Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Failing India

India’s place in the Global Hunger Index compiled by IFPRI fell from 83 in 2000 to 97 in 2016, with India scoring even lower than its much poorer neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal.

What does a low ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) indicate? It means firstly that too high a proportion of India’s people (around 15 percent) are under-nourished. It means that too many children under the age of five (15 percent) are wasting, reflected in low weights for their heights. And too many are stunted (a shameful 39 percent), meaning that their bodies are adjusting to chronic low nutrition by becoming shorter for their ages. And finally it means that too many children (4.8 percent) die before reaching the age of five years, because of the fatal cocktail of too little nutritious food and highly unhealthy environments.

It is important to remember that what for the scholar is ‘under-nutrition’ is for people who live with this condition the anguish of being unable to feed oneself or one’s loved ones, of reduced physical and mental capacities, and of succumbing to infections that they would have been able to fight if they were well-nourished. Stunting and wasting means that the bodies and minds of millions of our children are being starved into feebleness. Under-five mortality means the agony of millions of mothers and fathers who are helpless as they lose their children only because of their dirt-poverty.

A low GHI ranking divulges that compared to other countries, governments are simply doing too little to prevent this enormous and entirely preventable suffering of millions of impoverished citizens. And the silence of the government about these continued failings can only mean that it is not stirred or shamed by this report-card, that there is still little urgency to alter the destinies of India’s poorest majorities, rural, slum-based, informal workers, women, tribal, Dalit, minority, disabled groups, aged people, single women, and above all children from all these groups.

India’s failures to reduce and end hunger, poor health and early deaths, resulting in immense suffering of millions of its people, is even more unconscionable because all of this is preventable. India has the food production, the levels of growth, the economic resources and the state capacities that it requires if it resolves to make hunger history. Countries which have overtaken India often lack many of these advantages. India’s failures are not inevitable. They are the direct result of its public policy priorities and choices: its market fundamentalism and its refusal to invest adequately in the nutrition, education, social protection and health of its people.  India’s food producers constitute its largest ranks of the hungry and malnourished. For a sector that gives work to around 55 percent of the population, government invests less than 4 percent of public resources. Even within this small investment, the overwhelmingly large mass of the rain-fed small peasant are most neglected. India’s failure to ensure decent work to nearly nine of its ten workers trapped in informal work also explains India’s losing hunger battle. The historical inequities of gender, caste, tribe and religious minorities further aggravate those created by inequalities of wealth.
 India’s disgraceful hunger record include also its investment of just a little over 1 percent of GDP in public health, lower than most countries of the world; and its chronic miscarriages in securing sanitation and clean water to all its populations. Downstream we see continuing chronic under-resourcing and corrupt implementation of important food and nutrition programmes such as the ICDS and school meals, the public distribution system, pensions for older persons, single women and the disabled, and maternity benefits.
End world poverty by contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,