Isn’t even a single death from hunger a stigma?
The death of Santoshi, an 11-year-old girl from Simdega in Jharkhand, due to hunger has horrified the entire nation. The tall claims and promises of development are causing indignation. What kind of development is it that can not provide even two square meals to every citizen? Therefore, I am constrained to say that, “Mr Prime Minister and the chief ministers of all the states, please don’t do anything. Neither do we need bullet trains, nor do we want sleek and wider roads. You all simply ensure two square meals for the poor, jobs for the youths, end to the plight of farmers, irrigation for the farmland, clean drinking water to the citizens, treatment to the poor, proper arrangements to see that nobody is forced to carry the body of his child or wife on his shoulder, and see that no farmer dies while spraying pesticide! This is all which is expected of you!”
Mr Prime Minister and the chief ministers, how ironic it is that the public distribution system is being consumed by corruption, medicines are not available at government medical hospitals, the schools do not even have mats for students to sit, there is a shortage of teachers and the farmers are dying like flies. The concrete roads are falling apart baring the deep-rooted corruption and our character is being exposed before the youths. Corruption is raising its ugly head everywhere and we are celebrating Diwali? Now you all take up just one job in hand. Just ensure that the poor of the country gets bread, roof, drinking water and medical treatment. Just do that! Do not embroil us into the web of words! People remember the Prime Minister or the chief minister who does even one job properly. Don’t you feel any pain that people are dying of hunger, carrying body of their loved ones on their shoulders, and the hapless farmers who produce food for us all are embracing death?
Eminent poet Dushyant Kumar wrote nearly half a century ago:
Bhukh hai to sabra kar
Roti Nahin to kya hua?
Aajkal Dilli mein hai
Jer-e-bahas ye mudda..!
Enough of discussion and debate! We have to battle against hunger with full might now; fight against the decrepit system and corruption. When the then Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the chairman of Rajya Sabha and Sharad Pawar was the Union minister for agriculture, food and civil supplies, I had censured the public distribution system saying that we eat the food meant for the poor and do not even feel ashamed about it? Shekhawat had then directed Pawar that he should reply to the question raised by Vijay Darda. In fact, the country still wants to know when will the disease of corruption end?
The Global Hunger Index report of the International Food Policy Research Institute has made even more clear what we are actually experiencing. India, which was at 97th position in the Hunger Index report of developing countries, has now slipped to 100th position. This means that India is third among Asian countries in terms of starvation. Ironically, our position via-a-vis number of wealthy persons is almost the same. While we are becoming more and more affluent, the ranking of most of the neighbouring countries vis-a-vis Hunger Index is better than ours. China is at the forefront at 29th position. It is followed by Nepal at 72nd, Myanmar at 77th, Sri Lanka at 84th and Bangladesh at 88th position. Of course, Pakistan at 106th and Afghanistan at 107th position are behind us.
The United Nation’s latest report on global starvation has added another stigma. The report says that 23 per cent of the world’s hungry people live in India. Titled State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, the report has clearly stated that due to the situation in India, the international goal of elimination of hunger by 2030 has been jeopardised. The report stated that the number of malnourished people in India was 78 crore in 2015, which has increased to 81.5 crore in 2016. Do these shocking figures not scare the government? Does the government not feel pain and fear?
Studies show that 38 per cent of children below 5 years of age are malnourished in India, whose impact is felt on their mental and physical development, education and intellectual capacity. Around 51 per cent of the young women are suffering from anemia, i.e. blood deficiency. So the big question is what is the reason? Finding an answer to this question is very easy. We all know that inflation in our country is so dominant that it is difficult for the poor to make arrangements for two square meals. Leave alone nutritious food, the basic food itself is beyond the reach of the poor here. It is difficult for a labourer to eat both pulses and vegetables with bread, given the amount of wages he gets. Fruit and milk are a luxury for the poor. I believe that to overcome hunger and poverty, firstly inflation will have to be checked. And of course, we must stop the waste of food. The UN figures show that 40 per cent of India’s food is wasted. If this food is saved and given to the needy, many people can satisfy their hunger.
Before I conclude
Ratan Tata, the head of Tata Trust, has announced to give `1,000 crore and other resources to set up cancer hospitals in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. This is really a bumper Diwali gift! In fact, cancer patients from all over the country come to Tata’s Mumbai-based cancer hospital. Though they get treatment at affordable rates, the poor patients’ families find it difficult to sustain themselves in Mumbai. Tata Trust plans to provide Mumbai-like treatment to patients in their areas. This is the noblest gesture from the Tata Trust and it deserves to be extolled!