Price-rise is a phenomenon that is never recognised as a disaster, and it is recognised only when people in all income brackets face food insecurity. Perhaps the most ironical news these days, that gets pages devoted to it, is about how daal is either getting stolen (yeah, you heard right..daal, and not gold, or paper money), because it costs more than what a kilogram of meat would cost. Is it any wonder that pseudo-proponents of vegetarianism need to wake up to the twin realities: of pulses vanishing, and of the inevitable consumption of meat? The coincidence could not get more real. Ever since Mohd. Akhlaq got lynched by mob, there have been inconclusive debates on the ‘issue’ of ‘food’.
Firstly, it is pathetic (there is no other word for it) for a so-called secular nation to endorse  impose vegetarianism on someone. It should not matter to a secular nation if there’s a single Muslim family among many Hindu families. Why is it such a big deal to be identified as a Muslim who MIGHT be eating beef, or as a Hindu who SHOULD NOT eat beef. Since when did the State get a right to dictate someone’s food habits? Does it not violate the very right to life, which anyway exists as a human right, even if our Constitution were not supportive of it?
Secondly, the daal-no daal-meat-daal-no daal has become a vicious circle, especially at the bottom of the pyramid, where the poor reside. A man who is hungry will either be practical about his food choices, or will be tempted to steal. So, if his staple food goes missing for whatever reason, he will be compelled to look elsewhere. The grass after all, is greener where we water it. Pun intended. If he won’t get his only source of protein, he will shift to meat, which could be chicken, mutton, fish, beef, pork, and so on.
There are two real issues that emanate from the whole scenario: one, India is no more a nation which solely relies on vegetarian food, and not realising that the myth has long been broken would be a folly on the part of those who think they still live in the eighteenth century (Well, quite paradoxically, such issues were rarely the cause of enmity between the village folk, because they were united against a common enemy. In that respect, 18th century India seems more ‘secular’).
Secondly, India still has the largest number of vegetarians in the world. Even if the percentage has reduced to about 40 in the last few decades, it is a huge population in absolute numbers. It includes both rich and poor, and it also includes people who will not change their food preferences overnight simply because daal becomes expensive. The demand for daal is pretty much inelastic in their case. Thus, the question of food security cannot be disregarded. We import pulses from countries which cannot produce enough pulses to meet our needs. We have a variety of pulses, which make our cuisine so unique.
The importance of pulses cannot be dismissed just because people are being compelled to switch to non-vegetarian food items. At the same time, glorifying India for what it is not is just delusional, and proves costly. It is hard to understand the efficaciousness of the innumerable government schemes, so many of which claim to cater to the needs of our farmers. Maybe that’s the reason farmers commit suicides..they feel overwhelmed with so much support from the government. Even if one farmer commits suicide, it affects the crop that belonged to him. The loss does not belong to only his family, but to the nation as well. If farmers see no incentive for growing pulses, and for farming itself, why would they still want to continue? A large population of India is involved in agriculture, and if they were all to quit together, the richest people in India shall be left famished, and malnourished. The tables will suddenly get turned. And this, is the bigger picture that is often ignored for the love of micromanagement. What exactly is so ugly about being known as an agrarian nation? Denmark and New Zealand, nations the size of some of the States in India, have bolstered their economies through agriculture and allied activities, such as dairy farming, and horticulture. We need to take a few pages out of their books, and understand where our potential really lies, instead of indulging in endless sessions concerning things that do not even cross the mind of a hungry person. He or she does not have the energy to waste, because all he or she cares about is food. The pseudo-proponents would be better off utilising their hoarded wealth and energy (derived from the farmers’ pulses, AND meat) in doing their jobs. A hungry person, meanwhile, wants to survive in order to stay fit, and stay fit in order to survive. As for survival, many of us know of those cases when a man became dangerous to his own kin, when they were all at sea. Moral of the story: hunger can be dangerous.


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