India to face a chronic state of famine: Binayak Sen
"Large sections of the Indian population are in a chronic state of famine today. This is a shocking revelation which has major implications on the health of our nation." said Binayak Sen, an Indian pediatrician, public health specialist and human rights activist.
A UN report in 2008 had revealed that India is progressing well in education and showing consistency in economic growth but its progress is getting downplayed due to poor child health conditions. India has reached 2012 however the state has not changed much.
Today 47 percent of the children aged below five are underweight and are malnourished under considerations of weight for age. One-third of our newborns are malnourished at birth. Sen pointed out that malnourishment at birth contributed significantly to problems during adult life.
About 2,500 poverty stricken children in India die every day due to malnutrition. This figure was brought to the notice of Supreme Court in a case in April 2011. Around 8.8 lakh children die every year due to malnutrition of the total child deaths of 17.8 lakh. In India, 2.4 crore children are born each year of which 17.8 lakh die because of different reasons before they cross the age of five, of these 46 percent die due to malnutrition.
Famines in India are due to the failure of the crops, and that the crops are cut off by the sudden droughts which sweep over the entire country; but when in Southern India alone, six million went through starvation in a year, which actually implicates that the reasons are much deeper beneath the surface and the government needs to address these issues.
Binayak pointed out that the Body Mass Index (BMI), which signifies the nutritional status, was low in many communities. A BMI below 18.5 is indicative of chronic under-nutrition. According to the data published by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau of the National Institute of Nutrition, the BMI of 37 percent of India's total adult population is below 18.5, the index was below 18.5 for 50 percent of the adult population in Scheduled Tribes and for 60 percent of the adult population in Scheduled Castes.
According to the Sachar committee report, huge group of the minority community have a BMI below 18.5 and the World Health Organisation says that if more than 40 percent of any community has a BMI below 18.5, then that community should be considered a community in famine.
"Hefty sections of malnourished population were surviving because of access to common property resources and now they are being removed by the governments in power from accessing common property resources," said Binayak Sen.
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