Inauguration of the GNLU Centre on Food Security and Agro-Economy, Gandhinagar, 10 October 2009.
Guest of Honour Professor Anil Gupta, distinguished academicians, invited guests, GNLU faculty and staff members, our Ambassadors, namely GNLU Students...
I have this morning a pleasant duty and honor to welcome you to this inaugural seminar of the Gujarat National Law University Centre for Food Security and Agro-Economy in our endeavor to work toward the splendid aspiration of catalyzing the Millennium Developing Goals in the WTO regime.
I would like to begin my address by drawing your attention to the World Declaration on Nutrition, International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), Rome 1992 according to which assured access to nutritionally adequate and safe food is essential for individual welfare and for national, social and economic development. Every country in the world has vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals, households and groups who cannot meet their own needs.
Many of you might find it implausible that 70% percent of all poor are women. Even where and when overall food supplies are adequate, poverty impedes access by all to the quantity and variety of foods needed to meet the population's needs. Rapid population growth and rural poverty have resulted in excessive migration to urban areas with serious negative social, economic, environmental and nutritional impact.
Unless extraordinary efforts are undertaken, an unacceptably large portion of the world's population, particularly in developing countries, would continue to be chronically undernourished with additional suffering due to acute periodic shortages of food. Contributing to malnutrition is the lack of adequate food utilization which, in this context, is the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients in food by the human body and requires adequate diet, water sanitation, health services, and health education.
In the days of Right to Food, governments of the world at large and India in particular must provide an economic and legal framework which promotes efficient markets that encourage private sector mobilization of savings, investment and capital formation. They should also devote an appropriate proportion of their expenditure to investments which enhance sustainable food security.
The GNLU Centre aims to contribute towards the creation of the policy framework and conditions and monitoring of the same so that optimal public and private investments are encouraged in equitable and sustainable development of the food systems, rural development and human resources on the scale needed to contribute to food security.
Those of us, who have lived our adult life through the earlier days of liberalization and globalization of the Indian economy, when the entire nation was looking forward with zeal and fervor and with a sense of national pride, cannot but look upon the present times with deep anguish and distress. Never before in history, and nowhere else in the world today, has more than 1/6th of the human race existed as a single free nation. Professor Rostow of Texas University regards the survival of Indian democracy as the most important phenomenon of the post-war era.
We can proudly say that our Constitution gave us a flying start and equipped us adequately to meet the challenges of the future. Unfortunately, over the years we dissipated every advantage we started with, like a compulsive gambler bent upon squandering an invaluable legacy.
As early as January 1987, The Economist rightly remarked that socialism as practised in India has been a fraud. Our brand of socialism did not result in transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor but only from the honest rich to the dishonest rich.
The economic and social development of the rural sector is a key requisite for the achievement of food security for all. Rural poverty is a complex phenomenon that varies considerably between and within countries. The rural areas in developing countries are generally poorly equipped in terms of technical and financial resources and educational infrastructure.
We built up state-owned enterprises called the public sector in India. The sleeping sickness of socialism is now universally acknowledged, — but not officially in India. The most persistent tendency in India has been to have too much government and too little administration; too many laws and too little justice; too many public servants and too little public service; too many controls and too little welfare.
We are not poor by nature but poor by policy. Yes, the potential of India is so great! Sir William Ryrie, the executive vice -president of the International Finance Corporation, expressed the view that India has some of “the most creative entrepreneurs . . . The most dynamic business leaders, and the sharpest financial brains in the world.” These words give you an idea of the magnitude of the effort needed to keep India impoverished.
All three wings of the state – legislature, judiciary and executive and if I may say the entire machinery of the country, need concerted and coordinated search for genes of ideas which deserve to be called “a high-yielding variety of economics”.
Land reforms have been implemented as a means to re-distribute land, not to raise its productivity. Many beneficiaries of the land reforms are themselves contributing to this alienation of prime agricultural land is encouraged by the interpretation of socialism as the natural right to receive benefits from society without the duty to contribute anything in return. Food production must now be brought into centre-stage, for you can be self-sufficient only if you produce all that you need.
The Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action lay the foundations for diverse paths to a common objective - food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. In this regard, concerted action at all levels is required. Poverty eradication is essential to improve access to food. The vast majority of those who are undernourished, either cannot produce or cannot afford to buy enough food. They have inadequate access to means of production such as land, water, inputs, improved seeds and plants, appropriate technologies and farm credit.
In addition, wars, civil strife, natural disasters, climate related ecological changes and environmental degradation have adversely affected millions of people. Although food assistance may be provided to ease their plight, it is not a long term solution to the underlying causes of food insecurity. It is important to maintain an adequate capacity in the international community to provide food aid, whenever it is required, in response to emergencies. Equitable access to stable food supplies should be ensured.
