Surely, the aam aadmi government must attend to this problem as the first and foremost priority!
If we write angrily, then, readers might imagine we write politics! No, we don’t write politics, we write the truth!
Is truth politics or politics can ever become truth? That is the dilemma!
There is now a severe drought and the monsoons are delayed. Of course not much can be done by a government as far as nature’s playing truant is concerned.
So, we, like the Prime Minister”s Office, might have to simply wait and pray or curse the goods!
Now, there is this horrible news and pictures, visuals on the TV news channels about the severely malnourished children in the three or four districts of Madhya Pradesh. The visuals are very unsettling and the news about the deaths was simply unbearable.
What the highest and the mighty are doing?
Who asks these questions?
The print media is not exposing enough of this happening in the very heartland of India.
News channels do one great service, their exposures have an immediate impact on the viewers and their impact reaches everyone, including the ministers in Delhi.
But then, why there is no response, immediate or delayed from the concerned authorities?
So, malnourished children and their horrible deaths are now the hot news and they must be.
Let us hope the PMO would respond immediately.
Before we go over to the real constraints for the government, even the well-intentioned men and women at the Delhi’s plush offices are caught up by this horrible news, let us see what the malnourished children status everywhere is.
As per the FAO estimates that there are more than one fourth of India’s one billion people are undernourished, their number increasing to 230.5 million in 2003-05 from 199.9 million in 1995-97.
In a study published in the EPW by the well-known and well-admired Jean Dreze and others (Dreze is an enthusiast of the rural employment scheme for the new comers of this column), the population of India, of which 74 per cent of them has a per capita daily calories of consumption which is below the minimum norm of 2,100 kilocalories for urban areas and 2,400 kilocalories for rural areas.
There are more statistics and though statistics is sometimes quite boring we have to have this figures so that our complacent ministers might get some mental disturbance!
The finance ministry’s Expert Group (we have so many experts groups and we don’t know on date where the PM’s so many experts groups are now and whether they have been discontinued and the money saved or not, this particular expert group studied the agricultural indebtedness (anyone interested in such questions, anymore?), this group reported in July 2007, noted agriculture which provides livelihood for all of us (right?), there is an ironically growing hunger in the rural areas!
Yes, the food producers are the hungry people as well!
Even the farm households with upto 4 hectares (I am, mind you, quoting here an expert and a consultant to the FAO itself!), these households can’t earn enough from farming to meet the basic consumption needs!
More than 80 per cent of India’s farmers own less than 2 hectares each!
So, you can imagine the rural realities!
So, when a complacent government talks of aam aadmi, what credibility you would attach to such talks?
So, the new government has promised to offer you and me good governance? Then, what the government would do first?
To ensure the poor and the majority in the rural areas to get their basic needs?
So, enters Sonia Gandhi now, the latest hot news is that she chose to write to the Prime Minister to ensure the food security act, the minimum 35 kg at Rs.3 each.
Is she taking a leaf from the TN Chief Minister Karunanidhi to give free rice, almost as a sort of taking the ration rice and distributing free for whoever comes to take it?
No, there must still be a sort of order, a certain norms of basic common sense and the cheap food grains must really reach the most deserving.
Is this likely to happen?
There are so many administrative and logistical problems.
There are highly questionable practices by the states, in TN; there is a great deal of bogus ration cards distributed.
To get a ration card in India is the most difficult and complicated of administrative hassles!
A ration card is a man’s own identity and even a sense of self-dignity.
So, the free rice scheme will surely test Manmohan’s widely kept secret, he is a capable of administrator or a great deliverer of his promises!
Now, back to the main highway of truth!
According to the expert group report, the much talked about liberalisation-driven free market economic reforms hadn’t reached one critical sector. What is it?
It is the biggest sector. Namely, the agriculture sector where this endemic poverty, endemic hunger and the shame of all shames, the currently reported hunger by death by the malnourished Indian children! A tragedy? What else?
But do hear the anguished cries of these children or their households?
Very unlikely, given the mindset, the media conspiracy and the sycophants around the centres of power, in Delhi and in the state capitals.
Now, agriculture sector is not growing, right?
Yes, the farm output in the 1990s grew at 1.16 per cent annually, slower than the yearly population growth of 1.9 per cent, marking return to the situation of the 1970s.Now, the FAO says that the combined decline or stagnation or even decline of the agri sector also marks the FAO observation, though it might look paradoxical, that in India there is a stagnating per capital food availability, at about 2,400 kilocalories per day since the 1990s.
This observation of course goes or must go against the common sense political observers.
There is so much populist politics; the very current election also saw the populist politics winning the votes.
In TN, in AP even in Bihar and UP and Orissa and MP we saw well-governed states won elections and in all these states there is this sort of populist schemes, from free rice,free3 power to what else even free colour TV sets and yet we see the tragedy of malnourished deaths of children.
The NREGP is said to have won the last elections for the Congress party, right?
So, now a free food scheme, a food security act and the distribution of grains and funds to the states might ensure a continuation of the rule of the Congress party?
That is a subject that must be interested and must be debated.
Rural India is still a complex picture, indeed.
To understand and make people safe from very many challenges would call for a much deeper vision and a deeper commitment.
Panchayat raj institutions must be made to work more systematically. May be food grains distribution must be done though some such PPP models.
Food is not just economics. It is also politics, it is also about power, empowering people, empowering people to share their freedoms and there is also a sense of citizenship and it is a very long process and a deeply moving concept, this empowering of the people, empowering of the individuals.