Irrespective of whether the Constitution of a modern State provides this or not, it is obligatory for a government of a State to safeguard its territory from all attempts to violate it. This, obviously is the foremost duty of a Government. The territory of a country can be threatened both by external aggression or internal rebellion or disturbances.
Since it is the obvious responsibility of a government to safeguard its territorial integrity, in case of India it is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution. However, in case of internal disturbances or rebellion, the Constitution has a provision under Article 355 which vests upon the Union Government the responsibility to act. The text is quoted here:?355. Duty of the Union to protect States against external aggression, internal disturbances-It should be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbances and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provision of the Constitution?.
In view of the somewhat critical situation on the foodgrains front these days and the obvious dilly-dallying by the Union Government to take decisive action in this regard on grounds that agriculture is a state subject under the Constitution, it is suggested that the Constitution could be suitably amended in order to vest the Union Government with the responsibility of ensuring food security of the country.
It is suggested that after ?external aggression and internal disturbances? in the existing Article 355 (please see above), the clause ?and to ensure food security of the people living in the States? should be added.
The concept of vesting the Government with the responsibility of ensuring food security is not, one must admit, an entirely new concept. The National Commission on Agriculture, headed by the world-famous eminent agricultural scientist Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. now a Member of the Rajya Sabha had made a suggestion along these lines.
In the final report submitted to the Government of India on October 4, 2006, the Commission had recommended the constitution of a National Food Security and Sovereignty Board with the Prime Minister as the Chairperson. It recommended that the Union Ministers of Agriculture and Food, Rural Development, Finance, Water Resources and other related ministries, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Chief Ministers of a few food surplus and food deficit States and leaders of principal political parties should constitute this board.
The Government of India has not yet taken any decision of this and other recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers. However, we can see that the recommendation pointedly links food security with sovereignty of the country, a very significant statement.
This issue has assumed significance because of the manner the all-important issue of crisis in agriculture was discussed by the meeting of the full Planning Commission on May 14. Although the Prime Minister made two speeches- the inaugural and the concluding-and the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission briefed the media later,it appeared that the Centre was more interested in making the states sweat it out for meeting the emerging foodgrains crisis since, it was stressed,?agriculture is a state subject?.
What is important today is to ensure that the Government of India become more actively involved in ensuring food security of the country which is now under threat, foodgrains production not having crossed the maximum production of 213.19 million tones in 2003-04 while the population of the country has risen by more than five crores in this period of three years. Food security can be ensured if either agriculture is brought under the Concurrent list, as suggested by the National Commision on Farmers, or by amending Article 355 of the Constitution mentioned earlier.