[Reader-list] Reg: Set - 2

Rakesh Iyer rakesh.rnbdj at gmail.com
Wed Jun 16 22:16:58 IST 2010


Today's set of articles are in this thread.

Theme: Right to Food

Source: Tehelka

Date: *From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 17, Dated May 01, 2010*



*Eating Disorder*

*SHRIYA MOHAN** uncovers shocking tales of tribals battling hunger and
starvation in the heartlands of Madhya Pradesh*

TODAY MAUSAM will not eat. There is just enough wheat flour left for three
rotis but she stretches the dough thin to make four. She grinds a chutney of
raw green chillies with salt and spreads it on each roti — one roti each for
her two, three, five and sixyear- old. They eat slowly and despite the
struggle to swallow the spice, waste no morsel. The bread it covers is the
only solid food they will get for the next day. They finish in a few minutes
— mouths on fire and stomachs numb. Hunger has vanished. The chillies have
served their purpose. Water will fill the rest of their stomachs. One more
day has passed. Mausam has to wait until her husband returns from town with
wages to buy this month’s food grains from the ration store.

Currently, in the power corridors of the Union government, debates rage
about the National Food Security Act. As per the provisions of the Act,
families living below the government-defined poverty line will be provided
25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 per kg. There are however sharp
disagreements on the net pool of people who should qualify for the food
subsidies and if the alloted 25 kg of grains will prove to be sufficient for
the family.

Consider the case of Madhya Pradesh — the state often billed as starvation
central of India, where hundreds of thousands of Mausams scrape through each
day not knowing if there will be food tomorrow. For at least a fifth of
Madhya Pradesh, comprising 46 Scheduled Tribes, the state is the powerful
sun whose light and warmth never touches the darkness that envelopes them.

Of these, four specific tribes, forming nearly 20 percent of the total ST
population, are the most impoverished, faring the lowest in all the human
development indicators — the Baiga, Korku, Mawasi and Saharia. Most live in
inaccessible terrains where government schemes are fractured and
‘development’ still an unknown word. Every year, malnutrition affects their
children, taking away their childhood and very often, their lives
altogether. Even today, the Baiga and Korku children fill their stomachs
only with paige, the simplest and coarsest possible soup.

In 2010, a report published by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, a human
rights organisation with a General Consultative status with the United
Nations Economic and Social Council, stated that 71.4 percent of tribal
children in Madhya Pradesh are malnourished. The figures pose pressing
questions to the state. How has Madhya Pradesh really dealt with its tribal
population in the face of new development and wildlife conservation
projects? What is the root cause of malnutrition — is it a lack of proper
government schemes, an unsustainable source of income, poor agriculture or
abysmal healthcare facilities? Can the state conceive of an inclusive policy
where the tribal population contributes to its development, instead of being
hand-held to even pass the basic benchmark of survival?

Over the next four weeks, TEHELKA will unravel how malnutrition operates in
the most desperate tribal hamlets of rural Madhya Pradesh. The series will
cover the Baigas of Dindori, Mandla and Balaghat, once known as the lords of
the jungle; the Korkus tribe in Khandwa whose ancestors believe themselves
to be descendants of the mythical Ravana; the Mawasis of Satna, a tribe who
served as guards for native rulers in Central India and finally the Saharias
of Shivpuri, traditional hunters who were inseparable from the wild jungles
of Madhya Pradesh. While some are battling hunger as a direct consequence of
being displaced from core forestland, others are exchanging food for money
by cultivating cash crops. What unites them all is that constant vacuum
throbbing inside the stomachs of their young ones, impairing their growth,
stunting their minds and snatching away their lives.

Victor Agauayo, nutrition chief, UNICEF India, says, “If severe acute
malnutrition is not controlled within the first two years of birth, then the
impact on physical and mental growth is irreversible. Right now, 12,60,000
severely malnourished children in Madhya Pradesh are strapped to live time
bombs. The state has to make a quick choice: will it reach out to save them
or be a silent spectator as their tiny shrivelled up bodies are piled up to
merely be counted for yet another report?

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