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Children dying of malnutrition are on rise

Nothing can be more unfortunate as within four days after the death of three sisters from Delhi’s Mandawali due to starvation or “gross malnutrition” as per the forensic reports, the legislators of Delhi, as well as the central government, are trying to wash their hands by blatantly indulging in the blame game. The shocking incident in the national capital created a political storm — a storm that only leads to the accusation, re-accusation, and no genuine effort to save these lives in the future.

While both the opposition and Modi government attacked the AAP government for failing to provide subsidised grain to the poor, CM Kejriwal has passed the buck on the Centre and the Lt. Governor for ‘blocking’ its ‘doorstep ration delivery’ scheme. The painful end of these three sisters in a city that has country’s second largest income, acted as a stark reminder that the National Democratic Alliance government’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ promise is nowhere close to the reality and it has met its doom alike previous blunders — ‘Garibi Hatao’ and ‘India Shining’.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Narain Dass Gupta confirmed the victim family not having ration cards and lamented saying, “We don’t have the power to frame policy on the same.” He further said, “The death of three minor girls is an unfortunate incident and the failure of central government policies is the reason behind it. The central government has no right to put the blame on us as the responsibility falls on them; even after winning with a majority, we lack much administrative power but we are governing really well in Delhi. The Centre must solve these issues instead of indulging in blame game.”

While AAP’s Sanjay Sharma said, “Delhi government has been begging for a year for the doorstep delivery of ration. Who has been blocking it? There should be an investigation,” Delhi BJP’s chief Manoj Tiwari came up with, “It is utterly shameful… I don’t want to make it about politics… The centre sends subsidised food; it is the Delhi government’s job to deliver it to citizens.”

Mansi (8), Shikha (4) and Parul (2) are the daughters of Mangal Singh, a native of West Bengal and a rickshaw-puller by profession and their mother Beena is mentally unstable as per the reports. The family was staying at Talab Chowk in east Delhi’s Mandawali near to Meerut-Delhi expressway after their shack in a nearby slum was wrecked in the rains. While Mangal continues to remain untraceable from the day after they shifted to the new place, Beena is clueless about her husband’s whereabouts and also failed to tell the police how her kids remained deprived of food!

No trace of fat was found on their bodies and the postmortem showed the stomach was absolutely empty, the Medical Superintendent of Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital informed.

BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri stated, “Doorstep ration delivery scheme considers a family with ration cards but in this case, the family didn’t have any. How can AAP government blame it on the Lt. Governor! The state government even fails to deliver food items to 2,500 fair price shops across Delhi. Kejriwal government has completely failed. The Anganwadi scheme is also a failure. Centre has never interfered in any of the state government schemes. Before ensuring ‘Doorstep ration delivery’, they must offer ration cards to everyone first.”

It is indeed very absurd for a country and its government that celebrate being the sixth largest economy with ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ as the truth behind the merrymaking is awfully disturbing. As per many recent reports including UNICEF’s, ‘India is home to the largest number of malnourished people in the world’ and ‘more children under the age of five die in India than anywhere else in the world’. It also puts a question on the National Food Security Act, 2013, that ensures access to adequate quantity of quality food at an affordable price to the citizens.

Congress leader Sharmistha Mukherjee expressed, “It is a shocking incident and the most unfortunate is that the family didn’t have any ration card. It is a shame that it happened in the capital city. Since the AAP government came to the power, they drastically cut down ration card holders from 33 lakh to 15 lakh. Is this incident a result of corruption, negligence or insensitivity?”

Both the central and state government is playing the blame game; the Centre is also answerable as they are not implementing the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS),” she added.

The National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) has already issued notices to the Centre and the Delhi government. According to the commission if all the revealed details prove to be true, it ‘raises a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim children’.

Four years have passed since 2014 and it is time when our PM must list down the success ratio of his promises through which he rode to the power — jobs, women’s safety, social harmony, agrarian crisis, foreign policy, defence, environment, internal and external stability — none of these have found the solution. While starvation deaths are happening under the radar in many villages across India (Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh), ’employment growth has been sluggish’ as per a 2016-17 survey by the labour ministry. ‘Make in India’, ‘Skilling India’, ‘Stand-Up India’ has fallen short as the unemployment rate has seen no improvement — 4.9 per cent in 2013-14 and 5 per cent in 2015-16.

Social activist Medha Patkar said, “Even after SC’s decision that no one should remain hungry, we see the order being implemented nowhere in the country including the capital and we can guess the depth of the problem. Implementation of the Public Distribution Scheme is getting difficult as it includes many terms and conditions including the need of Aadhaar Card.”

She went on saying, “Social discrimination is also an important factor and a reform in food distribution system is a must. The responsibility of the administration cannot be ignored as there is no financial security, food security or housing security to many people in the country.”


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