October 15, 2010

hunger, India and Bharat

The latest global hunger index brought out by International Food Policy Research Institute is holding mirror before us once again. It has put India at 67th position among 84 nations it studied and ranked for hunger. [It has not ranked highly developed countries and those getting very low hunger incidence.] India’s position is higher [=worse] than its neighbouring nations in the South Asia [except Bangla Desh] and is equal to strife-torn Darfur and the closed communist country North Korea.

Earlier, the World Human Development Report showed us the mirror.

The IFPRI Global Hunger Index takes into account proportion of malnourished people in the population, underweight children in the age group 0-5 years and child mortality in this age group.

I will not discuss the reasons of such a poor performance by India, but juxtapose it with some other realities of India:

  • India has been growing at the rate of 8-9% per year year after year for many years and is likely to grow at over 9.5% this year.
  • India is commended for its handling of global recession, and is at present one of the fastest economies in the world.
  • The number of Indian millionaires and billionaires in global list is going up year after year.
  • India can boast of flashy infrastructure built in recent years with public money: a dozen ultra-modern airports, numerous flyovers without consideration for long-term traffic, expensive government buildings. Add to it the glossy high-rise glass towers and elite residential townships developed by the private sector. Only yesterday, papers talked about the newly built ‘house’ for Mukesh Ambani that has two roof-top helipads and closed parking space for 160 cars! Today, the papers talk of over 150 Mercs being sold in Aurangabad in one lot!
  • India spent huge sums on Commonwealth Games – directly and indirectly, making it among the costliest games if you consider $-Re price parity and the quality and future utility of the infrastructure created.
  • The consumption of cars, consumer durables and high-end fashion items is on the rise in India. India is supposed to be the world’s biggest free market.
  • The turnover of Indian stock and commodities markets, though small by western standards, runs into thousands of billion rupees a day.
  • India is craving for a permanent seat in the Security Council and is a member of G-20.
  • India runs some of the world’s biggest welfare schemes: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for elementary education, Integrated Child Development Scheme [ICDS] for child development, and the recent Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme [MNREGA] and National Rural Health Mission. India has had the world’s largest family planning programme and has been running numerous schemes for maternal health, promotion of girl child, poverty alleviation, housing and what not.
  • The gender ratio is unfavourable to women in most parts of the country.
  • India has huge granaries, world’s biggest food grain procurement system, and the largest ration system [Public Distribution System] – all in the government sector. Government agencies also waste huge quantities of food grain because of corruption and poor storage facility.

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