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Why is India still hungry?

Hunger should be a thing of the past in India.  I mean, the kind of real endemic swollen-belly, no-energy kind of hunger that I remember seeing on the streets of Bombay in the 70’s.

Arundhati DhuruWhat is it doing in a country whose economy has been steadily growing over the last couple of decades, which considers itself a superpower, which has a space programme and more billionaires than any other country in the world? (47, according to Forbes).  A place where a man can build himself a skyscraper for a home and give his wife a plane as a birthday bauble.

But India still tops the world when it comes to numbers of people living in a constant state of malnutrition – between 220 and 300 million depending on the source.  And the latest images from Ganne, a village in UP reporting on children eating mud are only the stories that have made it to the media. How many Gannes are there in India today that will never reach the news?

Arundhati Dhuru was sent by the Supreme Court to investigate what had gone wrong in Ganne.  Like every rural community in the country, Ganne should have a cloak of functioning programmes to avoid exactly this kind of thing. There should be a midday meal available to school children, nutrition supplementing programmes, employment programmes for the adults.   But what she found was a systemic corruption from top to bottom in the government distribution structure.

“You can’t change a system that’s been going on like this for years, suddenly overnight” she says, and even though Ganne has grabbed the attention of the world, of the highest political and judicial structures of the country, it seems unlikely that its people will get any short term relief.  The summer drought months are coming in an area with serious water shortages, and 90% of the children of the area have been officially diagnosed as being malnourished.  But the food supplement programmes are still being run by the same people who’ve been mismanaging and stealing from them in the past, and it looks like the children of Ganne must continue to eat mud until they die.

Making purisDevlali in Maharashtra stands in direct contrast – where one businessman called Maharaj Birmani decided that nobody would sleep hungry at least in his town.  So he started a food distribution centre.  Its premise is simple – anyone who’s hungry can come twice a day for puri-bhaji.  If the can pay the Rs 4 (10cents), they do. If they can’t, then they get it for free.  The centre runs on the goodwill of volunteers like Muridar Sahani who hasn’t missed a day in 13 years.  And it also employs six women who can make a phenomenal 25 puris an hour.

It runs on a monthly deficit of Rs20,000-30,000 which Mr Birmani’s electronics business covers.

“Its’s such a small sum for what we actually do – why can’t we have schemes like this throughout the whole country?” he asks.

Is there anyone who can answer that one simple question?

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2 Comments on “Why is India still hungry?”

  1. #1 David Berridge
    on May 28th, 2010 at 4:23 am

    To answer one simple question on such an incomprehensible scale is more than a daunting challenge. One can only begin such a complex, lengthly endeavour by starting and ending with the straightforward premise that this all comes down to attitude. When the need meets the realization of ability and sense of humanitarian accomplishment is something substantial going to get done. The businessman who set up his food shelter did so because he felt this town was part of his shared home even with the starving and he made a fully consciencious value judgment that hunger is and was an intolerable condition in his community. When the national condition is so horrific that even those who produce food are doing so due to acquired debt in their work, then the consequence of hunger throughout society can only be expected. India may be defined as a superpower, but it is not yet a nation of people connected to each other through social purpose and shared values.

  2. #2 Ramanand Kowta
    on May 28th, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Give and Recieve(not Take)is the basis of Existence.This happens constantly - whether we will it or not. We can’t retain all that we consume. When we WANT something ( way beyond NEED), we trustthe illogical ( dil logical, as Saif says)Feeling Heart - Dil Maangey More !BUT, when it’s time to Give,we trust the logical Thinking Head- mera hisaab mein ‘ fit ‘ nahin hota hai !
    Moreover, the Urban, Edu - Car(t)ed, Globalised Elite has to be compelled by the Government to ‘ give back ‘ to Society - and it has a noble sounding jargon - CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility.
    Industry, necessitated by Urbanisation,means a Linearisation of the Cyclic Processes ( Naturally)of Water, Food/ Biomass, with a ‘ Source ‘ and a ‘ Sink/ destination’.So,India ( urban Bhaarat) endlessly guzzles the water and food(all resources)from Bhaarat ( rural India)and creates a messy, expensive problem of sewage and garbage- pollting the water bodies and ‘dumping grounds - transferring your stinkto another’s backyard’! Returning the wastes ( as sacred as the food, water and resources we consume)to retain the health of the very Fields that nourish us , is an urgent need of the hour.This also opens up opportunities - economic, employment foe corporates and entrepreneurs to become members of the DENA (Giving) Bank and not just the LENA(Taking) bank !
    India and Bhaarat must unite in a NAMASTE - to truly prosper(holistically)even as the Juggernaut of Globalisation trundles along ruthlessly !
    Only then are ‘ sustainable cities/countries/ economies etc ‘ possible !
    Jai Jawaan, Jai Kisaan will no longer remain a half slogan !

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