Hunger capital

Agriculture should get greater attention.


According to the study, the number of people who are hungry in this country far outnumber those in sub-Saharan Africa. The NGO’s findings echo that of a UN study released in June this year which said that hunger in South Asia has reached its highest level in 40 years because of the rise in food and fuel prices and global recession. Neither hunger nor malnutrition is new to India. What makes hunger in India today different from what existed decades ago is that millions are hungry even as the government claims a robust economic growth rate. Clearly, a large section of our population has not benefited from the economic reforms. This section is so poor that it cannot afford to buy grains even at subsidised prices. The tragedy of hunger in today’s India is that it exists amidst pockets of prosperity. India’s grain basket, Punjab, ranks lower than Gabon and Honduras in the Global Hunger Index.

Studies have revealed that the problem of hunger and malnutrition is the most acute in Madhya Pradesh. According to National Family Health Survey-III, malnutrition in MP increased from 54 per cent to 60 per cent. Figures released by NGOs reveal that since May 2008, around 450 children have died of malnutrition in four districts in MP. Yet the MP government slumbers.

The National Food Security Act that the UPA government proposes to bring in aims at ensuring food-for-all. Food security experts fear that the Bill is full of loopholes. It is attempting cosmetic changes in the public distribution system. But merely increasing the number of people who will benefit from PDS or raising the number of kilograms of rice poor families get will not eliminate hunger. Structural changes aimed at the real causes of hunger and poverty are necessary. The government needs to pay more attention to agriculture as it is the mainstay of most of India’s population. Rural development should be tackled on a war footing, just as enhancing food security should be made our foremost priority if we are to make hunger history.

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