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The belly is an ungrateful wretch

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Last month, a friend staying in California, USA, wrote in a mail that he was just watching a show by TV host and comedian, John Oliver who stunned him with some brutal statistics. Oliver read out figures that most of the Americans were unaware: “The world’s largest economy wastes as much as $165 billion (For my readers, it is `10.49 lakh crore) worth of food every year. The quantity of food wasted is enough to fill up 730 football stadiums. On top of that, almost 50 million people – or about one-sixth of its population – live in food-insecure households.”
These numbers are indeed alarming. In this regard the story isn’t any different in our own country. On one side we should be proud of being Asia’s third largest economy where moneybags from all over the world are coming to invest since the returns on investment are supposed to be very high comparatively, we should also hang our heads in shame that the largest number of people going to bed on hungry stomach each night live here. Astonishingly, my friend in the same mail also informed me that Oliver also said, which of course surprised him, ‘India also wastes an insane amount of food.’
I remember when asked a question by a member in this regard in Parliament, the then Union Agriculture and Food Processing Minister Sharad Pawar in a written statement had stated that India wasted as much as 40 percent of its total food produce annually as of 2013 and setting up more large cold storages and better post harvesting facilities alone can curtail wastage. He stated that while the wasted fruits and vegetables alone was estimated at `13,300 crore, other food products like rice, wheat, cereals and meat are also allowed to perish without consumption.
And this is just the beginning of a long list of rather grim numbers: Each year, due to negligence by the concerned departments and improper storage in government warehouses about 21 million metric tones of wheat which is almost equal to Australia’s production, rot in India due to improper storage. If the total value of this waste is calculated it comes around `58,000 crore which is a mind-boggling amount.
Things have not changed.
Recent reports, released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is a United Nations program, states that one quarter of the world’s undernourished live in India and almost 44 percent Indian children are underweight. Out of that 48 percent are under the age of three. We have no doubt about this figure. If we visit interiors it is visible. Even in the Global Hunger Index, India’s rank is pathetic. The only solace is that India has been continuously improving its ranking, but it still trails behind its neighbours, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The Global Hunger Index measures and tracks hunger globally, by country and region.
The situation is grim and no amount of increase in production will help the country if some concrete measures are not taken to make a proper use of the produce.
Central government must act fast. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which was published way back in 1962, writes, “The belly is an ungrateful wretch, it never remembers past favors, it always wants more tomorrow.” And the Modi government is always talking about tomorrows, the future….a bright future for all the citizens of this nation.

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A bilingual poet, author, columnist, editor, and painter, an Aviation Engineer by education but a journalist by profession. He has worked with Indian Express group; edited Courage and The Voice magazines; Edited and Published The Scoria (the leading English literary magazine 1995-2002) which has the credit of introducing more than 100 new poets, including many American & British poets. The magazine was patronized by Khushwant Singh, former Prime Ministers VP Singh and PV Narasimha Rao among others; Andrew Motion (who was later Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009), Paul Hoover, Maxine Chernoff, Edith Konecky, Jonathan Gourlay, Patricia Prime, Arlene Zide and some other very well-known poets and authors. Author of several books in English and Hindi. He was Editor of India’s best known and highest selling investment magazine Dalal Street Investment Journal before starting his own venture Indian Economy & Market.Author can be reached at editor@indianeconomyandmarket.com