India's War on Hunger Takes a Back Seat
Calls to "do a Lebanon" to fight terror are being made vociferously by the Indian media as they have focused the national and international attention on Mumbai terrorist attacks that targeted two opulent hotels and a small Jewish center in India's financial capital. The need for war on poverty and hunger has never succeeded in getting the kind of media spotlight in India that now shines on the urge to punish Pakistan for its alleged misdeeds in Mumbai. Meanwhile, the daily death and injury toll from widespread hunger in India continues to be much higher than the tragic results of the murder and mayhem in Mumbai.
Indian author Arundhati Roy recently brought attention to the tale of two Indias and India's real problems in an OpEd piece for the Guardian newspaper in the following words: "On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said "Hungry, kya?" (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities."
Ms. Roy was referring to the hunger index published each year by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute to rank countries based on three leading indicators - prevalence of child malnutrition, rate of child mortality, and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70.
Indian media's headlines about the newly-minted Indian billionaires need to bring sharper focus on the growing rich-poor gap in India. On its inside pages, The Times of India has reported Communist Party leader Sitaram Yechury's as saying that "on the one hand, 36 Indian billionaires constituted 25% of India’s GDP while on the other, 70% of Indians had to do with Rs 20 a day". "A farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes. The gap between the two Indias is widening," he said.
"The major threat of hunger is in 33 countries including India," the IFRI report said, adding that rising food prices pose serious threats for malnourished people in these regions. The report calculated hunger levels for 17 major states in India, representing more than 95 percent of the population. Twelve states fall into the ‘alarming’ category and Madhya Pradesh was reported to have an ‘extremely alarming’ level of hunger. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.
"Despite years of robust economic growth, India scored worse than nearly 25 sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except Bangladesh," the report says.
Can the two major South Asian neighbors get their priorities straight to end terror and mutual conflict to focus on fighting hunger and poverty? I am hoping and praying that they do.
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India's Republic of Hunger
Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor emphasizes that India is ready for a “the successful firming-up of the cold start strategy (to be able to go to war promptly) in the multiple fronts against multiple different militias at the same time.”
The plan is a full thrust assault into multiple anomies at the same time with massive Air Force superiority. If attacked by Pakistan and china at the same time, India will launch self-contained and highly-mobile `battle groups'', with Russian-origin T-90S tanks and upgraded T-72 M1 tanks at their core, adequately backed by far superior air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into enemy territory within 96 hours.
India plans to end the war decisively within the first 96 hours forcing the other sides into a fast submission of ceasefire.
People’s Liberation Army is aware of the capacities of Indian Army and Air Force. It will be exactly opposite of 1962 war. That is why they are busy building massive infrastructure in the Indian border areas especially in Aksai Chin and Tibet.
The real war in that scenario will be between India and China while Pakistan will be used by China to create adequate disturbance for Indian Military.
That is the reason why Lt-General A S Lamba of Indian Army is so keen a massive thrust into Rawalpindi to quiet Pakistanis within 48 hours of the start of assault.
India’s biggest advantage is the its software capabilities in integrating signal intelligence with ground intelligence. India will use algorithmic seek and scan technology to counter the Chinese threats in the North and possible Pakistani nuclear threat in the West.
India is focused on integrating its Navy, Army and Air Force into an integrated command and Control system completely controlled and dominated by the superior software algorithms that can prove deadly in the war front.
As more and more reports of the global financial meltdown are pouring in, digest this. It made the world scurry to a grim one billion hungry people, a fact perceived as a grave threat to global peace and security. The UN estimates that hunger now affects one in six people, compounded by factors such as war, drought or floods, high food prices and poverty. Most of the hunger in a world of plenty results from grinding, deep-rooted poverty.
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are 100 million more hungry people this year, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day. A spokesman of the World Food Programme said hungry people rioted in at least 30 countries last year, leading to, most notably, deadly riots in Haiti sparked off by soaring food prices to spiral into the overthrow of the prime minister.
“A hungry world is a dangerous world,” he said, “without food, people have only three options: They riot, they emigrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options.” Are not the Kalahandi district of Orissa and Lalgarh of West Bengal illustrative examples of the observation?
Commentators note that in the 1990s, when India began to move towards a free market, the Naxalite movement revived in some of the poorest and most populous Indian states. Part of the reason for this is that some livelihood and living-related issues like agriculture, public health, education and poverty-eradication have been given a short shrift, exposing large sections of the population to disease, debt, hunger and starvation. The Indian state is conspicuously absent in most backward areas of the country.
Notwithstanding plaudits such as Thomas Friedman celebrating India as a success story of globalisation, it must be put on record that India has a terrible record in tackling hunger and malnutrition. Amartya Sen has repeatedly pointed out how the ‘very poor’ in India get a small share of the cake that information technology and related developments generate.
India ranked 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries, as per a report released by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
India has the highest number of undernourished people in the world — 230 million — added to which 1.5 million children are at risk of becoming malnourished because of rising global food prices.
The report of the UN World Food Programme is quite unflattering. More than 27 per cent of the world’s undernourished population lives in India, of whom 43 per cent children (under five years) are underweight. The figure is higher than the global average of 25 per cent and even beats sub-Saharan Africa’s figure of 28 per cent. Nearly 50 per cent of child deaths in India occur due to malnutrition.
“In no case should we allow citizens to go hungry,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admirably said in a meeting of state chief secretaries to take stock of the drought-like conditions in parts of the country. He seemed to be aware that non-utilisation of funds by a few states under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and National Food Security Mission, the two major schemes for the agriculture sector launched by the Centre, is another factor why, despite the element of goodwill, the target beneficiaries remain outside the loop of development.
The National Food Security Act of the UPA government is a step in the right direction as it envisages food-security-for-all. But the task of expanding our public distribution system must also take into account weeding out bogus cardholders and hoarders, while a stricter vigil has to be kept on both the quantity and quality of the available foodstock under PDS. Incorrect information, inaccurate measurement of household characteristics, corruption and inefficiency must be plugged.