Thursday, March 17, 2011


Rising food prices in almost all countries have focused on the nutrition and health of people who are most vulnerable because of poor economic conditions. According to the FAO there are at least 30 poor countries in the world where food riots can happen if global food inflation surges further. It appears many knowledgeable people believe that there is a link between climate change and food security, especially in some of the developing countries. Probably agriculture and land productivity are key factors that can influence nutrition and health and adequate attention has not been bestowed on these issues. it is not often realized that agriculture is the mainstay of a very large number of people and in a country like India more than half the labor population depend heavily on agriculture for the bulk of their incomes. Some studies in India do point out that some correlation exists between agricultural performance of a state and the nutritional status of its people. Those having high agricultural productivity invariably have lower malnutrition rates for both adults and children. Malnutrition and under nutrition are also influenced by ingrained eating habits and feeding practices involving new born babies, maternal and child health care and to some extent the safety of water available to some communities. Against this background Prime Minister of India recently opened his mind to place on record what perspectives he has regarding these issues..

The prime minister said malnutrition remained a serious problem in India and many developing countries. Globally, nearly 1 billion people still went hungry. Nearly one in four children under age of five was underweight. The problem of hidden hunger—deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, Vitamin A and iodine — was also severe. Nutrition was therefore a serious challenge that had not received the attention it truly deserved. In India, rapid growth in agriculture with particular emphasis on the sub sectors growing food and on the poorer regions would help address issues of availability and access. But, experience had also shown that rapid growth in the GDP in general and, even agriculture in particular, though necessary, was not sufficient to produce desirable nutritional and health outcomes among the socially and economically disadvantaged groups of the community. There were other causes that needed to be addressed. "We need to address the issues of absorption of nutrition, health and hygiene, which in turn depend on many other factors such as the availability of clean drinking water, sanitation and also on the education and status of women in society. We do not see agricultural development as the only element in our strategy but it is nonetheless a key part of any viable strategy."

Of course no one should have any quarrel with him regarding the problems as illustrated by him but what is missing is the palliative he has in mind to overcome this complex problem. Having headed the government at the center for more than 7 years one expects clear cut answers for dealing with these issues of food, nutrition and health, in stead of long sermons. The record of GOI does not inspire confidence that any thing tangible will happen during the next 3 years when another election is on the people. Providing huge subsidies to the farming sector did not prevent them from committing suicide. The much mismanaged PDS and the grandiose scheme of providing food grains at throw away prices did not improve the conditions of the poor a wee bit. A honest citizen, paying his taxes and living by the rule book has become a silent spectator to financial scams, occurring under the very nose of the Prime Minister and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. How can this country hope to become a super economic power with almost half its population languishing in poverty and hunger? Development seems to be only for the privileged ones while the majority is slipping more and more into perpetual misery! Probably with deep faith in God they may be willing to wait for a savior who can redeem them from the abysmal depth of desperation.


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