Why khichdi does not make sense to be India's national dish

Madhuri Danthala
Madhuri DanthalaNov 02, 2017 | 13:28

Why khichdi does not make sense to be India's national dish

No, khichdi is not the national dish of India. If you believed it is going to be declared the national dish - don’t feel too embarrassed because many reputable news portals reported the same on Wednesday, only to sheepishly clarify the mistake in their errata columns by late evening.

The rumour mills were on steroids after the minister for food processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, stated that khichdi will be promoted as a "brand India food" as a global event. She further added that khichdi is a symbol of unity in diversity as it is a wonder staple food eaten across the country by the rich and the poor.


However, in all this melee, what went unnoticed is that one of the main ingredients of khichdi - dal - is often out of reach of the poor. It’s ironic that when India has the largest number of malnourished children in the world, lagging behind even North Korea, (which is crippled by the policy of autarky), public discourse in India is about whether khichdi is or is not the national dish.

News agencies have stopped talking about the pulses scam which resulted in skyrocketing of dal prices in 2015 and moved on to other "stories". Meanwhile, many citizens are unaware about how the prices of essential commodities are sometimes artificially increased as was the case of dal in 2015.

It may seem paradoxical that sometimes farmers demand an increase in the support prices, even as the commodity becomes extremely expensive at the retail outlets. What most people are oblivious about is that there is an inconspicuous, but large and powerful cartel that hoards commodities to create an artificial shortage. For reasons best known to the authorities, such cartels have not been reined in by the government and the possibility of them exploiting the Indian consumers always looms large.


While the middle classes muddle through inflation, it’s the poor who face the brunt of the problem. With nutrition being extremely expensive, a large section of the population becomes unhealthy. It is often said that being poor is expensive. Poor people tend to fall sick and therefore need to visit the hospital which eats into their discretionary incomes. With meagre discretionary income, the spending comes down and hence the demand for goods and services. This leads to a slump in production, thereby reducing the opportunities for employment.

It will, therefore, be prudent on the part of any government to ensure nutrition and health are ensured for the masses so that India’s productivity is maintained. However, forethought doesn’t appear to be an asset of the current government given the precedents it has set. Its penchant for knee-jerk policies and unwillingness to heed criticism has jeopardised the country’s progress.

The government’s confusion and lack of clarity in its policies can be discerned from the changes it makes at regular intervals, like it has done with GST rates or demonetisation. And yet, the government brazenly projects its mistakes as its achievements, in the absence of a strong and principled media.


For instance, on November 8, the government will celebrate the first anniversary of its demonetisation drive as anti-black money day, even though it hasn’t told the country how much black-money has been recovered.

The victory if any, is only pyrrhic, given that the loss to the Indian economy in terms of man-days lost and crisis it pushed further pushed the agrarian and SME sectors into is as yet unfathomed. Post-demonetisation, close to a million-and-a-half jobs were lost and many people’s livelihoods were (and still are) in peril.

Yet, our public discourse hovers around matters like khichdi and jokes about whether we have to consume it standing if it were to be declared the national dish. Should we continue to play into the diversionary tactics of the government/powers that be, they will escape responsibility.

What we need to discuss is economy, environment, corruption, empowerment, rural development, foreign policy, health and myriad other issues that are pertinent to the progress and development of India.

If we don’t question the government, tomorrow we could have a new controversy over the national drink.

And as a quintessential Telugu girl from Guntur, I am rooting for "Gongura mojito". Let’s raise a toast to the quality of public discourse. Cheers.

Last updated: November 03, 2017 | 14:09
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