Thursday, October 15, 2009

Food is scarce, though not as per authority

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Food is scarce, though not as per authority

VARANASI: Just a day before Diwali â€" the Festival of Light and Prosperity â€" the world will celebrate World Food Day on Friday. This year's theme is 'achieving food in times of crisis'.

For food security to all, the World Food Day is celebrated annually on October 16, the date of founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1945.

But, in Varanasi, the darker side is that a number of people including children are deprived of adequate food and proper nutrition. Though, the department of food and civil supply claims proper supply of food grains to below poverty line (BPL) and Antyoday families, records of the district administration clearly indicate that malnutrition exists among children, despite various government-run programmes and schemes.

The district administration had conducted a survey to identify malnourished children. Workers of all 2,529 Anganwadi centres were engaged for the purpose. According to records, over 3,000 severely malnourished children (in grade III and IV) were identified in the district by April last. As many as 78,802 children, out of 2,06,672, were found normal in weight according to their age, while 68,697 children were found suffering from PEM grade-I of malnutrition. Besides, 56,094 children were grade-II category malnourished and 3,073 children in grade-III and IV category. In 2008 five malnourished children died in Dhannipur village in Lohata.

Besides, according to a study conducted by a group of doctors, including TB Singh, RN Mishra, CP Mishra and P Sen of the Institute of Medical Science, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), about 75 per cent of pre-school children of under five-year age group living in urban slums are malnourished while 20 per cent of them are suffering from severe degree of malnutrition. The observation is based on a study on nutritional status and dietary intake of pre-school children in urban slums of Varanasi, which has 227 slums with a population of about 453,222 (about 37.69 per cent of the total population). The city development plan of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) suggests that the average income of a slum household ranges from Rs 100-150 per day.

Such a situation is prevailing when the government is running programmes like Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), handloom cluster development scheme for weavers, and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) (also now known as Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act) for poverty alleviation.

According to Dr. Arvind Singh of Comprehensive Child Survival Programme run under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and UNICEF, malnutrition is prevalent in the eastern UP, and majority of women are anaemic. According to government report more than half of the population of women in eastern UP was anaemic, he said. The factors like price rise and drought have made the situation worse for the people living below poverty line. They cant afford to feed their families properly, said Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR).

On the other hand, AK Singh, additional commissioner (food), claims that the food grain supply is 100 per cent to BPL and Antyoday families. According to him, a quantity of 15,400 MT wheat per month is allotted for the people of four districts of the division including Varanasi, Chandauli, Ghazipur and Jaunpur. Besides, in view of the drought, additional quantity of 15,400 MT wheat has been sought as drought relief for the APL families of the division from September 2009 to March 2010. Owing to poor monsoons, the paddy farming was adversely effected in the region. "However, only 648 MT additional wheat has been received so far for five months from September 2009 to January 2010 for Ghazipur, Jaunpur and Chandauli districts," said Singh.

"The Central government has also sought proposals from the states in view of the proposed Food Security Act," Singh told TOI on Wednesday adding "the proposals have been forwarded, seeking expansion of targeted families for food coverage." About 30 per cent increase in targeted families has been proposed. According to him, about 1.29 lakh BPL/Antyoday families are covered in Varanasi district while this number in the state is one crore six lakh. To prevent starvation like situation, regular monitoring is done to include and exclude new families under BPL/Antyoday coverage.
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Dr. Lenin
Ashoka Fellow
2007 Gwanju Human Rights Awardee
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My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle.. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality….
Dr. B.R.Ambedkar
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." (Desmond Tutu)

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