By Dr. Shuja -ul-Rehman

This paper is listed as a resource on the FSN forum of the FAO .

Food Insecurity often comes into focus on the occurrence of starvation deaths and malnutrition on a large scale as has often been witnessed in several states of India. A false sense of security may often prevail in regions which do not witness starvation deaths or serious malnutrition. Kashmir is one such case. Food insecurity does prevail in Kashmir but for entirely different reasons than the other states and places in India. While extreme poverty may be a major determinant in the other cases, production and absorption factors are more important in case of Kashmir although the fact remains that even in terms of poverty, our state is also on the brink.

The standard evaluation methodology for food insecurity is based on the three A’s. Availability, Access and Absorption or ‘AAA’ – Availability (production factors, i.e. agricultural production, its determinants and availability to households) ,Access (household and individual’s access to food and factors determining it, i.e. poverty and literacy levels, vulnerability of populations, etc.), and Absorption (ability to absorb food – health conditions, availability of potable water and sanitation). The lacunae in these three major factors gets reflected in the form of ‘Food Insecurity Outcome’ (child malnutrition, child mortality, low BMI among adults, etc.), which are taken as manifestation of food insecurity.


The per capita income at constant(1993-94) prices was a mere 7810 rupees in 2002-03 in contrast with an All India average of Rs.11013. Mere non-occurrence of starvation deaths cannot and should not be taken as the sole measure of food security. While the food insecurity in some states/ regions is overtly miserable, places like Kashmir which are predominantly importers of food are on the brink and are facing a perineal risk of slipping into a situation of insecurity especially in the context of the recent developments in food supply and demand position. That Kashmir has been food insecure in winter is evidenced from our preservation of vegetables in dried form. The practice was shunned because of the supply glut from the nearby states.

The sole land bridge with the rest of India in the form of national Highway 1A itself makes us extremely vulnerable affecting availability to a large extent. Many national surveys and food security maps have classified us as secure in terms of food security. I, for one, have basic issues with this assertion. These surveys and reports seem to be ignoring the dynamics of supply, demand, topography and the unique mix of these factors in respect of Kashmir valley.

The availability of locally produced food is on a serious decline. The production of food grains as well as vegetables has shown a steady decline. This mainly because of change in land use patterns. Paddy land is increasingly finding unchecked use for residential constructions, small industrial units, brick kilns, motor vehicle workshops and railway line construction. Vegetable production in srinagar city in traditional vegetable gardens has almost become extinct. In villages too, the vegetable production is on a serious decline.While improved technology has boosted livestock production in the form of increased milk production, poultry production and egg production yet the explosive population growth, shrinking grazing lands, reduced access to pastures and above all a rising demand from improved economic status has meant a widening demand-supply gap. While the sheep husbandry sector has improved a lot, but misplaced priorities on wool production has left the ever increasing mutton demand far from fulfilled. Lack of incentives on the pattern of those offered in other states has meant that farming is no longer viable and attractive. Multiple increase in land prices due to several factors including the advent of railways and migratory patterns has rendered the sale of land more luring than toiling in the fields. Add to this the obsession and lure of government jobs and we find even the unskilled people who would be apt for farming opting for the safety of a salaried job. Even the increase in livestock production has more to do with intensive production rather than any increased fodder production or pasture management.At present the valley of Kashmir is severely dependent on imports for meeting almost every basic food need. While horticultural production may have increased manifold , the revenue gain in exports is offset to a large extent by the imports of food items. Lack of irrigation facilities led many a farmer to shift from paddy cultivation to fruit growing. This also added to our woes. Unmindful of the ground realities and real needs subsidies were offered on setting up industrial units. Mostly those whose raw material is imported. This has again proved to be a bitter failure due to inadequate electricity availability, shorter work hours, long winter period and inadequate communication facilities . While food grains, vegetables and livestock produce have a source and sink both within the valley, horticulture is subservient to the whims and fancies of traders in markets outside of our control.Moreover there is a tremendous competition with fruits from as far as the USA entering the market along with existing players like Himachal Pradesh. This is not to in any way discredit the contribution and potential of that sector. However, food security must not be compromised at any cost whatsoever.

The state is currently importing

14.66 lakh Sheep and goat per annum in 2005-06 up from 5.47 lakh in 1973-74.

