10/16/2007, 00.00
INDIA

Development not stopping hunger, more than 400 million Indians malnourished

by Nirmala Carvalho
The International Food Policy Research Institute shows that 40 per cent of the world’s underweight children under five live in India. Add disadvantaged groups like the poor and women who have a hard time feeding themselves and you get 400 million people. Priests and activists point the finger at corruption and bad governance.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Industrial development, tax reforms and entrepreneurship are not enough to overcome malnutrition. India may be the second fastest growing economy in the world but it still has a long way to go in eradicating hunger where it is ranked in 94th position well behind neighbouring China and Pakistan, which are 47th and 88th respectively, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reported.

In a recent study the IFPRI points out that whatever improvement India has achieved it is not in proportion to its economic boom and that it is children who suffer the most. In fact, 40 per cent of the world’s underweight children under five live in India. Add to them disadvantaged groups like the poor and women who have a hard time at feeding themselves and you reach the figure of 400 million people.

According to Fr Nithiya Sagayam, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice, Peace and Development, these figures “are nothing new but sadly confirm what we already knew.”

The growing economy and industrial development have replaced agriculture, which gave hope for development in large rural areas of India,” he said. “The cities are now eating whilst farming villages go hungry.”

For Father Sagayam corruption is another major problem. “It is endemic in the government apparatus. Whatever programme it launches, it fails. This explains why we have corrupt public officials who steal funds or manage them on behalf of family and friends. The poor are not represented or defended by anyone.”

Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, agrees. “Government policies seem anti-poor. Government welfare schemes are dominated by caste and corruption. This does not allow for the development of society, but only of a few strata,” he told AsiaNews.

“India is a pseudo-democracy,” he laments. “Projects are announced but never implemented. Special Economic Zones, farm policies, public procurement are destroying the lives of ordinary people. The conditions of the masses is tragic. In this situation the Indian government must intervene with force.”

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