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FOOD: AN URGENT AND MAJOR CONCERN
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
It's October 16th and yet another World Food Day! Time for each one of us to look at the hard reality and to see how this fundamental essential is hitting all and very specially the poor and the marginalized sections of society.
The theme of this year's World Food Day is 'Food Prices from Crisis to Stability'. The question we need to ask ourselves is as food prices keep on rising and the crisis continue to grow larger day by day, is there any stability? Essential food items are sky-rocketing and this represents a major threat to food security in developing countries.
According to a World Bank Report in 2010 – 2011, rising food costs across the globe pushed nearly 17 million people into extreme poverty. It's important today to seriously reflect at what caused swings in food prices and what needs to be done to reduce their impact on the weakest and poorest members of society.
There are several endemic causes that need to be addressed. These include: the way the economy is subjected to market forces, the artificial scarcity created by hoarders and black-marketeers, the consumption patterns of the rich scandalous wastage and the fact that governments, (both at the Central level and at the State) do not show the necessary political will to ensure that prices are controlled and that people do not go hungry.
In a major ruling, the Supreme Court of India on September 14th, 2011 maintained "no one should die of starvation and malnutrition in our districts. We direct Chief Secretaries of all States to indicate within two weeks how much additional food grains are required" It is anyone's guess how many Chief Secretaries of the States have provided this data today.
According to recent report released by the International Food Policy Report Research Institute 'Gujarat has food insecurity levels from 0.621 – 0.776, making it a highly food insecure State'. In spite of the so-call "economic growth" of the State, Gujarat has an under nutrition rate of 47%. Above all, more than 50,000 infants die every year in the State and more than 54% of these are due to malnutrition.
Food prices, malnutrition hunger are different dimensions of the same reality. As we observe another Food Day, the question we need to ask ourselves do we as individuals, as a State and a country have that necessary commitment to ensure that only our food prices are stabilized so that not a single human being goes to bed without having two square meals a day today?"
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
15th October, 2011
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052