bottles in, grains out!

I recently read an article entitled 'eating disorder'! This one was not about a lifestyle condition of page 3 aspirants. Far from that. This one was about the 1.2 million severely malnourished children of Madhya Pradesh, this was about under one year olds who are fed one roti smeared with chillies per day. The chillies ensure that the stomach is numbed and hunger vanishes. Water will fill the tiny tummies till the next day, the next roti with chillies. According to a UNESCO study, over 71% of tribal children are severely malnourished.

It was on the very same day that TV channels aired a story about how state granaries were used to house liquor while food grains worth millions rotted in the open. The next harvest was on its way and one wondered where the new grain would be stored. The weak defense put up by the granary officials did not hold any water. The reality was that umpteen crates of upmarket liquor brands were stuffed into the safe granaries, while sacks of grains were seen rotting in the open.

One wondered why the grains could not by some miracle reach the little hungry mouths instead of moldering away. But that is wishful thinking. The situation is Dantean. Children are hungry, farmers are hungry. Only middle men and traders smile. Something is terribly wrong. Our planning seems to have gone awry.

A solution has to be found. Food cannot be fed to rats when millions starve in the country. Everyone has a right to be free from hunger claim activists. Having even one hungry child negates all achievements and feats. Having millions should make us hang our head in shame. But once again we seem to have become inured. We waste food with impunity. Just look at the morning after any wedding. Food wastage almost seems to have become a status symbol. Bless my mom for having put an end once for all to my food wasting habit. I must have been 6 or 7, and had begun leaving food on my plate. No amount of cajoling or counseling helped. Mom had to bring out the ultimate weapon. She did. My half filled plate of food was simply put in the refrigerator and brought out at each subsequent meal. The deal was that I would not get any fresh food unless I first finished the congealed plate. It was a battle of wits and it lasted 2 days. The hunger pangs were unbearable and I capitulated. The congealed food was eaten and that was the last time till date that I ever left food on my plate. Parenting is not always easy!

It is true that there is a new found freedom sometimes bordering on arrogance that we see around us. It is visible in the gleaming motorcycles that have replaced the erstwhile bicycles, in the TV and DVD players that adorn every shanty, in the umpteen empty pouches that are strewn all over the slums, pouches of upmarket products duly advertised on TV channels and appropriately packaged for the poor @ of 1 or 2 Rs! It is also seen in the quantity of food thrown helter-skelter. Back home in the village it would have been fed to the animals. Urban values have prevailed on one and all. Wasting food is one of them.

How will it all end. I do not know. What I know is that children are not meant to eat rotis laced with chillies. I also know it is time we woke up and did something.