should be directed towards agricultural investments and cushioning the Indian poor does not serve the intended purposes. Besides, feeding a large population is a challenge considering that India does not produce sufficient food locally, and often has to import food from other countries. There are also external contributors to India’s food insecurity. For instance, the food prices in the global market have been increasing in the recent past poverty (Pillay and Kumar 599). In addition, ongoing armed conflicts in the world’s food baskets, such as that between Russia and Ukraine, have created food shortages, causing food prices to escalate further. Similarly, global oil prices have spiked causing food transportation and distribution more expensive, pushing food prices upwards. In addition, the changing climate is creating extreme weather conditions that are not favorable for rain-fed agriculture in India, with some parts of the country experiencing excessive and erratic rainfall, while other parts are dry (George and McKay 2). Therefore, India contends with all these issues when trying to address its food security challenges.
The Indian government has undertaken several measures to address the country’s food insecurity. For instance, the National Food Security Mission is a government initiative launched in 2007. Its aim was to promote the production of food crops, such as rice and wheat. It was expected that an increased production of the commonly consumed foods in the country would alleviate the food insecurity experienced by many individuals and families in the country. In the same year, it also launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana program to support agricultural production at the state level (Ramachari and Bheemappa 1289). This program was later changed to Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation following its refocusing on incentivizing states to produce more food and become agriculturally autonomous. In 2013, the Indian government enacted the National Food Security Act to subsidies food prices in the Indian food market. This legislation aimed at availing financial resources to cushion the Indian population from the high food prices, thus making food more affordable to the many poor families in the country. This was augmented in the establishment of India’s electronic market (e-market) to help distribute food across the country more efficiently by connecting wholesalers with markets on an online platform. In 2017, the country launched the Massive Irrigation and Soil and Water Harvesting Program to increase the land under irrigation for food production. The program sought to increase the irrigated land coverage from 90 million to 103 million hectares. Nonetheless, India has much to learn from developed countries like the United States, which have mechanized their farming while using advanced technologies to produce large amounts of food efficiently and cost-effectively.
India is a large consumer of energy owing to its large population, rapid economic growth, and swift modernization. The country has experienced a steady economic from of over 5% in the last decade, making it one of the fast-growing countries in the world today (Energy Information Administration 1). The country ranks third globally, after China and the United States, in energy consumption. Unfortunately, the country does not produce sufficient energy legally to satisfy its national energy needs. Consequently, the country is a net importer of energy, importing about 47% of its total energy requirements. This makes India energy insecure as it does not have sufficient energy sources domestically do satisfy the demand across the country.
The country uses several sources of energy. These include oil, natural gas, coal, hydropower, biofuel, biomass, nuclear, and charcoal. The country is heavily-reliant on coal and oil for its energy needs, as illustrated in figure 1.
Figure 1. Total energy consumption in India by type in 2019
Source: Energy Information Administration (2)
Although India is the third largest consumer of oil globally, after China and the United States, it does not produce sufficient crude oil to meet its demand of about 5 million barrels per day. India produces about I million barrels per day, and this production has remain unchanged for over a decade, as illustrated in figure 2. It also produces about 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which has remained unchanged since 2015 (Energy Information Administration 4).
Figure 2. Oil production and consumption in India
Source: Energy Information Administration (4)
The country has on-land and offshore oil and gas fields whose production process is largely inefficient due to using old technology, underinvestment, and technical challenges. With low global oil prices, India’s oil is uncompetitive in the local and global markets. Consequently, it is cheaper for the country to import oil products that to produce them locally due to the high cost of production in the country. Although India sources its oil and gas from several countries, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran are the largest suppliers to the country, whose supply would be more assured through the planned TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) and IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipelines.
India is heavily reliant on coal for its energy needs. The country produces about 800 million short tons, mainly through large state-owned corporations. However about 1.037 billion short tons of coal are consumed in the country, making it the second largest producer and consumer of coal worldwide. The shortfall is met through importing from countries like Indonesia, Australia, South Africa, United States, and Russia who supply 49%, 20%, 16%, 5%, and 3%, respectively (Energy Information Administration 13). However, coal mining in India is challenges by adverse weather conditions during the monsoon seasons and location challenges, some of which require relocating large populations. Coal is used in the country to produce electricity mainly, contributing about 74% of the country’s electricity generation. In the same vein, India produces about 1,487 terrawatthours of electricity against a production capacity of 370 gigawatts (Energy Information Administration 15). However, although almost all the country is connected to the national power grid, frequent power outages are common in the country due to inefficient distribution infrastructure, technical challenges, and market inefficiencies, which make electricity supply unreliable and erratic. Notably, India produces about 3% of its electricity from nuclear power. The country has an impressive and fast growing nuclear power industry comprising 23 nuclear reactors in 7 nuclear power plants, which produce 43 terrawatthours collectively.
