Tuesday, October 14, 2014


What is hunger? How does one feel hunger? How can one satisfy hunger? Very complex questions eliciting different responses from different experts, each looking at this phenomenon from their own perspectives. Many administrators feel that by supplying adequate quantity of food  the problem hunger can be solved! But nutrition and health pundits do not agree with this approach because such a simplistic solution does not take into consideration the vital needs of human body vis-a-vis micro nutrients such as minerals and vitamins. Take the case of India where a misguided political class came up with the idea of a food security act to confer upon its citizens the right to access food at low cost and if the assumptions of the government are to be taken seriously, there would be no hunger when citizens are provided cereals practically free of cost. Unfortunately the hunger does not not seem to be coming down in spite of all these freebies and India ranks a lowly 120th position in the Global Hunger Index with just about 8 countries worse than it. Imagine India being worse than its neighbors like Nepal and Sri Lanka! Whether this "good achievement" is due to government efforts or through statistical jugglery is a matter of speculation. The distinction between calorie hunger and nutrient hunger makes a lot of difference as good healthy individual with maximum human productivity can be ensured only when nutrient hunger is also eradicated eventually. Here are some data released by some international agencies recently highlighting the position in India and 127 other countries which offers some clue regarding the direction India is going in dealing with hunger among its population.  

"Is it possible to have food on your plate, but still go hungry? Yes, is the answer, according to the latest Global Hunger Index, compiled by German World Hunger Aid together with the Irish aid and development organization Concern Worldwide and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). "Eight hundred million suffer from not having enough to eat, so it is quantity, it is calories," said Shenggen Fan, general director of IFPRI. "But 2 billion people suffer from lack of micronutrients." "The question is the timing, how soon the people will die. So lack of food, particularly lack of calories, can lead to death very quickly," Fan said. "But the lack of micronutrients is equally damaging."

It has to be borne in mind that India is a huge country with a large population but low income levels which restricts many of its citizens access to food whether good or otherwise and it calls for herculean effort to lift those who are still impoverished above the poverty line. How far the statistics by the government agencies can be relied upon to draw any conclusion about the extent of poverty prevalent in the country is any body's guess! Indians are known to be reluctant to share their true personal information to statisticians surveying for such data for various reasons. If one takes the example of income tax paying population in the country, almost 90% of those who qualify for IT payment escape the net by suppressing their income and never filing their returns regularly.The farming community is in distress because of the nonviable land holdings and uncertainties of weather as most of them rely on rains to raise their crops. If any tangible improvements are to be realized, land consolidation is a prerequisite which only can make agriculture an income generating avocation. Can any government do this? Do they have the courage to think in this direction leaving aside the politics of vote consolidation? Sending condolences and paying ex-gratia payments to farmers committing suicide due to unbearable debt burden cannot achieve any thing. As long as this situation does not change, India is consigned to the bottom of the GHI for decades ahead.


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