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Superpower aspirations while 21 pc of children waste away

17 October 2017

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDIA: Superpower aspirations while 21 percent of children waste away

With the publication of the 2017 Global Hunger Index Report, it is clear that India’s dreams of becoming a superpower, with world class airports and bullet trains, are all hyperbole. The utopian narrative of modern India overlooks the fact that it is a country that fell three places down to 100 in the 2017 Hunger Index, and 45 places down overall since 2014. It is also a country which has 21 percent of its children wasted, a one-percentage point increase from 1990-1994, when it was at 20. In other words, for nearly 25 years straight, India has failed its children, while moving ahead in other areas.

The government is attempting to suggest that the falling of 45 places is due to the technical reason of International Food Policy Research Institute, and Concern Worldwide adding countries with gross hunger index scores of less than 5 (where hunger is not a problem) to the overall list. And yet, India still fell three places from last year’s rankings. It still has 38.40 percent of its children stunted. It has one of the lowest hunger reduction figures since the Global Hunger Index started ranking countries.

The most distressing aspect is that India is perhaps the only country performing this badly despite having all the means to fight and even eradicate hunger. India is a country with food grain surpluses for over three years, seeing thousands of tonnes of food grain rotting in the go-downs of the Food Corporation due to lack of space and maintenance. The government informed parliament that over 11,889 tonne of food grains rotted in FCI go-downs between between 2015-16, and 2016-17.

India is a country with millions to spend on gigantic statues of leaders. It writes off loans worth billions of dollars given to corporate tycoons every year as Non-Performing Assets. And, it is a country that makes up for that by fund cuts to welfare schemes resulting in starvation deaths of children.

It is thus no wonder that India is behind even Nepal, a landlocked poor country hit by one of the worst earthquakes in history in 2015. Even Bangladesh, far poorer than India, and a victim of annual floods that displace millions, is far ahead of India in saving its children and snatching them out of malnutrition and wasting.

India fails its children not through a lack of resources or schemes, both of which are plentiful. The Supreme Court of India has many a times taken the government to task over its ‘woeful implementation’ of wonderful schemes to tackle child malnutrition. India keeps failing its poor children, one of the most vulnerable sections of society, because of the increasing gap between the poor and the rich, and because watchdogs like the media, turn into cronies of the regime. It will keep failing in eliminating hunger, until hunger gets a political currency of its own, and can shame the political establishment into action. Sadly, with the current government being far more interested in polarizing and divisive issues like the beef ban for hurting religious sentiments, banning eggs in mid-day meals for children, again for the same reason, things do not look like they will improve anytime soon.

# # #

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

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