Today’s newspaper brought a ‘shocking’ news: India home to a quarter of world’s hungry population. The news further goes as the number of hungry people in the world was estimated at 842 million in 2011-13 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released recently even as world cereal production was estimated at a near record level of 2,489 million metric tons a few days ago. Quite often we come to know about the malnourished, undernourished, high mortality rate of children and starvation death in general. We are also aware of the poverty eradication programmes, and development projects prevailing prominently in the mainstream discussion and debate. We also hear about right based approach, empowerment of the vulnerable and sustainable development. ‘Teach to catch fish and make the hungry independent’ is the most proclaimed theory accepted across the world in the context of poverty eradication.
There were two different moments I had recently that reminded me of the value of food and how we should avoid wastage of food. It is worth mentioning the news that struck me on 12th of September. One third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, costing the global economy around US$750 billion a year, report by the UN food agency. The Food and Agriculture Organization said some 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year when 870 million people go hungry every day.
It was the wee hours of a Saturday. I was walking through the road and it was an industrial area. Suddenly I heard the sound of a vessel falling on the road and I turned back. I found a man struck on the middle of the road beside his lunch scattered on the road. He must be going to work in one of the factories in the area. His lunch box had slipped from the career of his bicycle. I could feel the tormenting pain of the strange person as he was embarrassed, shocked and stuck for a long time in front of his lost lunch. Finally he could regain himself and began to ride forward carrying his empty lunch box.
It was a coincidence to witness another incident related to the value/ deprivation of food the next Saturday. I was standing beside a tea shop( tappri in local language) while a young man in shabby dress came towards the shop. He begged for something to eat desperately for some time (but he did not snatch the snacks displayed barely in front of him). I could hear him mumbling to himself in great hopelessness as the shop keeper ignored him. No sooner did his eyes stuck on two sammoosa laying under the table he had grabbed both and began to eat. He also took a piece of some snack on the road. Meanwhile the shopkeeper watched it with a sense of relief.
Donating food is not a perpetual solution for poverty and also one part of the population should not be living for the mercy and charity of the well off. At the same time it is a crime to waste food, at least morally wrong, being insensitive and indifferent to the starving population across the world and to the people who are just able to earn for their daily bread.
It is undeniable that capitalism has given new dimension, meaning (meaningless?) to life and all its transactions. It has created a new sense to every aspect of our life. Thus the food is not a stuff for your healthy existence. Shelter is not a place to accommodate you with safety and security. Your clothes are not just for protecting your body. All these are beyond basic needs and are an expression of your status, celebration and luxury of life. The principles of commerce, marketing, profit making and completion have penetrated to the very existence of human being. The theory of market forces does not encourage you to be concerned about the other part of the unfortunate population. In such a society food is wasted in five star parties of the elite class and in marriage party of a middle class family. It is wasted every day at home as well.
But we have to face the reality. We can’t deteriorate beyond an extent. Each member of the ‘civilized’ society must face several tough questions. Am I eating for a healthy life? Am I aware of the right quantity and quality of my food? How much food I waste food every day? Do I remember the value and significance of food in life? Shouldn’t justice prevail for the millions of starving population?
Poverty eradication is not just the responsibility of the state, NGOs or generous individuals. It is the collective responsibility of the civilized society that realizes the true civilized life begins with realization that each individual has greater role in creating a better world to live in where justice, peace, love, cooperation and interdependence prevails. For such response for a great cause one should be conscious of his/her action. Such awareness will emerge with the questions mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Let’s not forget India is a country of its population suffering from malnutrition and over nutrition as well.