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Famine in India during COVID times

“Poverty, frost, famine, rain, disease, are the beadles and guardsmen that hold us to common sense.” `Ralph Waldo Emerson.


This concept of famine is not new to our world but has occurred since ancient times. Before moving further, it is important to understand the concept of famine, its causes, and how it can be overcome. Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors like wars, inflation, crop failure, epidemic, and pandemic, etc. In technical terms, famine is a situation where one in five households experience “an extreme lack of food and other basic needs where starvation, deaths, and destitution are evident”. More than 30 per cent of people are malnourished, and two of every 10,000 people die from starvation.

After the outbreak of coronavirus in March 2020, just in a month, there was an increase in the number of deaths and people who were starving to death all around the world. On one hand, people are dying due to covid-19 complications and on the other hand, people are starving to death. UN world food program says that there are also already 135 million people facing chronic food security and “could be pushed to a brink of starvation by the end of 2020”. And create hunger pandemic and possible famine.

Talking about famine in India is a matter of huge debate and discussion. India faced a huge number of covid deaths in the first and second wave of coronavirus on one hand, whereas, people starved to death and lost their jobs during this time, the sole earner of a family who lost their jobs are still facing food crisis at their home where they are unable to fulfil their basic needs. Food insecurity in India is at its peak. People living on footpaths without shelter, people who beg for many on the streets and red lights, what happened with them in lockdown? Who helped them? How have they managed everything?

According to the world economic forum report 2021, in the 2020 global hunger index, India ranks 94th out of 107 countries. The pandemic and resulting unemployment have made India’s hunger crisis worse.

Last year's lack of food and rations were the big visible crisis. We saw the problems with migrants but never visualized the bigger picture, where not only the migrants were facing the food crisis but people living on footpaths, people with small businesses, shopkeepers, etc., suffered from the lack of food in India. Last year, when the lockdown was announced people started distributing food but this year it was all about oxygens and beds which on one hand was the foremost priority at that time but ignoring the other factor will not going to improve the situation rather makes it worse.

For each middle-class family, their basic need is a three-time meal. In 2021, this factor was totally ignored. This problem was not only in rural areas but in big cities as well. People are ordering food online during the lockdown. These people are wasting half of the food on one hand, and there are people begging for food and facing food shortages on the other hand. This is the dark side of the world. It is important to understand that while the second wave is all about health, it does not mean that hunger is not an issue.

With these above-stated points, I remember my personal experience from last year where people living on rent at my place struggled to get free ration from shops. Most of them do not have a valid ration card and were unable to buy food items. Due to lockdown these people were unemployed and were not earning anything for like 2 months straight. They were unable to afford the basic food items, and this caused food insecurity among the lower-class group. My family offered help by giving these people the free ration that we were getting at that time. So, the point here is we do have a lot of issues going on in our society, but the hunger issue must not be neglected in any way.

The nationwide lockdown shook the country, including its food systems and supply chains. Inflation is another big reason for the famine, people are struggling every day in our country to get three-time meals due to the rise of food prices in India. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates nearly 40% of the food produced in India is lost or wasted every year due to an insufficient supply chain. Moreover, the lack of a proper supply chain leads to the country’s food waste problem.

It was mentioned in a report that in potato-producing states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, demand from returning migrant workers pushed up prices by 9% at wholesale and 11% at retail.

Not only this, according to a report the are some 196 million are undernourished and malnutrition is the top cause of death and disability in India. Food security remains a serious challenge. But apart from these dark sides, some organizations have helped those in need by providing food and other possible things. Mazdoor kitchen in Delhi is a citizen-run by voluntary initiative, working to provide meals and other substances to daily wage workers in north Delhi. Khana Chahiye Foundation started as a citizen-led campaign in March 2020 to meet, the immediate lockdown-induced food demands of the homeless, migrant workers, daily wage labourers, and other vulnerable populations in Mumbai.

After all these organizations working restlessly to provide food to the needy ones, why people are still starving to death? Volunteers of Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan visited 110 ration shops between 15 May and 20 May 2021. They found only 44 shops where shops were distributing rations. They were told that stocks were yet to arrive at 23 shops. Now this an alarming sign for all of us, to consider this hunger issue as another main issue in our country.

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Tags: #humanity #unheardstory #famineinindia


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