The recently released Global Hunger Index (GHI) by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) once again exposes the very tragic condition of our people. India has been ranked a low 97th among the 118 countries surveyed in the 2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI).
The GHI is calculated by taking into account four indicator parameters. They are (i) Undernourished population (insufficient calorie intake) (ii) Child wasting (low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition) (iii) Child stunting (low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition) (iv) Infant mortality rate (mortality of children under five). The first and last indicators are given one-third weight, while child wasting and child stunting are accorded weights of one-sixth each to arrive at the score for any country. Thus, a higher score means a higher hunger level.
India has scored 28.5 on a 0-100 point scale of the index. This is definitely a very pathetic situation. This condition of chronic hunger is very evident in both rural and urban India. A majority of the working population in the cities and in the country side clearly show visible evidence of malnutrition - under-weight and stunting.
While every government that comes to power dishes out newfangled slogans about lifting people out of the abysmal state of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and announces this or that program allegedly aimed at the same, the harsh reality of our country is that crores of our people go to bed hungry day after day. This is a severe indictment of the ruling bourgeois class, and the course that it has pursued and is pursuing. This state of the Indian bourgeoisie is simply not interested and is incapable of providing for even the most basic needs of the people. The ruling class must take full responsibility that after nearly 70 years, people are still living in such poverty, without means of decent livelihood, unable to feed their children, watching them die of disease and starvation.
The economy is oriented to ensure maximum profit for the minority of bourgeoisie at the expense of the impoverishment of the majority of people. Such an orientation cannot provide for the people at the same time. The capitalist system is responsible for the growing disparity between rich and poor. On the one hand the biggest capitalists pride themselves on being counted amongst the richest people in the world, while the large majority of working families do not have nutritious food to eat. There is no guarantee of livelihood for the majority – lakhs of small and landless peasants in the country side and the working population in the crowded slums and tenements of the cities - barely eke out a living. Faced with soaring prices of essential goods, families simply cannot afford nutritious food.
The course pursued by the ruling class over the past 25 years of globalization through privatization and liberalization has been accompanied by the dismantling of whatever institutions that had been established in the earlier period to allegedly combat poverty and malnutrition. This includes the dismantling of even the limited public distribution system that existed. It is an anti-social course.
In the name of combatting hunger and malnutrition, the ruling class has launched one government scheme after another as if these are solutions to the problems of poverty, hunger and unemployment. These schemes make no dent in the problems faced by the people, because they do not touch the source of the problems — the capitalist system.
The ICDS scheme which was launched more than 40 years ago to purportedly end hunger and malnutrition stands as an example of the bourgeoisie’s fraud. This is nowhere more evident than in the treatment of the Anganwadi Worker. She is the principal worker in the ICDS scheme, who is expected to run the Anganwadi centre, to take care of the children, the pregnant women and lactating mothers. But the government does not regard her as a worker; she is paid a pittance of Rs.3000 per month as honorarium! Anganwadi workers have gone on struggle countless times, demanding a living wage and all benefits due to a worker. But successive governments have paid no heed. How can she ensure nutrition for her own children on this meagre amount?
The launching of the NREGA by the previous UPA government to provide 100 days of employment to rural people who had no other source of livelihood, was itself an indictment of the system. Over the past few years, successive droughts in vast regions of the country, together with the growing ruination of peasants, has led to an ever increasing number of rural poor demanding work under the NREGA. Now, the current NDA government has sent a circular to the states that it will cap the money it spends on paying these workers. In other words, the state governments have been told that they cannot offer even this pittance of 100 days employment at minimum wages to the rural poor. This same ruling class can spend thousands of crores of peoples monies on buying sophisticated weapons for war. It can write off tens of thousands of crores of rupees of debt incurred by the biggest monopolies to the state run banking institutions and transfer this burden onto the backs of the people.
The course being pursued by the big bourgeoisie is to intensify the exploitation of workers and the robbery of peasantry, as part of making India an attractive destination for Indian and foreign capitalists. The conditions of the working class and toiling peasantry are going from bad to worse as a result.
In the meanwhile, the Indian state has signed on to several UN programs – Millennium Development Goals and now the Sustainable Development Goals. This is the hypocrisy of the Indian bourgeoisie – to set goal posts that it has no intention of ever reaching, and then shifting the goal posts. The latest SDG goal is to eliminate hunger by 2030!
The fact is that good food of adequate quantity, basic health services, water & sanitation and education are not guaranteed as inviolable rights in this system. The orientation of the economy has to be fundamentally changed from being capital-centric to human centric. The present state of the bourgeoisie needs to be replaced with a state of workers and peasants that will reorient the economy to ensure prosperity and security for all. Only then can India end the scourge of hunger and malnutrition.