Food is the prime need of existence, obvious to stress that life is not sustainable without food. This keeps the body and soul together for any living being. Next to food, clothing and shelter follow in the pecking order of priority. This explains the popular slogan ‘Roti, Kapda aur Makan’ in the vernacular, that is the essential needs of food, clothing and shelter as the base line for life. Granting this food security is the basic requisite for any society to be in harmony and peace. Every social order shall make an effort to ensure food security for all individuals.
To recap our own story in this regard, even after quite a few decades of independence, we could not tackle this issue and ensure adequate supply of food for the entire populace in the country. For long it was a saga of shortages and much necessitated rationing of food grains almost till the mid 1960s. Our food situation has been precarious dependent on imports and all for quite some time. This was also supported by a liberal policy of well structured aid if not altogether a subsidy from other countries. The scenario was niggardly hardly complimenting our self respect as a nation.
It is in this backdrop that AMMA has pronounced food as the basic need and as considered HER prime concern to feed all those who come to her in Jillellamudi. This does not cease with the local practice but AMMA was ever concerned with the food needs of HER children as the universal mother. However, to begin with, almost since the early 1940s when AMMA set up the household in Jillellamudi after marriage, feeding started on a modest scale to all those seeking AMMA’S grace.
It is apt to recall the general food situation in the country was stringent and scarce. Even hunger deaths were not uncommon. The initial feeding took place out of the meager means of Nannagaru, a middle class household by all means.
As this modest effort continued, soon enough other brothers, in particular Chirala brethren, have chipped in, pooled their means and sought AMMA’S permission. With her grace the arrangement was crystallized in the form of ANNA POORNALAYAM. Ever since the process of feeding continued relentlessly without any break, growing in numbers and widening in its scope.
Again to revert to the macro food situation in the country, scarcities and rationing continued. The scenario became alarming and precarious in the mid 1960s with the talk that to feed the Indians shiploads of wheat shall sail from the U.S.. This was undermining the nation’s status and prestige. Everyone in particular men who mattered and those in power of policy making and implementation girded up themselves to remedy this condition.
Ever since the mid 1960’s through an articulate policy and well concerted effort, the green revolution has ushered in making rapid strides. The nation. attained food self sufficiency by the late 1960s and ever after. Buffer stocks grew and food piles mounted up in the country.
Throughout all this, the feeding effort continued at Jillellamudi against all odds of resource, men and material. While human effort at Jillellamudi persisted and continued, AMMA’S grace gave it fortuitous twists and turns actualizing the same and all the children of AMMA here being fed to their heart’s content.
While dedicating the ANNAPOORNALAYAM AMMA declared that it is the day of freedom has dawned for everyone to feed each other to collect the means, and share the food out of the common pool. This declaration of AMMA certainly implied that freedom without food for any community has no meaning. True to this decree, even the country. has gained food security and obtained true freedom within less than a decade after ANNAPOORNALAYAM started at Jillellamudi.
It is proper to look into the other pronouncements of AMMA in the context of food and ANNAPOORNALAYAM. AMMA directed that food shall be served in terms of the individual need that is one’s hunger and shall not be weighed by other social considerations of status and placement; to put this in her own words “not as per dress and address”. In its intrinsic depth to elaborate the need for food and fulfillment of hunger is placed on an equitable premise and plane of equality for one and all. This gave full cognition of the food need for everyone stressing that the fulfillment of hunger is equal for one and all. Such a stance also reflects on the canons of distributive justice, to the extent the vital needs of life are concerned.
Another poignant facet of AMMA’S creed in this regard is that food even though offered and served regularly in the kitchens here; it is not to be construed as doling out for others. This shall never be deemed as giving alms to others. To elaborata AMMA positively held that each is eating his own allotted food here and not the bread crumbs strewn by someone else. We present this much valued thought in AMMA’S own words in the vernacular, “Vadi Annam Vadu Thintunnadu”. Thereby meaning that the individual is only getting his entitlement and this shall not be viewed as an act of charity by those serving or offering the food.
Thus AMMA elevated feeding to an altogether higher plane of equity and hunger fulfillment is accorded a dignity unheard of before. The concept of food entitlement is recognized unmistakably. This is what is crystallized and conceptualized by subsequent thinkers of repute.
To cite one of the recent examples, the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Kumar Sen while commenting on the notorious Bengal famine of the past held that food entitlement not being cognized in its realistic state reflects sadly on the contemporary society. Even such thought of not recognizing the individual’s entitlement to food is heart rending and deplorable.
Further it was conveyed that in a free, democratic society entitlement to food is cognized on an equal and equitable plane. Such cognition also finds vent in positive, purposive expression, thereby famines or even hunger deaths become absent or a rarity. Such food entitlement and fulfillment is not likely to actualize in a regimented order or an authoritarian society where scarcities persist, food deprivation caused, to the point that it may cause hunger deaths.
Now it is well known in the free world and in all democratic societies scarcity of food is almost nonexistent. The food need is deemed the equal, basic need for one and all; food entitlement of each individual in the society is accepted sacrosanct. Ensuring food security is the avowed objective in every nation.
To sum up three aspects of public policy and practice are basic, as far as the food security in a society are concerned; that being equity, equality and unquestionable entitlement and fulfillment that is obligatory.
All these aspects of public policy and practice are contained in AMMA’S pronouncements on ANNA POORNALAYAM which were realized and actualized in the larger society of date. In AMMA’S citations on food and HER aphorisms in the context of Annapoornalayam like “Obtaining Freedom to feed” and “Feeding as per the hunger (individual’s need) regardless of social standing” and “Each one is eating his allotted food”. These much required later day policy implications, prescriptions and practice are well contained.
It is heartening to note that by the early 1980s AMMA decreed that hunger deaths are almost a rarity at the moment. It is much more gratifying to observe that food is served all over, in most pilgrim centers and public places. Further this is recognized and appreciated to the degree that even the internet has sites from where food can be requisitioned and served to the needy and the hungry across the globe.
If we observe closely the later day, well recognized public obligations of food security, as also the welfare implications and touching premise of food entitlement are all inclusive in AMMA’S early thought and well cited aphorisms. Thus the ideal path for mankind in food fulfillment is presaged by AMMA.
Pray AMMA BLESS mankind and all living species with food in abundance that is available to all those who need it