a and b produce food. a, b, and c consume food. a owns land so he is more secure than b who works on a's land. so to help b, primarily, the government buys food from a, and supplies that food to a, b and c at subsidized rates. the government has a hundred rupee budget to perform both services: buy food from a at prices that'd leave him with a certain margin of profit or return, and subsidize the food to such an extent that a, b and c can buy it.
if the government tries to pay a more, say seventy five of the 100 rupee budget, it'd have less money for the subsidies, so the prices would remain high, out of reach of b, who'd have to buy less food. and if it buys food at lower prices, it'd have more money for the subsidies, but now both b and a would not be able to buy the food because the lower prices for farmers would mean less returns for a and much lower wages for b.
food security isn't as simple as jean dreze or aruna roy or p.sainath would like you to believe. because they're neither a nor b. they're c, people who merely consume food, and are not involved in the production of food, like the wretched a and b.
if the government has a total budget of a 1,000 rupees, if you look beyond the food budget of rs.100, more than half of the rest goes towards keeping c happy and secure. so, if the government pays more to the farmers to buy food, thereby spending less on subsidies, or spends more on the subsidies, and thereby paying less to the farmers, it doesn't really matter to c, because he doesn't depend on agriculture for his livelihood. for c, food and talk would always be cheap.
jean dreze or aruna roy or p.sainath would always tell you how important 'food security' (or their version of it) is. they'd also tell you how indians are consuming less, per capita, than in 80s and 70s. it's quite possible that indians were consuming more, per capita, in the 80s, 70s and even 50s because the public distribution system expanded slowly through those decades, catering only to urban india mostly in the first 3-4 decades after 1942 when it was started, and achieved its current breadth and reach only after the 70s and 80s. so, people were eating more when there was no food-security ensuring public distribution system around. that significant fact should make sainath etc., pause a little and think, don't you think?
is food security as simple as education is for some urban parents? stop the cable connection and the kids would get an education?
[this piece of jnu gyan got me started on this post. please read, it might help some hungry indians starve more.]