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HomeEditorialThousands of Indians die of hunger every day

Thousands of Indians die of hunger every day

Three girls — aged eight, four and two years recently died in Delhi after succumbing to starvation. These children had died of malnourishment. On one hand our PM is shouting “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” and ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ kind of slogans and on the other hand, Delhi CM has always emphasised on children’s welfare but such cases of poverty have gone unnoticed. We celebrated World Health Day this year, it is imperative to think back on the many reports we continue to see on children’s deaths due to malnutrition. Despite India’s 50 per cent increase in GDP since 1991, more than one-third of the world’s malnourished children live in the country. Among these, half of the children under three years old are underweight and a third of the wealthiest children are over-nutriented. One of the major causes of malnutrition in India is economic inequality. People are seeking reservation in the name of caste, creed, and community but economically underprivileged citizens irrespective of any community needs reservations. Due to the low social status of some population groups, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. Women who suffer from malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. Even after 70 years of independence, our country could not fight poverty; many governments have come and gone, but the situation remains the same.

Deficiencies in nutrition inflict long-term damage to both individuals and society. Compared to their better-fed peers, nutrition-deficient individuals are more likely to have infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which lead to a higher mortality rate. In addition, nutrition-deficient individuals are less productive at work. Low productivity not only gives them low pay that traps them in a vicious circle of under-nutrition but also brings inadequacy to the society, especially in India where labour is a major input factor for economic production. On the other hand, over-nutrition also has severe consequences. In India, national obesity rates in 2010 were 14 per cent for women and 18 per cent for men with some urban areas having rates as high as 40 per cent. Obesity causes several non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. It is generally caused to those people who can afford to eat several meals but not much physical work. Exactly opposite is the starvation, a person works for hours but his income is not enough to feed his children a one-time meal.

Sorrowfully, approximately 45 per cent of child deaths can be attributed to various forms of malnutrition; in India, about 50 per cent of deaths in children under five years of age is due to malnutrition. Hence, it is time we introspect on the reasons as to why we are still unable to curb this menace, once and for all. Around 21 per cent of all children, fewer than 5 years of age, suffer from slaughter in India. In Mumbai, equal to or more than 15 per cent wasting levels in children are considered to be critical. This situation calls for collective efforts involving all the stakeholders to reduce severe acute malnutrition with particular reference to wasting in the city. There are 820 million chronically hungry people in the world.

1/3rd of the world’s hungry live in India. 836 million Indians survive on less than Rs 20 per day. Over 20 crore Indians sleep hungry every night.

Over 7,000 Indians die of malnutrition every day. Over 25 lakh Indians die of starvation every year. The number of starved people in India is always more than the number of people below the official poverty line. Solutions matter more than the statistics as long as there is not a single hunger death. The Central and state government should stop the blame game and collectively address such issues. What is the use of digital India, metros and much more when a large number of population is dying of hunger?

India is still diseased with the alarming issue of hunger and deaths due to hunger. In fact, the country’s rank dropped to 100th position in Global Hunger Index 2017. The numbers are staggering, to say the least. Many government initiatives and non-government organisations are working towards solving this issue but a lot is yet to be done and I believe we will overcome this issue if only we unite and start doing something about it. India, with a population of over 1.2 billion, has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades. Gross Domestic Product has increased 4.5 times and per capita consumption has increased three times. Similarly, food grain production has increased almost two times. However, despite phenomenal industrial and economic growth, while India produces sufficient food to feed its population, it is unable to provide access to food to a large number of people, especially women and children. As per The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015 report, 194.6 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure, India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Also 51 per cent of women between 15 to 59 years of age are anaemic and 44 per cent of children under 5 are underweight. Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. The Global Hunger Index 2014 ranks India at 55 out of 76 countries on the basis of three leading indicators – the prevalence of underweight children under 5 years, under 5 child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population. On the other hand, it is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of the fruits and vegetables, and 20 per cent of the food grains that are produced are lost due to inefficient supply chain management and do not reach the consumer markets. The issue is not going to be resolved by blaming Arvind Kejriwal or his government. BJP needs to pull up their socks and also we the citizens, who can afford to spare a few meals, should come forward to feed those hungry unprivileged fellow Indians. Together we can bring some change!

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Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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