A peaceful and stable environment in every country is a fundamental condition for the attainment of sustainable food security. We all, in the days of Governance and Accountability, are responsible for creating an enabling environment for private and group initiatives to devote their skills, efforts and resources, and in particular investment, towards the common goal of food for all.
This should be undertaken with the cooperation and participation of all members of society. Farmers, fishers and foresters and other food producers and providers, have critical roles in achieving food security, and their full involvement and enablement are crucial for success.
Unless governments and the international community address the multifaceted causes underlying food insecurity, the number of hungry and malnourished people will remain very high in developing countries and sustainable food security will not be achieved. This situation is unacceptable.
The resources required for investment will be generated mostly from domestic private and public sources. The international community has a key role to play in supporting the adoption of appropriate national policies and, where necessary and appropriate, in providing technical and financial assistance to assist developing countries and countries with economies in transition in fostering food security.
In 1950, we started as a Republic with inestimable advantages. First, we had 5,000 years of civilization behind us — a civilization which had reached ‘the summit of human thought’ in the word of Ralph Waldo Emerson. We inherited great skills and a rich heritage, since the genes had evolved over five luminous millennia.
A peaceful, stable and enabling political, social and economic environment is the essential foundation which will enable States to give adequate priority to food security, poverty eradication and sustainable agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development. Promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development and the progressive realization of the right to adequate food for all and the full and equal participation of men and women are also indispensable to our goal of achieving sustainable food security for all.
The development of the right to food as a self standing right, its normative content and relative obligations should be reflected in all legal instruments that attempt to refer to this fundamental right. I believe our judiciary can do a great deal in this regard.
To this end, GNLU calls upon all governments, all actors of civil society, international and private financing institutions, and technical assistance agencies, think tanks, academic and research institutions, to promote policies and measures to enhance the flow and effectiveness of investments for food security. I encourage this Centre and all partners to work for a binding international legal instrument called International Food Security Treaty. Let us join the IFST Campaign to coordinate activities promoting the worldwide adoption and implementation of the IFST.
We have a superb entrepreneurial spirit, honed over a century of obstacles. A few years ago, a World Bank report on India mentioned two very favorable factors — an unlimited reservoir of skilled labor, and abundance of capital available for investment in new projects. The trader’s instinct is innate in Indian genes. An Indian they say can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scot, and yet make a profit! So we need not tell to remind ourselves how to do our job, how to accomplish this goal, how to defend our food security, how to tackle the obvious obstacles or how to make and keep these aspirations fertile. I am here together with my fellow faculty members to request you to join us in this venture, a cause we can no longer ignore or afford to be ignorant about.
Professor Gupta, you are so well carrying out the programme ‘Globalizing resurgent India through innovative transformation’ (GRIIT), together with Dr Kalam. We are looking forward to see how the issue of food security, which remains deep at the heart of millions of people of our country, is and can be addressed in the programme. As far as regulatory and legal frameworks are concerned, GNLU is ready to associate itself with any visionary mission.
At last, the GNLU does not wish to become the best or the first law university in the country, it wants to become a role-model university – a university which can contribute through its initiatives programmes and activities towards a fair and just society. Nor we are interested in embracing glamorous or short-time eye-catching activities, we wish to look and measure the long-term vision the country needs, take initiatives in those areas where meaningful attention is needed, the areas which can give the country a proud of place in the world and bring proud to her all citizens. To uplift the standards of legal education, research, training and extensions activities of the entire state, we are partnering with all law colleges, the Bar Councils because they churn out lawyers who serve the judiciary and bar at grass-root levels. At national level too, we are ready to invest our energy, efforts and time in conducting activities and programmes such as one for media, for legislative draftsmen, for mediators, etc. so that the awareness about enhanced legal education reaches to every corner of the country. Globally, we are looking at avenues which can bring value addition to our existing knowledge base and capacity. Our holistic and comprehensive approach and not solely the market-driven approach will enable us to become true partners of a fair and just society.
Dr Ranita Nagar, if I can only add my words of appreciation for the fact that we envisaged the Centre for Food Security in our mid-term plan, the time when you had not joined the University. It is your commitment and conviction together with your team of fellow faculty and staff members and dedicated students, the GNLU is able to realize its first centre. I hope this Centre and our future ones which are being established will deliver our mandate most effectively and efficiently.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen I am indeed appreciative of all your cooperation and undoubtedly grateful for your time and patience.
Thank you very much.
Bimal N. Patel