As people training to do development work in India, it is imperative that we remain informed about the political state of the region we operate in. This past fall, the Indian Parliament passed into law a piece of legislation called the Food Security Bill (or FSB). Reforming the welfare system in India, the FSB strives to provide food to pregnant and nursing mothers, malnourished children, and people groups broadly labeled as "destitute, homeless, and starving.” (1) The scope of the FSB is tremendous, targeting nearly 70% of the Indian population. The Indian FSB will provide subsidized food for over 800 million Indians. To put this figure in perspective, the Affordable Healthcare Act mandates the provision of healthcare for 300 million Americans. Utilizing an existing system of ration cards and food distribution centers, the FSB expands the criteria for receiving food subsidies, as well as increases the amount of food available to the poor. For mere pennies a month, eligible individuals and families can purchase pounds of dry rice and grains, a much needed opportunity for the hundreds of millions of Indians who struggle to acquire their daily sustenance.
The reality of hunger in India is a central concern for the G.O.D. India team as we prepare to address such issues. As the breadth of the FSB demonstrates, effectively providing food for the poor of India is a necessary area of focus for any group working in the region. On one level, it is necessary for our team to develop an understanding of the food distribution system and how the poor of India can benefit from utilizing the provisions put in place by the law. The Bible recognizes the wisdom in being able to utilize a national welfare system to provide food for those in need. The story of Joseph portrays a person that is able to feed not only his family, but an entire nation and the surrounding regions in a time of famine through his deft organization and mobilization of the Egyptian welfare system (Gen. 41). In the same way, it is our goal to become a resource to the poor, who are often illiterate, by helping them to navigate the complexities of the food security program.
On a deeper level, however, the reality of the hungry poor of India motivates us to become people of a greater degree of utility. This winter, our team initiated various gardening projects with the intent of developing our skills in the realm of food production. Taking on multiple plots in our existing community garden, we are learning the process of producing food, from preparing and digging beds, to planting, harvesting, and preserving produce. This desire to become skilled in food production comes from our recognition of Jesus’ example of feeding the poor masses in his day. In Matthew 14:13, Jesus finds himself in the remote wilderness, surrounded by a great crowd of poor, sick, and hungry listeners. Neglected by the political leader of the day, who was more concerned with entertaining birthday guests and executing political agitators than addressing the needs of his people, Jesus assumes the great burden of feeding the crowd (14:15-16). Jesus is moved with overwhelming compassion to feed and care for the crowds, roaming the wilderness with nothing to eat. Organizing the disciples to feed the crowds, Jesus’ initiative concludes with an astounding result: “all ate and were filled” (14:20).
Like Jesus, we recognize our obligation to feed the hungry. Although India’s poor should take advantage of the food distribution system that is in place, we are aware of the danger of remaining dependent on a system that is subject to change and corruption. Therefore, we are working to develop our capacities in food production and distribution, with the hope that we can empower the poor and hungry to grow their own food and provide for their families. In this way, we follow Jesus’ example of feeding the hungry.
Written by Grant Dailey
(1) "The National Food Security Bill: Highlights of the Bill," PRS. N.p.,n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-national-food-security-bill-2011-2144/>.
(2) "Sonia's ambitious food bill wins LS vote; UPA get its 'game-changer'. Hindustan Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Mar. 2014. <http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/Sonia-s-ambitious-food-bill-wins-LS-vote-UPA-gets-its-game-changer/Article1-1113348.aspx>