Starvation Deaths! Do Think, Where Are We Heading As A Nation, A State, A Society And An Individual?

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On the onset, let me tell you a secret. I started writing this blog-piece few months ago, when a young child died of starvation in my home state Jharkhand. She was Santoshi Kumari, an eleven years old school-going girl. But at that time I simply could not manage to write the article. I really struggled and I found it really hard to describe her heart-breaking death. Somehow I could only manage to write a few lines about the food-politics and posted it on my personal blog.

At that time, I failed to put pen to paper, as my mind and my heart refused to act in unison. They did not allow me. It was as if they had raised their defense mechanism.

In September, 2017, Santoshi Kumari had died.

Her mother Koyali Devi told the visiting news-reporters that before dying, she repeatedly asked and continually cried, “Bhaat! Bhaat!……,” She begged for rice again and again.

But her poor mother could not provide her rice. There was no food in the house. How could she mother, help her child beat her hunger pangs.

It was a heart-breaking tragedy; a young kid struggling to keep the starvation death at bay. And her poverty-stricken mother is unable to keep her hungry child alive.

Let us take a moment to say a prayer for her and think about it in a total silence.

Imagine there is complete dearth of foodstuff from the plates of poor people. Try to visualize a scene, where for weeks; a kid tries to survive the forced starvation.

Isn’t that heart-wrenching?

For me, it was a mind-numbing experience.

It was not a happy story.

It broke my heart.

Few months have gone by since then, yet it is difficult to come to terms with this fact about that young child’s starvation death in my state.

Quite often I have wondered how we could let it happen in the 21st century India.

I believe, we still live in a proud nation India; that boasts of not only a great historical past but it also aspires to become one of the leading nations of the world.

At that time, I had hoped that her tragic death will wake up the Government machinery in my Jharkhand state from the deep slumber.

But I was so wrong.

Alas! That did not happen.

On the one hand there was enough food-stocks lying in the food-godowns and the ration shops; on the other hand there was acute food shortage in the homes of the under-privileged people living in my home state. There was clear mismatch and the breakdown in the public distributions system in the state. Consequently, the monthly food ration was denied to many poor families and the starvation deaths continued to visit their homes.

Soon after Santoshi’s tragic demise, few more poor people have died of the starvation in my Jharkhand state. Each of these hunger deaths have tragic tales to tell . And the ground situation is yet to improve.

Sadly, our democratic Governments continue to deny these hunger deaths.

There are two versions of thee events. One is being offered by the families of the deceased and other is countered by the government authorities. I do not really know, whose version is the truth.

However, one cannot forget that at the behest of the vindictive Government Machinery, the deceased Santoshi Kumari’s surviving mother Koyali Devi was attacked by fellow-villagers for defaming her village. Her own villagers turned against her as they too towed the lines of Government version that her young kid Santoshi did not succumb to starvations and died due to the mysterious ailment. I can only imagine the plight of Koyali Devi, a mother who had lost her young daughter, and she was being hounded for daring to speak honestly and truthfully about the hunger problems.

Embolden by the approach of the Government, no doubt, one of the PDS dealers put up this disgusting notice at of his PDS shop for its poor customers, as reported by a twitter user.


Source: @kavisriv

These are extremely shameful acts that reek of arrogance on the part of government machinery and their PDS dealers. Yes, it does seem as if the food-godowns and the stomachs are filled with foods for the privileged class of our society in my Jharkhand state. And taking cues from the Government, most of our people (mind you not all the people) do not really seem to care for the starvation deaths in our society.

Have we become more self-centered and selfish?

In this age of machines, are we losing our humanity and the sense of empathy?

It was recently reported that in our India is not performing well in the hunger situations.

Let me quote from the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017 Report:

Global Hunger Index is calculated on the basis of four indicators — prevalence of undernourishment, child stunting (low height-for-age), child wasting (low weight for-height), and child mortality. An increase in GHI indicates the worsening of a country’s hunger situation. India’s position is in not good as we slipped from 97 in 2016 to 100 in 2017.

Recently, another renowned publication Forbes did a news-story titled “Children Are Hungrier in Modi’s India Than In Kim’s North Korea.” Again let me quote this article:

Apparently, Modi’s magic hasn’t touched India’s hungry children, at least not in a meaningful way. High levels of hunger among children is a sign of persistent poverty in one of the world’s largest emerging market economies that has experienced rapid economic growth and booming equity markets in recent years. Investors should pay close attention to it. Persistent poverty together with corruption are two factors that eventually kill emerging market growth and dampen equity market rallies. To be fair, persistent hunger among children is a chronic problem for India. And it is part of a bigger problem of rising income inequality in the country.

I worry that the growing inequality and the hunger may seriously dent the social fabric of our nation. It will also greatly undermine all the economic gains made by our country, since it gained independence from a colonial rule in 1947. I sincerely hope that our government will address Hunger and Poverty issues, sooner rather than later.

These are worrying signs indeed.

I really don’t know. These are shocking realities of our times that simply shake your conscience up and force you to speak up for the poor and voiceless people.

These days, I do wonder, where are we heading as a nation, a state, a society and an individual? Do think about it.

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Sameer Bhagat

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Social-Activist. Author of SALVAGING ADIDWEEP.


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