The ranking of India in the Global Hunger Inded (HGI) prepared jointly by Irish charity Concern Worldwide and German organization Wealthhungerhilfe (German for world hunger aid), is both astounding and disturbing. In the study using different parameters - undernourishment, underweight of children below the age of five, undergrowth in children of the same age group and death rate among children - India stands at 102nd place. Our country is thus below Nepal (74) Sri Lanka (66), Bangladesh (88), Myanmar (69) and Pakistan (94). India which stood 95th in 2010, has thus 'dashed' to the 102nd place with the tall claims about development by the government under Narendra Modi into its sixth year. If the entire blame is put on overopulation as is the custom, let us note that the most populous country in the world, China stands at 25. China, which is celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the revolution, is still bearing the burden of 22 crore huger-stricken people. Overall, the only item the prime minister can showcase at national and international platforms is about an India that is free from open defecation. But even in that domain, according to the report in question, India has not achieved creditable gains. It is a pity that the war against hunger - that started right from the time of prime miniser India Gandhi, who declared internal emergency in 1975 and gave the country the slogan of 'gharibi hatao' (Remove Poverty) – is still no where near the goal! Even in Kerala, which we claim as having achieved relatively high economic standards, the hunger-free Kerala target, set in December 2017 , has not yet come to fruition as per latest reports. The scheme, aimed at ensuring at least one meal per day free of cost for those without any income and at concessional rates for others, is reported to have succeeded only in Alappuzha.
The global hunger report cites that 93 per cent of children aged six to 23 months, do not get even the minimum required diet. Pointing this out, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, requested the prime miniser, a bit satirically, to concentrate less on politics and more on the children of the country. But while saying this, he should not have forgotten that his own party had ruled the country for 45 consecutive years and for a decade after an interval. The truth emerging in the balance sheet of five year plans that India is the country with the largest number of hungry people, should open the eyes of every citizen. Although the era of those who claimed to move forward along the socialist path is over, it is not to be forgotten that as per the constitution, India is still a soialist republic.
The rulers, indulging in tall-talk about India being a country with some of the super-affluent of the world, glosses over the fact that ours is a country also of those who sleep their nights in thatched huts, under shop roofs or in streets. The lakhs of crores of rupees gathered by squeezing people, and by disinvesting the last of the public sector undertakings are being spent in launching Chandrayaan unsuccessfully and in constructing imposing statues of epic characters and national leaders. If these policies still continue, in the next year's hunger index India's place is sure to slip further below 102. Even Yemen, a country ravaged by civil war and now lying shattered, ranks above India. Such fact should make us realise how shameful the indifference, laxity and lopsided priorities of our rulers are. Instead of competing with poor countries in the number of children deformed with hunger, what is needed is to evolve and implement viable programmes to transform them into citizens with health, eduation and culture.
Those at the country's wheels now are focused on short-term emotional issues that can win people's applause at the expense of biting problems that hit the people. It takes no scholarship to realize that even if the entire population is forced to call 'Jai Sriram' round the clock and even if it no cow is allowed to die, it will not ensure nutritious food for a single baby. And even if all the men who say triple talaq are put in jail, none of the so-divorced wives will get a guaranteed meal. Even if a Ram temple is built at a cost of thousands of crores of rupees at the same spot where the Babri masjid once stood, will it provide home to a single devotee of Sri Ram? Those who spend their time, energy and resources to whip up xenophobic patriotism and fanatacism to their climax, would do well to find some time to sit back and ponder; then they should subject the economic and development policies to an in-depth reconsideration. Top priority is to be given to make nutiritious food available to children and to better their health. There is no substitute for effective schemes to end unemployment and to enable each citizen to earn wages that can sustain him.