He is the father of the Indian Green Revolution. He made famine an unfamiliar word in Asia. Here, we bring to you Dr M S Swaminathan’s blueprint for eradication of hunger from India.
1. USING THE GRAM SABHAS
The importance of gram sabhas is undisputable. In my view, every gram sabha should identify the ultra poor. These are the people who go hungry in villages. According to the Planning Commission, 35 per cent of Indian people are below the poverty line. However, we find that only 10-15 per cent of people are really going hungry to the bed. This is because they have no money. Also, a large number of them are dalits. They have no land, livestock or assets. So, identifying the ultra poor is very important. In my view, the gram sabhas can play a very important role here. If left to them, they will come up with real data.
2. INFORMATION EMPOWERMENT OF POOR
At any given point, our government has more than 100 schemes for the poor. However, the poor are never aware of this. In our Information Village, we have set up a database. Anyone from the village can come here and find out about the available schemes. The database is being operated by dalit women. In a democracy, information empowerment is critical. If all the available schemes were to be really implemented, there would be no hunger. I can name 145 schemes available in a small place like Pondicherry, but nothing reaches the poor at all.
3. PROTEIN, CALORIE UNDER NUTRITION
The government has three schemes targeted at the Public Distribution System (PDS). They have recently started one called Annapurna for the older people. I have personally recommended the implementation of a new scheme for pregnant mothers because every third child born in our country is underweight. This affects brain development, among other things. This will cost us only two-three tonnes of food grain. All pregnant women who are undernourished should be treated through this scheme.
4. AVAILABILITY OF MICRO-NUTRIENTS
Yes, vitamin A and iodised salt are now available. However, silent hunger – hidden hunger caused by a deficiency of micro-nutrients – must immediately be eliminated.
This is what we call biological absorption. A child may eat a lot but is not able to absorb the food. We may make food available in the market and provide the poor with the ability to buy it. But a child must have the capacity to absorb it too. This is what makes sanitation so important.
6. LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITIES
It is important that we provide opportunities for micro-credit and micro enterprises.
7. SPECIAL ATTENTION FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN
We have to provide special attention to women, particularly pregnant women and nursing mothers. Also, it is very important for our country to take extra care of its young, pre-school children.