India is especially vulnerable to many infectious diseases, owing to its location in the tropics. Its warm and wet conditions make it possible for disease-causing pathogens to multiply and spread easily across the country’s population. Consequently, vector-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria are a real threat in India (Sharma 2). In addition, India has dense livestock population, which increases the contact between people and animals. Besides, the human-animal interface is poorly guarded in the country, making the Indian population vulnerable to being infected with zoonotic diseases, like bird flu, swine flu, and coronavirus diseases, such as Covid-19 (Sharma 2). Also, although India’s biotechnology research is very active, there are serious concerns about the biosafety of its biotechnology laboratories. Unfortunately, there are no safety control organizations to monitor and certify the low biosafety laboratories in the country, making it possible for disease-causing pathogens to escape into the human population. The prohibition of plastics in 2018 has complicated and aggravated this hazard because disposing laboratory and biomedical waste safely has become more challenging (Sharma 2). From another perspective, the disease vulnerability of the country is worsened by its porous borders, which could allow the entry of infectious and weaponized pathogens targeting mass populations and agriculture.
The healthcare system in India is run by the public and private sector working collaboratively. However, because the country has a large population and low public health budget, which makes the per-capital spending on health insufficient to deal with the contemporary illnesses, healthcare remains a pervasive challenge. Also, India has a federal system with central and state-run healthcare authorities working alongside each other. However, these two systems are weakly coordinated. Therefore, despite the vastness of the healthcare system in the country, there are significant differences between the rural and urban population health outcomes and between the public and private healthcare qualities. For these reasons, the life expectancy of people in the country is 69.27 years as of 2020, compared to 78.79 years in the United States. Similarly, the infant mortality in India in stands at 30.3%, up from 8.4 in every 1,000 live births, between 2019 and 2020, compared to 5.6 in the United States. Although the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged both countries, the Indian population was particularly challenged by its effects, particularly to due to the high population density in urban areas and cultural beliefs.
However, India has positioned itself in the global healthcare map by being innovative in health treatment and pharmaceutical production. For instance, many generic medicines used in and beyond the country are produced in the country, unlike the United States, where the cost of medicines is high and rising. Similarly, the country has a thriving medical tourism sector because of the growing popularity alternative treatments, such as ayurvedic medicine, which is absent in the United States (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare 10). In total, the country has found a way of bringing down the cost of healthcare globally by providing cheaper alternatives to vulnerable communities that are not financially endowed, while maintain high healthcare standards that are comparable to other highly-developed healthcare systems globally.
The health care system in India is universal, unlike that in the United States, which is dominated by the private sector. This means that in India, healthcare is mainly provided by the government, although those that can afford private healthcare services have several private healthcare provides to choose from. Consequently, rural populations have poorer health outcomes than the urban ones because of the differences in personnel numbers, healthcare facilities, and the quality of healthcare services. Besides, states in the country have different affluence levels, with the poor states, like Bihar having poorer healthcare services compared to the more affluent ones. The United States has a better distribution of healthcare services across the country compared to India because of the narrower gaps in affluence and health education.
Nonetheless, the state governments provide healthcare services and health education, while the central government offers administrative and technical services. The lack of adequate coverage by the health care system in India means that many Indians turn to private healthcare providers, although this is an option generally inaccessible to the poor. In the United States, the private sector plays a critical role in the provision of health care services, with the government establishing in health coverage market that individuals and corporates can select from. However, unlike in India, the federal government provides health coverage targeting the most vulnerable members of society through Medicare and Medicaid.
India is a fast-developing county with many needs and challenges. Its large population, high levels of corruption, low adoption of modern technologies, and declining natural resources as undermining its impressive development record. Therefore, the country is energy and food insecure, threatened by disease, and has a struggling health sector. However, the government has taken several critical steps to make the country food and energy secure, and healthier. However, more can be done particularly if the public was to be more efficient, less wasteful, and free from corruption.
Energy Information Administration. Country analysis: India. 2020. https://www.eia.gov/international/analysis/country/ind
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Katyal, Saarthak. “Corruption in India” Times of India. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/readersblog/corruption-of-india/corruption-in-india-40567/
Pillay, D. P. K., and TK Manoj Kumar. “Food security in India: Evolution, efforts and problems.” Strategic Analysis, vol. 42, no. 6, 2018, pp. 595-611.
Ramachari, K. V., and A. Bheemappa. “Scale for measuring perception of stakeholders towards Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).” The Pharma Innovation Journal 2022, vol. 11, no. 2, 2022, pp. 1289-1292.
Sharma, Shruti. Biological risks in India: Perspectives and analysis. Carnegie, 2020.