Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Between Hope and Despair (2): Hunger amidst Abundance

I had posted an article by the same title - Between Hope and Despair... a couple of years back... and some vague mental association brought it back today.

Read a news-item Food-shortage forcing children to eat mud today. Some excerpts:

"Under an unusually hot April sun, skinny, hungry children silently poked around on the dusty edges of a stone quarry in Ganne village, 45km east of Allahabad and a 12km walk from the nearest road.

“It tastes like powdered gram, so we eat it,” said Soni, 5, a listless girl with a protruding belly. It’s a learnt experience. Older children such as Soni wait for the excavated moist mud. The younger ones imitate them.

With most families reduced to one or two daily meals of boiled rice and salt—with a watery vegetable on a lucky day—the mud is a free but deadly option at the 20 stone quarries sustaining the poorest villagers.

Eating the mud worsens malnutrition and disease, but these families are not eligible for subsidized food and other state programmes, though each of a family of five earns about Rs400 a month; UP’s official poverty line is Rs435 per person per month."

What an irony, when another news-item informs us: Food grains rotting away in Indian godowns, streets:

"India has godowns to store 16 million tones when it needs almost three times that. What that means is wastage in these times of shortage.

Agricultural scientist Ashok Gulati said, "The total storage capacity is 28 million tonnes .. this leads to losses of 10 – 15%. Translate this into value... that is 6 million tonnes of grains damaged, unfit for human consumption ... it amounts to Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crores annually."

...and one also comes across news-items like these:

along with one like this:

I have experienced this irony in the microcosm of life I live in - the XLRI Campus. Here we have a reasonably well-off educated community, secluded from the rest of the world, and even families of "domestic help" living in the out-houses are much better off than their counterparts elsewhere. Their kids go to schools, play in the campus with other kids, they have TVs at home - some even have air-coolers fitted in their windows....

About two years back, on an early morning, while in my balcony, I saw these two small girls diligently and furtively looking for something from the ground below. I found their innocent seriousness and concentration quite delightful - and trigger-happy as I am, clicked a photograph.

Suddenly they looked up and saw me, and became diffident and apprehensive. When I smiled and asked them what were they looking for, they became slightly relaxed. One of them mentioned a name, and then explained that it is a wild weed. What will you do with that, I asked.

I still remember her matter-of-fact reply, "Amma will cook it for our meal."

just about 100 meters away, in the students' hostel mess, everyday a huge amount of un-eaten food is thrown away, wasted...

As the 12 Myths about Hunger mentions:

"Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,200 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods: vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs- enough to make most people fat! The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food."


lines from confused mind said...

Dear Sir, your observation of things around you, and their interpretation have always been wonderful and I have been trying to learn from them.

Some forms of small plants(weeds as we call them) are extremely nutritious. I remember collecting a type of fern in our backyard, when we used to stay in our village. My mother used to cook great vegetables with it. There are actually some very great green vegetable sources around us which we hardly eat due to lack of proper knowledge( or we are used to consume stuffs bought from market only.:) )

Rajiv Sengupta

madhukar said...

Yes, I think you are right... in fact, I have also eaten some of these exotic 'weeds' in some of the village trips...
but in this case, my hunch was that the kids were not collecting the plants for their nutrition value, but because the family could not afford to buy - though dont know, since I didn't enquire..

Ramki said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sir. I am surrounded by thousands of very well-to-do people and always wondered why people hesitate to do their bit. Everybody seems to be skeptical of how their money is spent (even if it's as little as Rs.100). But, many also want to do something. We need to do something to include more & more people share their wealth ( at least 1% of their income) & work on Health, Hunger, Education and Environment.

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