The news that I hear

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hunger deaths in India


Picture Courtesy : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/4951242.stm


This news from NDTV.com is not shocking. We see hungry people day in and day out. And hungry children are a common sight on our streets and roads. For years we have been hearing of malnourished children in Orrisa, Thane and other tribal belts.

Come to think of it.....the India that is projected in the media ........young professionals living their dream lives, earning unimaginable salaries by Indian standards, eating junk food, spending their evenings in swank coffee pubs and malls. This is the India that P Chidambaram or Dayanidhi Maran or Arjun Singh or Mammohan Singh will talk about....it is the India that their policies of Finance and Industry and Reservations have created. The earlier BJP government had spent, God knows lakhs or crores on a publicity campaign called "India Shining" - shining for whom? For the masses who live in hungry rural India or for Vajpayee and his coterie?

Look at the number of people who handle the departments of Food and Agriculture -

1) Sharad Pawar, Cabinet Minister for Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution
2)Subodh Kant Sahai - Minister of State with Independent Charge on Food Processing (what does this mean? And do we need a minister for this department?)
3)Kantilal Bhuria - Minister of State for Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution
4)Mohammed Taslimuddin - Minister for State on Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution
5) Dr. Akhilesh Singh - Minister for State on Agriculture, Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution

This is the list I got from http://www.indianembassy.org/cabinet/cabinet.htm. Not sure how many of these people have quit and who has replaced whom. The last two seem to be managing the same departments. But I am sure these folks will care a damn about this UNICEF report on hungry Indian children. As long as they have had their breakfast, lunch and dinner, it does not matter who dies of what. And what difference is it going to make in their lives if some one's children dies. They will come out with a huge programme to combat hunger which will run into millions of rupees and about which they will speak in every meeting to every ass that they know of. But the hungry will contine to die and with Arjun Singh's new policy on Reservation coming up, many more will be added to this list.

The issue of hunger and food was what made MGR popular in Tamil Nadu. He introduced the Noon Meal Scheme in schools that fed several children. Although in course of time, the scheme was another of those great Indian publicity campaigns.......the food served was not eatable sprinkled with worms. Cause I heard that the good quality grains were replaced with sub-standard one's by middlemen. Who is to blamed for this? All those Indians who work in this process and who think it is not wrong to feed those hungry children with worm infested food.

China, however has more regard for its citizens. China has made huge strides in reducing underweight prevalence rates by more than half - from 19% in 1990 to 8% in 2002. That is quite an acheivement in a country as huge as India.

India shares its miserable position (top four countries) with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal - having the highest rate of underweight children under the age of five.

This is what I read in http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1027544&CatID=2

"The report says that South Asia is the only region which shows gender bias. In India, severe malnutrition is more frequent among girl children (19.1 per cent) than among boys (16.9 per cent).

Here, one in three adult women is underweight and, therefore, at risk of delivering babies with low birth weight.

More than the insufficient quantity of food it is the poor quality of food that is causing the damage. Women’s social status, early marriage leading to low child birth weights and poor sanitation are other reasons."

To top it all, one of our smart bureaucrat says in defense: (http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1027544&CatID=2)

"Reva Nayyar, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), said the government has restructured its strategies to combat the situation.

She, however, added that the UNICEF report is based on old data of 1999 surveys and the new government survey report, to be released shortly, will show substantial improvements."

UNICEF experts have also pointed out that India, with only 1.6% improvement, has shown “insufficient progress” between 1990 and 2004 towards the Millennium Development Goal of halving child hunger by 2015.

NDTV says:

UNICEF slams malnutrition in India

NDTV CorrespondentWednesday, May 3, 2006 (New Delhi):
Children dying of malnutrition in Thane just a few kilometres from Mumbai reflect the scale of hunger and starvation in India. And the new UNICEF report says that India is as bad as Ethiopia when it comes to malnutrition. As per its report:
India has the highest number of undernourished children in the world at 57 million.
India has the same rate of malnutrition as Ethiopia with 47 per cent of its children undernourished.
Nearly 2.1 million children die of malnutrition every year and India accounts for one third of the world's malnourished children.
This is in stark contrast to Afghanistan that has 39 per cent malnutrition while China has just eight per cent.The findings show that more girls are malnourished than boys. Government officials say that spending on children is just three per cent of the total budget and they are pushing for a bigger budget in the upcoming 11th five-year plan.

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