Thursday, March 12, 2009

Incredible India vs. Malnourished India

My comment #13.
March 13, 2009 8:10 am


March 13th, 2009 0:40 am
Incredible India vs. Malnourished India

Sorry bureaucrats and politicians, you can't eat democracy and the right to vote. People need food.

The video that accompanies the article (below) is horrifying. It provided images of the most egregious cases of malnutrition, images I have never seen in all my years traveling all over India. They certainly exist.

Child and women's malnutrition especially are rampant in the poorest, most economically disadvantaged parts of India, but also where GROWTH trumps DEVELOPMENT.

While the article provided information on increased malnutrition in growth-driven Gujarat and Maharashtra it would have been useful to contrast this with data from say, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where more equitable socio-economic conditions have prioritized development over growth and likely lessened malnutrition.

Absolute hunger among is prevalent among infants, toddlers and young children in India, but there is a pronounced pattern of child and women's malnutrition in those parts of India where patriarchy is the incontestable norm; women don't have land rights; women's educational attainment is low; public health and other social services are negligible.

What is unsupportable is the India government's criminal policy of stockpiling foodgrains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in rodent-infested warehouses, when clearly the most urgent priority must be given to distribute a variety of food staples rapidly and efficiently to people in areas where it is most needed.
As the article and video make clear, malnutrition is entirely preventable and is costly for education, health, employment and other sectors of the Indian economy.

While the government clearly must do much more, this is a problem that requires vigorous and widespread civil society consciousness-raising and participation to grapple with this shameful inequity that cruelly denies our children (as well as their mothers) a most basic need.

Democracy is a mockery without it.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Recommended by 34 Readers

As Indian Growth Soars, Child Hunger Persists
Malnutrition in India is worse than in many African nations, stunting the growth of children like this girl in Shivpuri, photographed in November 2008.
Published: March 12, 2009
New York Times copyright
Additional sources:
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
World Health Organization (WHO)
all sources are copyrighted by the related organizations



Sudhir V said...


The underlying issue behind malnutrition is clearly population explosion beyond what our natural environment can manage. I agree you can reduce rodent wastage and other supply chain inefficiencies. But this will have only a limited positive effect. We may be able to catch up for a few years with a new green revolution and possible productivity increases, but what will happen after that when the population growth creates more hungry mouths to feed?

What we need urgently is a population policy & enforcement which will control the runaway growth. We cannot continue at our current growth rate - we have already decimated our environment and we need to act now. But alas, the calculus of Indian democracy precludes clear thinking and implementation. So we are doomed. We are doomed to have lost forests and rivers with hungry millions.


Chithra.KarunaKaran said...

Sudhir, India does have a population policy -- namely, India does not limit population to NO child, (no nation-state does that) or even one child, (China, not a democracy does that).
In the absence of any enforceable policy limit on population, what are possible solutions for India?

1.Vigorous civil society participation, education and consciousness raising on population issues and their relatedness to malnourishment.
2. Jobs and social justice help delay and lower the birth rate more effectively than laws limiting births.
3. Waste and fraud that underlie supply chain failures

I certainly don't have any answers but think we need to engage in civil discourse accompanied by ACTION, to undo the conundrums in our unprecedented democracy.

Thanks for writing. I visited your site. Great!