Malnutrition – a disturbing picture of rural India.

“Our lives begin to end, the day we keep silent on the issues that matter”- Sir Martin Luther King

So, here I am, writing (just writing for now) on an issue that matters a lot to me, perhaps not to our leaders in Parliament and neither to the bureaucratic babus. Maybe it’s just another socio-political issue for us but it’s a matter of life and death for the people who live with it every day in our country.

The day I saw the picture of the child eating mud to satiate her hunger (Uttar Pradesh) or  the little girl carrying two water pots on her head to her home 3-4 kms away (Vidarbha, Maharashtra) or a malnourished kid in his mother’s arms (Madhya Pradesh) – a question popped up in my mind. How can I help them?

The very next moment I wondered: did this question ever occur to the people who are “actually” there to help them? Don’t these people have a soul? Answers to these questions are best known to the people concerned. But somehow we all know that it’s just a matter of doing one’s “duty” towards those who have little means, but still have some hope of help from those in power.

A big challenge

Malnutrition, “a national shame” as declared by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, is one of the biggest challenges facing our country today. But what is his government and its officials doing to meet this challenge? Probably nothing, as one-third of the world’s undernourished or malnourished population constitutes Indian children.

The UN defines malnutrition as ”a state in which an individual can no longer maintain bodily capacities such as growth, learning abilities, physical work, resisting and recovering from diseases, pregnancy and lactation”. And it’s a shame that a poor Indian child perfectly fits this definition. Despite the booming Indian economy  that the government boasts about every now and then, around 80% of India’s population is poor and lives on less than $2 a day.

One thing that should be noted here is that healthcare is one of the thrust areas of the National Common Minimum Programme. It’s a different issue that the government spends only 0.9% of its GDP on public health! One might say that the government – both at the Centre and at the State level – has the good “intention” of reforming the state of health in the country but how ‘good’ it is everybody can see. A number of schemes/programmes have been launched and are operating throughout the country, somewhere on the ground, and somewhere virtually on the ground.

The root of the problem and the task ahead

The basic problem lies with implementation, accountability, co-ordination among various government departments and, above all, not possessing a sense of morality. Once our so-called elected representatives and bureaucratic babus actually realize this, perform their “duty” and control their lust for money; no one will ever go hungry to their beds and no grain, that can fill millions of empty stomachs, will be left to rot.

It’s ironic, and at the same time painful, to see that the ones who produce don’t have enough to feed themselves. It’s everybody’s right to live with dignity .The task of uplifting the indigent population and making their lives” worth living” might take some time but isn’t unattainable. Mahatma Gandhi truly said,“There are people in the world so hungry, God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” And it’s a sin to keep a soul away from its God. Hope our leaders, too, recognize this soon and rather than taking that extra interest in cricket, pay some attention to the rotting food stocks in granaries that could fill the stomachs of so many hungry people across the country.

Anumeha Saxena

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