According to the World Economic Forum, India needs 225-230 million tonnes of food per year to feed its population. In 2016-17, farm output touched a record 273.38 million tonnes.
But, in the national capital of a country that takes pride in being the world's fastest growing economy and achieving surplus farm production, three little girls — aged eight, four and two years — died because they did not get anything to eat.
The stomachs of the girls — eight, four and two years — showed no trace of food. (Source: Twitter)
Doctors, who inspected their little bodies, confirmed that the girls died because they had not eaten for days. "There were no traces of food found in the stomach of the girls," doctors say.
In customary response, the Delhi government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the matter. But inquiries of various kinds — magisterial, police, internal, external, high-level, high-powered — are all gimmicks that establishments in India have been throwing at us to deflect blame, ironically in the garb of fixing blame.
The report may pin accountability on a missing ration card because of which the family could not claim its share of food. The report may pin the blame on the family's migrant status for not having an address proof to apply for a ration card. But the report won't say it in as many words — Indian governments do not care for the poor, beyond pleading for their votes in elections.
Sharad Pawar, during his stint as agriculture minister, had said in Parliament that nearly 40 per cent of the value of annual production was wasted, with crops left to rot in the sun without storage or transportation, or eaten by insects and rats.
Over 70 years after gaining Independence, foodgrain continues to rot in India's fields and outside its cold storages, while doctors ghoulishly look minutely for traces of food in the stomachs of India's poor, dead children.
Looks like rats in India have a better life than the children of the country.
The country's primary procurement agency, the Food Corporation of India (FCI), set up about 50 years ago, continues to sit on mounds of rice and wheat, facing flak over each reported incident of starvation death. But nothing changes.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari has hit out at the state government, saying it is "sad" that such a "mishap" occurred in Delhi where the local government claims to be championing the cause of ration distribution to the poor. The Aam Aadmi Party, which runs the government in Delhi, has blamed the BJP-led central government for not allowing doorstep delivery of ration.
Politics erupts over death of 3 minor girls in Delhi due to starvation #ITVideoMore videos: https://t.co/Nounxo6IKQ pic.twitter.com/nCisu3IQki— India Today (@IndiaToday) July 26, 2018
This script, of one political party hitting out at the other, is the only response governments have to offer each time someone dies of hunger. This cynical rhetorical game is the reason why nothing changes.
Worse, the establishment is often found denying that people even die of hunger. When in 2017, an 11-year-old Jharkhand girl named Santoshi died of starvation, the government claimed she died of illness, notwithstanding the family's claim that it had not been receiving rations for six months before the little girl died.
The same state witnessed a similar hunger-related death in the same year. Sadly, this death also met a similar response. The death of 58-year-old Savitri was attributed to illness, even as villagers confirmed the woman's ration card had been cancelled a few years ago and it was found that there was nothing — just nothing — to eat in her house.
The political establishment is apparently paralysed when it comes to governing the poor. (Source: Reuters)
While it takes death to jolt authorities out of their sleep to spare a few words on why it is possible for someone in this country to die of hunger, this food-surplus country has millions of people sleeping on empty stomachs. As many as 38.4 per cent Indian children under five years have stunted growth, a result of dietary imbalance.
The final cause of death is almost never hunger, but a more immediate ailment, such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, as was also the case in the deaths of the Delhi girls. Children die because they are too weak from hunger, which depletes their bodies of the necessary biological potions that would have staved off these diseases.
The father of the girls, who died in Delhi, is reported to have been a casual labourer, which means there was no guarantee about when the family would have food on its plates. Their mother is reported to have been mentally unstable. More tragically, the political establishment of the country in which they were born — and then died — is apparently paralysed when it comes to governing its poor.
A two-year-old child's unattended agony arising out of acute hunger pangs is India's shame.
It is the failure of those who promised us better days.
We need no magisterial inquiry to prove that.