“When India achieved independence, more than 50 years ago, the people of the country were much afflicted by endemic hunger. They still are. Since India is often considered to be one of the great success stories in tackling the food problem, the belief in success has to be scrutinised in the light of the grim reality that we can observe.”
– Amartya Sen, speaking on Hunger in India at a public hearing on the Right to Food, New Delhi, 10 January 2003
Millions in India cannot afford a single meal a day. Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs in our nation, the government, the officials or the system?
Corruption exacerbates poverty in most of rural India. The money that the central/state government earmarks for poverty eradication is cleverly pocketed by politicians, corrupt government officials and some village leaders.
A classic example of this would be the NREGA, the flagship programme of the UPA government. The scheme promises 100 days of work and is a lifeline for many rural families. Even though this programme is a success in many parts of the nation, the promised wages are not delivered to the families in other parts. It may shock you that India has more than a third of the world’s hungry people. More than half of the Indian children are undernourished. Against the popular perception among slogans like ‘India rising’ and ‘Incredible India’, India’s condition is not much better than that of the dark continent, Africa or specifically Sub Saharan Africa with countries like Mozambique, Sierra Leone etc. To add to these all, the FCI (Food Corporation of India) is one of the most corrupt divisions of the central government.
There are three main public programmes to ensure the food security in India; the Public Food Distribution System (PDS), the Integrated Child Development System (ICDS), and 100 day-employment guarantee system under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). For the school children’s food security in particular, the government provides meals to all students at schools under the Mid-day Meal Scheme.
As mentioned earlier, these programmes did not turn out as expected with allegations that the food grains sold in PDS are of sub standard quality. Meanwhile, leaders like Mayawati continue building statues as people in UP are dying from hunger due to drought. Any comment on that will launch the tirade of accusations that she is targeted just because she is Dalit. The national media is also, by and large ignorant of the fact and cover articles only on food festivals and restaurants, ignoring the state of hunger.
We can’t blame anyone squarely for this condition of the nation. Poverty, hunger, corruption, societal ills etc are all ills and form a part of one viscous huge cycle.
The child care centres, popularly known as Anganwadis are mostly open only 6-7 days a month when they are the primary facility to provide immunization and supplementary food for the children under age of six and pregnant women at village level, thus expected to work 30 days a month.
Public discourse and action at the grass root level are the need of the hour. All these supported duly at both the state and central level will lead to the destruction of that viscous cycle. It’s all about making the poor and hungry step on the economic ladder, momentarily forget about climbing it.
There is no immediate instant and viable solution to this problem but a sustained inclusive growth happens to be the answer.
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