India has raised and nurtured it’s middle class, fed raisins and saffrons to it’s affluent class, and at the same time astonishingly ignored and dis-empowered the poor class. With a remarkable economic and financial upshot, our nation is counted as a major power when it comes to military might, information technology, generic pharmaceutical industry, e-commerce, manufacturing industry and more. Ironically, at the same time, India is a house to the maximum hungry people in the world, the maximum number of poor citizens, the maximum number of tuberculosis affected people, the maximum number of malnourished children, and the maximum number of migrant labours to Gulf countries or so. We still get to witness stupefying sights of remotely poor children or women lying urban flyovers or construction sites who probably might not have had enough food since days. Here are 5 points that highlight India’s depressing malnutrition:

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Regime change comes with a panoramic transformation in statements as well as actions. MGNREGA has been hailed as an amazing social benefit and employment scheme, although it has failed to raise national assets. It is the ultimate relief to impoverished rural women and farmers who face losses with crops. Yet several national politicians have called for its termination only because it was an initiative by the opposition. When they are incapable of bringing back the billions of stained money, then why objections over the meagre 100 bucks that a poor earns after unbearable efforts of labour? Some say that Economics is what Economists say, and this is precisely what happens in our country where economists are oblivious of us and we are oblivious to them.

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Why is our country advocating inequality? Why is the purchasing power parity limited to the middle class and above? If there is so much scope for Make In India and Digital India, then why does the economic condition of the rural India remain stagnant? If India is an agricultural nation with surplus produce, why are children dying hungry and farmers committing suicide out of penury? If the new government serious with reforms, then where is the change, or if it is to come, who is the custodian of these socio-economic issues? Is the nation harbouring poor? Even with such massive subsidies given to farmers and people below poverty line that causes heated debate at the international platform of WTO, millions sleep hungry. Global reports suggest a grim picture of education, productivity, health and persistent undernourishment in India. Why have we failed?

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Let’s have a look at the diabolical situation of ground reality of one of the world’s largest development programme, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).

#1. Failure of schemes:

It has sustained successfully for decades, yet India has the highest number of malnourished children. The mismatches are huge, the most prominent one being more priority over universalisation and less towards improving the quality of implementation and monitoring. Malnutrition increases susceptibility towards infections and diseases, decrements cognitive growth and disintegrates physical growth, hinders educational attainment and exposes children to morbidity. On a national scale, the loss is being made to the human development and economic returns.

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#2. State statistics:

Some of the most backward states in the matters of undernutrition are Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Furthermore, 12 out of 17 states fall into the ‘alarming’ category when it comes to underweight children. A report of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) headed by Arjun Sengupta, says that about 77% of the population in India continues to live on less than Rs. 20 per capita per diem on an average.

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#3. South Asian Enigma:

You would be surprised to know that our condition is worse than the Sub-Saharan Africa. Popularly known as the ‘South Asian Enigma’, around 30% of Indian babies are born with low birth rates as compared to approximately 16% in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The prime reasons for such beguiling facts are that women in South Asia are inferior in status when it comes to decision making and self-employment, they have less access to resources that can help improve the conditions of health and nutrition, and finally when it comes to hygiene standards and sanitation, South Asia scores less than Africa.

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#4. Micronutrient deficiency:

Mere accomplishment of universalisation goals have fabricated a huge mismatch between the design or objective and the real intention. Important nutrient constituents are often found missing in the diet of the poor causing acute deficiency of those in the body.

Sub-clinical vitamin A deficiency (VAD) can cause xerophthalmia, keratomalacia, blindness, less growth, weakening of immune system, respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections, increases risk of mother to child transmission of HIV and many such physical deformities.

Iron deficiency can cause anaemia, risk of low birth weight or premature delivery in pregnant women, pre-natal or neonatal mortality, fatigue, low growth, intellectual impairment and maternal mortality.

Iodine deficiency causes likelihood to stillbirth, congenital abnormalities, spontaneous abortion, mental impairment, retardation and goitre.

Protein energy malnutrition can cause diarrhoea, pneumonia, underweight children, and intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.

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#5. Can this change?

When everyone is aware about the drawbacks and limitations, can or will steps be taken to make a difference? Will further interventions modify the situation into effective execution and monitoring? It is pathetic to know that social schemes are more beneficial to the rich than the poor. The anganwadis (AWCs) have to be strengthened, consolidated and integrated under effective leadership and commitment. States need to come forward with a more dedicated bureaucracy that can solve simple problems of outreach and social participation. There has to be synergy and collaboration with other programmes, all of them having the same goal of social emancipation. Private sectors need to involved in the delivery, accountability and transparency of these mechanisms. Technology needs to play a greater role at this stage, if we dream of a Digital India. Decentralisation is necessary but it should never go unchecked. The Management Information System has to be tightened with planning and community support.

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