Human Rights Diary - September 2012

By Vatsala Vedantam

The angry responses to a recent article on euthanasia triggered a new train of thought and this piece of writing.  If ending a life plagued with pain and suffering due to some terminal illness is so appalling, why are we not upset when more than 50 per cent of children in this country die of hunger and malnutrition?  Where is the anger that millions more should go to sleep famished every night because there was not enough food to go around?  Do we not feel revolted to hear that more than 230 million poor persons in India (the highest among countries) die a slow and cruel death due to starvation?

The latest report from the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranks India 15th among starving nations.  It also points out that the hunger situation in this country has escalated since 1996.  These statistics should make us hang our heads in shame.  The slow death of a young population by starvation and hungers should have caused more anguish and indignation than the painless termination of an older person’s life where there was no hope of recovery.

The Central government established the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in 1964 to control and distribute food production in the country equitably among all states.  Its main responsibility was to provide food security to the nation.  Commonsense tells us that this can be achieved only through a proper public distribution system that ensures fair sharing of food grains among all sections of the population.  It is also obvious that the same should be stored appropriately under suitable conditions since food is a perishable product whose shelf life is very limited.  Even though the FCI was allotted the main task of ensuring proper distribution of food that was generated in the country, it was also entrusted with the task of protecting the interests of the people who generated that food in the first place.

Nothing wrong with that, except the fact that the farmer’s welfare is a subject that can be politicized and exploited for political gains.  The farmers’ bobby is also a powerful one for obvious reasons, whereas, the hungry child cannot speak or fight for his/her rights.  And, a starving man has no means to project his cause on public platforms.  So, it has been argued that the government should ensure fair pricing of the food it distributes in order to enable the consumer to buy it, even as it looks after the interests of the farmers.  Where would the farmers be without the consumers of the food that they generate?

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