For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)
For representational purposes (File Photo | PTI)

Can a stunted population drive development?

As for our media, it’s more interested in a Bihar-born actor, his girlfriend and her brother.

So India is in the ‘serious’ category on the Global Hunger Index. No surprises there. There’s dismal relief only in the fact that 94th out of 107 countries is a notch better than previous years—a slow, dispiriting crawl, and below our entire neighbourhood. Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan, though also in GHI 2020’s ‘serious’ bracket, have done better than India—at ranks 75, 78 and 88. Sri Lanka and Nepal are in the ‘moderate’ zone.

India, heartbreakingly, has the world’s highest ratio of malnourished children under age five … a steady decline since 2015. One shudders to think what the pandemic and food inflation would have done to the figures—which is to say, to millions of adult and young Indians. Criminally, India has no shortage of food. All the ballyhoo about ‘targeted’ welfare— supplying cereals via a biometric-based PDS—clearly seems to be achieving the opposite of what’s intended. Too many Indian women (including pregnant women) and children are obviously not getting adequate protein, fat and cereals. All of which should be made available at nominal prices, come what may, to ensure that 14% of India is not undernourished, that 37.4% of our children under five are not stunted. Not much guessing to do on where people are worst off: Bihar, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Jhakhand.

Can a ‘development’ model built around roads and power, rather than food security, be meaningful? Can a stunted, undernourished population be employed, upskilled and drive ‘development’? No, such questions never cross our mind. We have an election in one of these hubs of poverty. That we are starving our children is not a talking point for any of the political parties contesting the polls. If forced to field the question, they would rather challenge the parameters of the rankings. As for our media, it’s more interested in a Bihar-born actor, his girlfriend and her brother.

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