HUNGaMA

So finally the powers that be concede that malnutrition is a national shame! It took them a hell of a long time to do so. I have been harping about this for as long as I can remember. In an incisive article title Many mouths to feed, Annie Zaidi asks the disturbing and yet pertinent question: Do all Indians deserve to eat? Or do we believe that some of us deserve bottled water and broadband and truffles while some of us starve? The answer has to be a screaming YES! All 1,180,285,856 of us deserve to eat.

The recent HUGaMA report revealed some disturbing statistics: 60 % of the children suffer from some degree of malnutrition and 92% of the mothers surveyed had never heard of malnutrition. And how can we forget the most shocking statistic of all: 5000 children dying every day of malnutrition!

Now if we do believe that all Indians deserve to eat at least two square hot meals a day then why don't we get riled at such statistics! Why do we not stop and think while serving ourselves large plates of food at the lavish parties we attend. Why don't we see all the food that goes in our dustbins and that is still perfectly edible and ponder? Why are we so inured to glaring disparities that stare us at the face each and every day: children begging, people rummaging for food in garbage dumps, people sleeping in the freezing cold. I do not know the answers. I only know that such matters make my blood run cold and boil at the same time. I am also at a loss to understand why the so called well to do, intelligent and educated citizens of our country do not raise their voice as they did on the matter of corruption and the much talked about Lok Pal bill.

Millions do not get even a square meal a day. Millions of our children are stunted and malnourished. At the same time unimaginable amounts of food grain rot every year. Something is so very wrong and yet we remain mute and aloof.

The powers that be however are on the prowl and have sensed a good way to appease a public reeling under food rise and inflation. Why not push the Food Security Bill. It will have the much needed feelgood factor. But beware the said bill has a huge flow: though it legislates for specific amounts of food grains to be distributed to needy families, it lacks detail on how it plans to ensure this allocation.

According to a well written article without paying attention to effective distribution, the bill will simply exacerbate the problem of food wastage while millions continue to starve. Would it be impertinent to add: whilst many will find new ways of lining their bottomless pockets. Moreover according to the same article the bill will not uplift the rural population and actually hurt the farmer.

Wonder why? Another article gives a very precise example of how the true beneficiaries will fall out of the net courtesy the famed Socio Economic and Caste Census which is a mockery of the poor. If you have a mud house but it has a tarpaulin you fall off the net. Or what about this exmaple: Nani Devi, a 60-year-old  lives with her husband in a kuccha room house in Purohitaan village in Jaipur district. She has three sons, but all of them live separately and do not support them. The illiterate couple who belong to Scheduled Caste category has got a job card and is beneficiary under MGNREGA, but old age does not allow them to work much. They too will not get the famed BPL card and thus access to cheaper food.

Yet in all likelihood the bill will be passed as it is the pet project of the real powers that be and no political party would dare oppose it as it may anger the poor who see it as a panacea to all ills and are not able to understand the flaws and drawbacks. It seems to answer the very question stated at the beginning of this piece: do all Indians deserve to eat? And if the answer is yes, then it is time we found our selfish voices and did something. But will we? That remains the question.