In Parliament last week the Minister for Health admitted that 1,74 million children under five die every year in India. I do not know how many of us reacted when the news was aired. I do not know how many of us realised the enormity of the statement. 1,74 million is no small figure! More than half of the deaths were in the first 28 days of life. The causes stated were: pneumonia, diarrhea and of course malnutrition leading to extremely low immunity. Forget the causes; the simple fact that so many children die is unacceptable in a country where according to statistics again some of the richest people live.
I urge you to stop a moment and give some thought to the above numbers. Let me put the statistics into context: the annual number of malnutrition related death in India is more than the total live births in the UK and one-third of newborns in the US. That is huge by any yardstick. 3000 children die every day of malnutrition in a country where food is thrown unabashedly at every wedding or religious feeding frenzy, and in homes; where grains rots with abandon every year for want of storage. All this should shock us out of our lethargy in the same way as corruption did a few days back, but food security is a cause the haves will never espouse. It is something too alien to them. But I ask do such stats not disturb you every time you throw food be it at home, in a party or in a restaurant? It is time it did.
As a state and a society we are guilty of 3000 murders a day! And let me remind you most of these are due to corruption in the so called social programmes heralded each year with great fanfare by the Government in power. A simple and quick look at such programmes show that most address the causes stated above. There are programmes for immunisations, early childhood nutrition, pregnant and lactating mother and of course education that has now become a constitutional right though no one seems to understand the full significance of such a right. If we did then the sight of any child begging on the street or working in a teashop should outrage and revolt us and should make us ask questions of our elected representatives. But it does not, simply because our children are safe and secure.
The Minister made his statement in parliament and so no cynic can state that the figures are cooked up, if anything they err on the low side. What disturbs me is that such scary statistics do not outrage and incense us. Recently we caught a glimpse of an outraged India that stood up against corruption. Will we one day find it in us to stand up against hunger, even if it does not affect us directly. I hope that day will dawn!