According to the Planning Commission, the body-mass index and height-by-weight ratio of Indians have remained unchanged over the last 25 years. This is a severe indictment of our policies on food production and food access. An India that ranks at the bottom of the world’s Hunger Index has not been able to better the lot of its poor in any significant way. Yet the number of dollar millionaires in the country has risen to over 153,000 and the fastest rate of growth of High Net Worth individuals is to be found in India. That means Indians are getting rich faster than any other people. Unfortunately, it is also the country where poverty and hunger is increasing alarmingly so that today India is home to the largest number of hungry people in the world.
How long will this situation last? How long will the hungry keep quiet? Not long by the looks of things. The rapid spread of armed violence, with or without ideological underpinnings, is threatening to rock the country’s boat. Several districts are ungovernable because the enraged masses who have been denied the basic needs have taken to the gun and routinely kill security forces who are sent to establish the authority of the state. In these parts, the state has no authority . Hunger and poverty have broken that authority into pieces and thrown the pieces away.
Fertile lands are being acquired by thugs in the name of industrial estates, allegedly for industrial growth but factories that would give employment cannot be spotted. As farmers abandon farming, the government looks on, finding ways to pamper the elite of this country even as farm families edge closer to the borders of survival. When there was story some years ago about hungry people in Odisha, eating mango kernels ( they are bitter, by the way), our sensitive lot argued that it was a culturally accepted food. People were not eating mango kernels because they had nothing else to eat , they said, but because they like to eat these kernels.
As rivers in Chhattisgarh are given to private companies and Coca Cola acquires priority access to the waters in Plachimada, the dispossessed fume and vow to take revenge for this neglect. The sounds of guns and grenades can be heard in the Hindi heartland where the silence of the plough tilling the land should be or the songs of women threshing the grain.