India can help tackle the global food crisis

Jan 01, 2023 08:31 PM IST

The United Nations has said that 48 million people in West and Central Africa could be hungry in 2023 due to the reduction in farm productivity

Accept my warmest wishes for the New Year first. I hope this year will prove to be one that ends the evils of the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The United Nations has said that 48 million people in West and Central Africa could be hungry in 2023 due to the reduction in farm productivity (Shutterstock) PREMIUM
The United Nations has said that 48 million people in West and Central Africa could be hungry in 2023 due to the reduction in farm productivity (Shutterstock)

It will be a crucial year for India. The United Nations (UN) estimates that India may surpass China as the most populous country on April 14, with a population of 1.42 billion. Would having these many people be a blessing or a curse?

Although the large population undoubtedly creates certain issues, it is also our capital. Today, we have the largest number of graduates in the world. No other nation in the world has a population that is as young, educated and skilled. About 370 million of this young population contribute significantly to our Gross Domestic Product.

Young people quickly adopt new technologies and workplace cultures. This boosts output while cutting costs. Owing to this, India continues to draw investors from the world over. As a result, the stock markets are doing well, and their bull run shows we have successfully attracted domestic and foreign investment.

Here is another example. Cisco has estimated that by 2023, there will be over 900 million internet users in India. In other words, 64% of the population, as a whole, will be using this technology. It is undeniable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiatives have been a success since the onslaught of Covid-19. The spread of 5G will certainly hasten this pace. Last December, this service was able to reach 50 Indian cities. By the same time this year, 200 cities are scheduled to be included.

We Indians are unique in that we remain rooted in our homeland despite our yearning for advancement. As a result, the government’s emphasis on domestic innovation and products is strengthening. Last year, the number of unicorns in India climbed by about 20. The total number of unicorns now stands at 108. We trail considerably behind the United States (US) and China. The US is home to 865 unicorns, whereas China is home to 224. This year will perhaps provide new prospects for aspiring billionaires in India. Will they make an effort to reduce the nation’s unemployment and inequality? The data we have is not encouraging. Those who benefit from the government’s incentive programmes should think about it.

India has also set a goal to produce 125 GW of solar energy this year. The hymns from the Rig Veda attest that we Indians have respected nature since the beginning of our civilisation. But suicidal behaviour has decreased recently. Hopefully, in the coming year, we will place the highest priority on protecting the environment.

But things are not all that rosy.

In a short amount of time, our prejudices have turned into perversities. No nation can prosper while carrying this unwarranted burden. Will there be some relief in 2023? Political leaders must also seriously consider how to secure the nation’s boundaries. If this does, future generations will lament that we lack the fortitude to draw lessons from the past.

Here, we also need to consider how the global geopolitical environment is changing. As devastating as 2021 was for us, 2023 appears to be for China. The Chinese economy’s predicament will worsen as a result. We can use this as an opportunity. The West, incensed by President Xi Jinping’s antics, took factories manufacturing semiconductors to India last year. We will, hopefully, concentrate on making our progress more export-oriented than import-based under these conditions.

In addition, we need to review the agricultural sector. We have been importing pulses and edible oils up until this point. However, the world will experience a worsening food and edible oil crisis if the war between Russia and Ukraine does not end. The UN has warned that 48 million people in West and Central Africa could be hungry in 2023 due to the reduction in agricultural productivity.

We can play a significant role in ending the food crisis. Similar to this, this year will see significant developments in science and medicine in other parts of the world. Indian youth will need to contribute more to these.

I purposely avoided discussing unpleasant issues at the start of the new year. Only when we approach the year with a positive perspective will we be able to contribute to making it meaningful. Please accept my warmest wishes once again.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan The views expressed are personal

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