Monday, January 17, 2022

Colossal demon of Starvation

By Nripendra Abhishek Nrip

Starvation is a very deadly condition which results in malnutrition and even loss of life. India and starvation have been going hand in hand for a very long time. World in the midst of a ‘hunger pandemic’: conflict, coronavirus and climate crisis threaten to push millions into starvation. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, vulnerable communities around the world have been sending a clear, urgent and repeated message: “Hunger may kill us before coronavirus”. Today, deaths from hunger are outpacing the virus. 

Recently, a report jointly prepared by Ireland’s agency Concern Worldwide and Germany’s organization Welt Hunger Hilfe, India has been ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021, which is the highest among the countries describing a bad situation. 

In 2020, India was ranked 94 out of 107 countries, in which there has been a decline. As per the 2021 rankings, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal have performed better than India. This means that these countries have proved to be better than India in providing food to their citizens. In the report, the level of hunger in India has been described as ‘alarming’. 

India’s GHI score has also dropped. It was 38.8 in the year 2000, which ranged from 28.8-27.5 between 2012 and 2021. It has been said in this index that India is the country with the highest child wasting where people have been badly affected by the Kovid-19 epidemic and the restrictions imposed due to it.

The GHI score is calculated on four parameters, including undernourishment, malnutrition, child growth rate and child mortality. According to the report, the rate of child wasting in India has increased from 17.1 percent between 1998 and 2002 to 17.3 percent between 2016 and 2020.The report said that India has shown improvement in other parameters such as child mortality, prevalence of child stunting and prevalence of undernutrition due to inadequate food. The report said that 18 countries,including China, Brazil and Kuwait, topped the list with GHI scores less than five. India’s fierce opponent China is not only ahead of India’s partner, BRICS country Brazil is also far ahead of India. In such a situation, there is a big challenge for India that the country which we are moving towards making the world guru, that country has to be tempted to have bread for two times.

Goal 2 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda aims to eliminate hunger and all forms of malnutrition, and double the productivity of agriculture. 

Sustainable food production and farming methods will be needed to continuously make nutritious food accessible to all. 

If we think of SDG targets, then India’s position cannot be considered good at all. 

Because this was the situation, India would be completely unsuccessful in achieving Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Agenda.The goal is to eliminate malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, including the internationally agreed target of stunting and impairment in children under 5 by 2025. Apart from this, the objective is also to meet the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating mothers and elderly people.

It is important that all the countries of the world work towards achieving the SDGs so that the whole world can achieve these goals. 17.7% of the world’s population lives in India, that is, if there is no sustainable development of life of India and Indians, then this goal will not be achieved worldwide, and for India’s good performance,  it is necessary that every government do better work in the field. 

To end hunger, it has to be ensured that everyone has access to good quality food in sufficient quantity to lead a healthy life.

Despite the availability of enough food to fill the stomach of every person in the world, today one in every nine people remains hungry. Two-thirds of these helpless people live in Asia.If we do not think deeply about the world’s food and agricultural systems, it is estimated that by 2050 the number of people suffering from hunger will reach two billion. Worldwide, the number of undernourished people in the developing region has decreased by almost half since 1990. It was 23.3% in 1990-1992 which came down to 12.9% in 2014-2016. But 79.5 crore people are still undernourished.

The burden of hunger still remains the highest on South Asia. 281 crore undernourished people comprise 40 percent of India’s population. How we grow and eat our food has a profound effect on the level of hunger, but it does not end here. If done properly, agriculture and forests can be good sources of income for the world’s population, drivers of rural development and our protectors from climate change. Agriculture is the single largest employment sector in the world, employing 40% of the world’s population and 54.6% of the total labor force in India.

Talking in the context of India, according to a report of NITI Aayog, the situation of starvation is very serious in almost all the states except a few states in the country. 

Various efforts are being made by India at the national level to get rid of hunger, but the performance of most of the states is not as expected. There are only five such states which are doing the best job of tackling the problem of hunger. These five states are Punjab, Kerala, Goa, Mizoram and Nagaland. While Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Meghalaya and Rajasthan, this problem continues to be a problem. The performance of many states including Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is doing well in getting rid of the problem of hunger. The state governments have failed to end hunger, a major reason for this failure is believed to be the states and the population of the country.

It is not that the Government of India has not done any work to remove hunger, but the Government of India has made continuous efforts through its various policies and schemes, but till now the result has come like three layers of the same shield. India had launched the National Nutrition Strategy which aims to reduce the cases of malnutrition in India. The National Nutrition Mission monitors the development of children as well as checks the theft of food rations provided in Anganwadi centres. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme launched in schools aims to improve the nutritional level among school children, which has a direct and positive impact on enrollment, retention and attendance in schools. Antyodaya Anna Yojana also by the government It is being run whose objective is to provide food to poor families at subsidized prices. Whose benefit is also visible and is playing an important role in giving bread for two times to many poor.

POSHAN Abhiyaan, launched in 2017-18, aims to reduce the incidence of stunting, malnutrition, anemia and low birth weight in infants through synergy and convergence of various programmes, better monitoring and better community support. The Integrated Child Development Scheme envisages comprehensive early childhood care and development with a focus on children in the age group 0-6 years, pregnant women and adolescent girls. Under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Rs 6,000 is directly transferred to the bank accounts of pregnant women so that they can get better facilities for delivery.

It has been the irony of India that despite having a huge stock of food grains, a large number of people also suffer from starvation. If we examine the reasons for this, then factors like lack of coordination between the central and state governments, inefficient bureaucracy, corrupt systems and wastage of food due to lack of storage capacity come to the fore. This has been going on for a long time and the government has failed to find a solution. In such a situation, the problem of starvation has become even more dire in the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic. Fortunately, we have mountains of food, whose quick and judicious use can solve this crisis to a great extent. But the challenge of its distribution has to be solved. Otherwise, a large population of India will be saved from Corona but will not be able to face hunger.

(The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)

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