Republic of Hunger
Despite the high economic growth, India has the highest proportion of malnourished children in the world. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and others gathered at IIT Delhi to discuss the Food Security Bill
Akash Bisht Delhi
The jam packed Dogra auditorium of IIT Delhi was a testimony to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s popularity amongst students, teachers, activists, economists, among others who had congregated to hear him talk on the Food Security Bill. Organised by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi, the panel discussion, Food and Nutrition: Time to Act, focused on the Food Security Bill and whether it would make any difference to the millions of malnourished children in India. The other panelists included Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Montek Singh Ahluwalia; Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR); Shyama Singh of NREGA Sahayata Kendra, Jharkhand and Reetika Khera of IIT Delhi, who also moderated the discussion.
In his presentation, Professor Amartya Sen said that as an Indian citizen he wants a political change not so much in the nature of the parties but whether they are doing enough in what they ought to do. “The extent of the health care crisis inIndiais very appalling and what is striking is how little attention it gets in media in comparison to everything else …it is a matter of concern that some people have it and others don’t. So, this is a major issue to understand equality.”
He added, “I think we have to really integrate the fact that we know something about human capabilities and that depends on the care with which children are fed and educated. And not only that but also how mothers are fed. So we have to take a broad based view about human capabilities for the sake of social justice and well-being.”
Before Prof Sen’s arrival, Shyama Singh from Jharkhand, shared her experiences about the several welfare schemes and their implementation. She spoke about the irregularities in various government-sponsored schemes including MGNREGS, Aanganwadi and PDS in Jharkhand. Recounting her experiences, she said that the poor villagers are being duped by contractors and government officials and also alleged that two activists were killed by the contractor mafia after they exposed corruption in the MGNREGS. She also exposed several anomalies in the implementation of these schemes and how poor villagers were struggling to access these government sponsored benefits.
Shantha Sinha of NCPCR then narrated hard hitting facts on malnutrition and said, “It’s a matter of great shame that we have been able to send a satellite but haven’t been able to reach out to the hungry and malnourished children in our neighbourhoods.” She mentioned that 46 per cent of the children in the country are malnourished, 60 million below the age of 5 are underweight and 67 per cent of pre school deaths are attributed to malnourishment.