Sep 18, 2010

Hunger proliferates in a democracy; India tops the chart


This is a chart that should put every Indian into shame. Not only an Indian, but also those who swear in the name of democracy. How can people's representatives remain immune to the growing scourge of hunger? Shouldn't this provoke you to ask the basic: why should hunger exist in a democracy?

The illustration above [released ahead of the Sept 20-22 Summit of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] reflects the monumental failure of the global leadership to address the worst tragedy that a democracy can inflict. Amartya Sen had said that famine does not happen in a democracy, but let me add: hunger perpetuates in a democracy.

The hunger map above is also a reflection of the dishonesty shown by the international leadership to fight hunger. Hunger is the biggest scandal, a crime against humanity that goes unpunished. At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders had pledged to pull out half the world's hungry (at that time the figure was somewhere around 840 million) by the years 2015. This commitment was applauded by one and all, including the academicians, policy makers, development agencies and charities, and you name it.

This commitment alone demonstrated the political indifference to mankind's worst crime. Considering FAO's own projections of the number of people succumbing to hunger and malnutrition at around 24,000 a day, I had then said that by the year 2015, the 20 years time limit they had decided to work on, 172 million people would die of hunger. And when the world meets for the MDG Summit in a few days from now, almost 15 years since the WFS 1996, close to 128 million people have already died from hunger.

And you call this an urgency?

No one across the world stood up to call the bluff.

Hunger has instead grown. By 2010, the world should have removed at least 300 million people from the hunger list. It has however added another 85 million to raise the tally to 925 million. In my understanding, this too is a gross understatement. The horrendous face of hunger is being kept deliberately hidden by lowering the figures. In India, for instance, the map shows 238 million people living in hunger. This is certainly incorrect. A new government estimate points to 37.2 per cent of the population living in poverty, which means the hunger tally in India is officially at 450 million. Even this is an understatement. The poverty line is kept so stringent in India (at Rs 17 per person per day) that in the same amount you cannot even think of feeding a pet dog. I wonder how can the poor manage two-square meals a day under this classification.

Hunger is also growing in major democracies. In the US, it has broken a 14-year record, and one in every ten Americans lives in hunger. In Europe, 40 million people are hungry, almost equivalent to the population of Spain. Interestingly, most of the countries in the hunger chart are following democratic forms of governance. And yet, the only country which has made a sizable difference to global hunger is China, which as we all know is not a democracy.

Is it so difficult to remove hunger? The answer is No.

While there is no political will to fight hunger, the business of hunger is growing at a phenomenal rate. The economic growth paradigm that the world is increasingly following in principle aims at minimising hunger, poverty and inequality. But in reality acerbates hunger and inequality. Economists have programmed the mindset of generations in such a manner that everyone genuinely believes that the roadmap to remove hunger passes through GDP. The more the GDP the more will be the opportunities for the poor to move out of the poverty trap. Nothing could be further away from this faulty economic thinking. This is the biggest economic folly that a flawed education system has inflicted.

And it is primarily for this reason that after the 2008 economic meltdown, the international leadership pumped in more than $ 20 trillion to bail out the rich and crooked. On the other hand, removing hunger and poverty from the face of the Earth would cost the world only $ 1 trillion at the most, for which the resources are unavailable. But there is all the money in the world to fill the pockets of the rich, hoping that it would one day trickle down to the poor. Privatising the profits, and socialising the costs. Isn't this political and economic dishonesty?

Hungry stomach offers tremendous business opportunities. Rich economies are buttressed by speculation and free trade in food and agriculture. Opening up of the developing economies provides them opportunities to sell unwanted technologies/goods in the name of development. Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector sees the poor as a business opportunity to bail out the companies from sluggish growth. Micro-finance steps in to empty the pockets of the poor, again in the name of development. So much so that even Climate Change provides tremendous scope to milk the poor.

All this is happening in a democratic world.

3 comments:

Ramesh Dubey said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी आपने लोकतांत्रिक दुनिया में भूख की लहलहाती फसल का सटीक विश्‍लेषण किया । दरअसल आज भुखमरी एक व्‍यवसाय में तब्‍दील हो चुकी है जिसमें अकूत मुनाफा है । जिस व्‍यवसाय में मोटा मुनाफा मिलता हो भला कौन उसे बंद करना चाहेगा । जिस हरित क्रांति ने तीसरी दुनिया की खेती-किसानी को व्‍यवसाय में बदलकर करोड़ो छोटे व सीमांत किसानों को दिहाड़ी मजदूर बना दिया अब उसी के दूसरे संस्‍करण (हरित क्रांति-2) की शुरूआत होने जा रही है । अफ्रीका इसके लिए हाट स्‍पॉट बन गया है । वहां की परंपरागत फसलों के स्‍थान पर जी एम फसलों को बढ़ावा देने के बहाने एग्रीबिजनेस कंपनियां कृषि मशीनरी, उर्वरक, बीज, कीटनाशक आदि की दुकान खोलकर बैठी हैं । विकसित देशों के कृषि उपजों को विकासशील देशों में डंप करने के लिए साम-दाम-दंड-भेद सभी तरीके अपनाए जा रहे हैं । ऐसे में जमीनी स्‍तर पर भूख के शिकार लोगों की संख्‍या बढ़नी तय है । हां व्‍यावसायिक लाभ के लिए उसमें थोड़ी बहुत घट-बढ़ अवश्‍य दिखाई जाती रहेगी, जैसा कि हाल ही में एफएओ ने अपने नवीनतम आंकड़ों में भुखमरी से पीड़ित लोगों की संख्‍या को 102 करोड़ से घटाकर 92.5 करोड़ कर दिया ।

रमेश दुबे, दिल्‍ली

OzTones said...

Dear Devinder
I forwarded your article to an email group to which I belong, Economic Reform Australia. One of my fellow members, with a forensic eye when it comes to so-called democracies who feels they are all a sham and a con due to their so-called "representative" nature, replied as follows:

"The key to what Devinder Sharma is writing about is in his last paragraph:

> "All this is happening in a democratic world."

It is not happening in a democratic world. It is happening in a world (including India) governed by proxies. India calls itself democratic because the proxies are elected. Under that definition, Pakistan is not democratic because rival proxies in military uniform grab power whenever the elected proxies appropriate too much wealth and the military trash want more for themselves.

In actual fact the Indian proxies are selected by a Mafia of corrupt powerbrokers linked to an ancient network of landlords and (in more recent times) to the US administration. None of the decisions they make is presented for choice to the people. Minuscule differences within the politician class are presented to the people at elections so the people can think they, the people, are running the country.

None of this is to knock India which is one of the few civilised (as far as individual civil freedom goes, and that must be paramount) countries in Asia. What applies to the corruption of rule in India applies in one form or another also through Europe, Britain, America, Canada and Australasia.
"

standford said...

Seriously such an honor to be included. thanks such a lot, IFB!!

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