11.18 lakh quintals of different types of fodder up from 1.07 lakh quintals in 1973-74.

89.43 lakh quintals of grains and pulses up from 18.78 lakh quintals in 1973-74.

23.57 lakh quintals of vegetables up from 2.06 lakh quintals in 1973-74.

19.47 lakh quintals of fruits up from 1.37 lakh quintals in 1973-74.

The population of the state almost doubled in the corresponding period. While a multi factorial analysis of the demand factors would be more appropriate to determine the causes of rise in demand, one thing is clear, demand has clearly outpaced supply by miles mainly due to shrinking local production.

The rationed population through Public Distribution System is 86.23 lakh. Import of food grain by Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department is 6.48 lakh tonnes (2005-06) out of which the off take From Govt Depots is 6.24 Lakh Tonnes(05-06) thus reinforcing the view that the majority population is dependent on PDS.

Access: The access of individuals and households to food , which is mostly imported or rationed through the public distribution system is severely constrained in several parts of the valley. While local vegetable production is still being practised in rural areas , it hardly suffices for the needs of the land owning families. As we move towards hilly areas the availability of vegetables gets severely constrained and food grain supply in plains of rural Kashmir now barely suffices the needs of the grower families and most rural families now depend on the public distribution system and private traders for their needs. Given the fact that the severe appreciation in food prices, with inflation hovering around 12%, supplies are likely to tighten and become much more dearer for the marginalised population to afford.

One of the factors used to determine the level of access to food of the population is the literacy rate. Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most educationally backward states in India. As per 2001 census, the literacy rate among the population age 7 years and above is 54% compared with 65% for All India. The male literacy rate is 66% and the female is 42% in 2001 census. These are still lower than the All India rate of 76% for males and 54% for females.

While more than 50% of the state’s population is literate (Census 2001), the literacy levels among rural females is comparatively much less than the state average and the rural males. This makes the rural female population more vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity.The population in hilly areas especially the far flung areas with volatile connectivity is more at risk . While starvation deaths may not be a common occurrence in Kashmir, the fact remains that the nutritional status of people in such areas is at risk.


Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most educationally backward states in India. As per 2001 census, the literacy rate among the population age 7 years and above is 54% compared with 65% for all India. The male literacy rate is 66% and the female is 42% in 2001 census. These are still lower than the all India rate of 76% for males and 54% for females.

The state in general and the valley in particular has a poor infrastructure in respect of health services. The major hospitals are located in cities and these too are bursting at their seams and are totally un equipped to handle the mass flow of patients. This is reflected in poor patient care and low quality services being provided to those availing these services who belong mainly to the lower social strata. This despite he best efforts of the staff in these hospitals. Private sector is yet to make its presence felt in this sector. This seriously affects the health status of people and as a consequence puts them at a serious risk.

Neonatal, postneonatal, infant, child, and under-five mortality rates(Deaths per 1000) for the five-year period preceding the survey, India, 2005-06 ( Source : NFHS-2005, MOHFW, GOI)

i) Neo Natal Mortality Rate 29.8

ii) Post Neo-Natal Mortality 14.9

iii) Infant Mortality Rate 44.7

iv) Child Mortality 6.8

v) Under-Five Mortality 51.2

vi) Perinatal mortality rate 37.6

Neonatal mortality: The probability of dying in the first month of life

Postneonatal mortality: The probability of dying after the first month of life but before the first birthday

Infant mortality : The probability of dying before the first birthday

Child mortality : The probability of dying between the first and fifth birthdays

Under-five mortality : The probability of dying before the fifth birthday.

According to the survey:

1. Only 66 % of children aged 12-23 months received all recommended vaccines.

2. Only 18 % of children received any services from ICDS.

3. About 58 % of children aged upto 5 years are suffering from mild to severe anemia .

4. 52 % of women and 19.5% men also suffer the same .

5. 25% of house holds’s consuming salt with inadequate quantities of iodine.

6. 5.3% women use any kind of tobacco.

7. 52.7% men use any kind of tobacco.

8. Only 4.1 % women reported with any contact with a govt health worker.


1. National Family Health Survey, NFHS-3, 2005-06, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

2. Digest of Statistics, Government of Jammu and Kashmir , 2005.

3. Census of India, 2001.


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