Archives  >  2019  >  October  >  18th

Hungry India

1. What’s the story?

The most recent Global Hunger Index has ranked India 102 among 117 nations. According to the report, we also have the highest percentage of children with malnutrition. (Quick recap: The Global Hunger Index is a tool that measures and tracks hunger globally, by region, and by country. The GHI is calculated annually, and its results appear in a report issued in October each year.)
Tell me more.

The GHI slots countries on a scale ranging from “low” hunger to “moderate”, “serious”, “alarming”, and “extremely alarming”. This year, India is one of the 47 nations showing “serious” levels of hunger.

“Among the BRICS grouping, India is ranked the worst, with China at 25 and a score of just 6.5. Within South Asia, too, India is behind every other country. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan (in that order) are all ahead of India.

Some of the other countries ahead of India are Saudi Arabia (rank 34), Venezuela (rank 65, even as its score has doubled from just over 8 to over 16, because of the socio-economic and political crisis), Lesotho (rank 79), Burkina Faso (rank 88), and North Korea (rank 92).

In stark contrast to India, which has the world’s largest democracy and one of the biggest economies, most of the countries below India on the GHI — Afghanistan, Haiti or Yemen etc — are either poorly governed or war-torn or ravaged by natural calamities.”

Just 9.6% of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a “minimum acceptable diet”, it said. “India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8%, the highest for any country in this report,” it said.

Our “GHI score has also decelerated — from 38.9 in 2005 to 32 in 2010 and then from 32 to 30.3 between 2010 and 2019. The GHI score is calculated on four indicators — undernourishment; child wasting, the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition); child stunting, children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition; and child mortality, the mortality rate of children under the age of five.”
So, what now?

This latest report, along with India’s ongoing economic woes, seem to indicate that the Government has its hands full in the coming days.

Keep your eyes on this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I be keeping my eyes on?

The Reserve Bank of India, (RBI) that’s where. Back in 2016, when demonetization happened, the 2000-rupee note was introduced in the market. The Government claimed that notes of high denomination help curb the prevalence of black money in the economy. However, in a strange about-face, the RBI has revealed that it has stopped printing 2000-rupee notes to “prevent hoarding of the high-value currency and curb black money.” The mint has not printed a single such note this financial year.

“The RBI’s reply came at a time when the National Investigation Agency has said that “high quality” fake currency notes have resurfaced, reported The Hindu. NIA Inspector General Alok Mittal shared a presentation on Monday where he accused Pakistan of being the main source of printing of high quality fake Indian currency notes. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has emerged as the source of low quality fake notes, Mittal added.”

3. What more?

In a disturbing development exhibiting India’s decreasing tolerance, a school headmaster in Uttar Pradesh has been suspended after the Vishwa Hindu Parisad complained that he was making students recite an Urdu prayer. His crime? He encouraged children to sing “lab pe aati hai dua”, a famous poem by the celebrated poet Muhammad Iqbal. (Quick recap: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is an Indian right-wing Hindu militant organisation based on the ideology of Hindutva.)

“District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava said the local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) unit alleged that Ali was forcing children, mostly belonging to the majority community, to recite the prayer which is recited at madrassas.

“They gave a memorandum to Sub-Divisional Magistrate Saurabh Dubey demanding that orders be given for recital of ‘saraswati vandana’ in morning prayers,” the district magistrate said.

The headmaster has been suspended with immediate effect, he said, assuring that measures will be taken to ensure that ‘saraswati vandana’ is recited in all schools.”

4. Anything else?

In another unreal development, US President Donald Trump’s recent diplomatic letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been made public, surprising a number of people with the presidential language used in it.

“Trump’s letter to Erdogan, released first by Fox News, dated October 9, was POTUS’ way of asking the Turkish leader not to launch a military attack against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria. A request Turkey turned down, in fact, according to BBC News, was the final straw that made way for the offensive as Erdogan aides said, “President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it and put it in the bin.

Trump in his letter sent to Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned him that his step would brand him as a “devil” in history. “Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will. History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.”

As the letter asked the Turkish President not to be a “tough guy”, many found it hard to imagine that could be the language used in a letter between two presidents. While many journalists initially reached out to the White House to confirm, they were baffled to know it was indeed real dubbing it as “insane” and called it very adolescent like.”

5. Is that all?

Peanut butter may be a quintessentially American condiment, but the “gracious streets of Kolkata” have surprisingly been its home for decades. Here is a journalist’s fascinating search for peanut butter in India, and how all roads, inevitably, led to Bengal.

“But, in recent years, Prutina has become harder to find. The shelves of Delhi’s local stores are filled with highly processed, American peanut butter brands — Sundrop, Skippy and Jif — and new local imitators. Frustrated, I did what many Indians do, given the limited development of brick-and-mortar supermarkets. I turned to ecommerce. On Amazon India, I recently ordered some 10 tubs of Prutina — about 2 kgs-worth — to stock up for at least a year. 

A few days later, a well-spoken young man telephoned to ask whether I’d ordered peanut butter. When I confirmed, he apologised and said Kolkata’s biggest annual religious festival was starting, and my order could not be shipped on time. On a hunch, I asked whether by chance I was speaking to Prutina’s owner. 

It was indeed Tushar Bharech, the founder’s 28-year-old grandson, who I arranged to meet on my next visit to the city. He said Bharat Kernels, which employs about 22 people, now faces fierce competition, making distribution a challenge.” 

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at the man who rigged America’s election maps, and maybe changed the course of history forever.

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