“I finished my tea and threw the mud glass on the railway track, I saw a few children run towards the broken pieces of glass and lick the leftover drops of tea”, says Dr. Hari Om Pawar in his soul stirring recitation of hunger and poverty in India. He through the means of his poetry demands justice for all the deaths due to starvation. His poetry moved me and made me do some research on hunger statistics-
Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 2014 classifies India’s hunger status as “Serious” and ranks it at 55th position (lower number implies better position). There has been an improvement from the rank of 66 (out of 88 countries) from GHI of 2008. India’s hunger status was classified as “alarming” then. India is still home to highest number of chronically malnutrition children under the age of five. According to the UNO report (2014-15), India has an unnerving 194.6 million under nourished people, representing 15% of its population, highest in the world.
As per Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, India produces ample quantity of food to meet the calorie requirements of its population. Then, where is that we lack? There is uneven distribution of food and the public policies focus more on quantity than quality of nutrition. There is a pressing need to improve quality of diets, sanitation and supply chain management of food. Under the MLA constituency development scheme, INR 2 crores is allocated per constituency per annum. Then why 3000 children die every day due to malnutrition?* Yes, 3000, the number is abominable. Thus, Dr. Pawar’s demand to enforce law to penalise the MLA’s for such deaths in their constituencies seems reasonable.
I am a tax paying citizen and I have every right to question whether the funds are not used judiciously or is it the allocation that is not enough? What is the point of spending crores and crores to improve the infrastructure for the sake of development when crores of people are starving? Food is the basic need and if a nation fails to provide the basic sustenance to its people, it fails in its entirety. How can the economic growth be justified if the food consumption is higher only within certain groups of society?
There is also this contrasting side of the country to which you and I belong. We, who have sufficient means to satisfy our hunger as per our moods and fancies. We, who are guilty of throwing away the leftover food. How many times have you carried lunch to your work and not eaten it because of sudden plans with your colleagues to order/lunch out. Remember the last time, you could not finish the entire meal in the food court and left that food on the tray over the trash bin. Some throw away the food while others seek to feed on that thrown food. Such is the growing inequality across different economic groups in our country. The biggest irony- some die of malnutrition while others incur large sums of money to lose the extra kilos of weight.
We live our lives ignorant to the harsh realities of the millions of people. Let me narrate to you a story I read about the boy who lived, Subhash. He was a year old, severely dehydrated, unconscious and barely weighed two kgs when brought to the Malnutrition Intensive Care Unit of Darbhanga Medical College in Bihar. Only when fed on glucose, therapeutic milk and antibiotics for 40 continuous days, could he open his eyes and cry heartily. Now, not every under nourished child gets the timely treatment and survives. Children die, they are dying and initiatives are required so that they do not continue to die. We need more community-based programs like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to manage malnutrition in India. MSF- Doctors without Borders are fighting malnutrition in Bihar since 2009. Not all cases are critical so as to require treatment in a medical facility. If sufficient supplies of nourishment reach them until they gain adequate weight, they might smile, cry, play and more importantly live their childhood.
My purpose is not to evoke the feeling of charity in you. It is rather to make you aware that at this particular second some took their last breath because they could not get a mouthful of nourishment. Maybe the next time, when we are not able to finish the food we order, we can get it packed and pass it to a deprived child on a red light. Maybe, just the thought that someone somewhere is dying because of food deprivation would never let us pile up food in our refrigerators and let it stale. If you organise a party or a corporate event and there is food in excess, please call Feeding India, they will redirect the excess food to the destitute. You could also spare your 5 seconds and go to bhookh.com, and click on “feed a child with a click”. How does it work? The money comes through the advertisements on the site. Sponsors pay for the daily click and make it possible for this non-profit organisation to donate to UN Food Program for chronically hungry children. I would like to share a few lines I penned:
Festivities and Revelry keep us alive
While there are others who barely survive
Luscious food as per our mood and flavour
Why not bestow parts to needy who’ll devour
Endless creation of lavish superstructures
And the hungry yearns and disappears
Let there be laws to punish that state leader
He who could not dispense meals to the poorer
But no one should die due to hunger
No one should die due to hunger……
*As of 2012, I could not confirm the exact recent number of deaths; one may have to file an RTI for it.