ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hunger : By Any Name

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Over the last 50 years some public policy concepts have undergone little change, others have expanded to take on new meaning and therefore new interpretations of persistent old problems in nation-building. With new ways of looking at old problems, some issues even cease to exist. Take for instance hunger, or the lack of food. Now of course the former is a matter of articulation – people or populations have to indicate in some fashion that they are going hungry. This means there must be a state of not being hungry, so that the state of being hungry can be recognised as such. What if, not having such a base level, they cannot recognise or articulate hunger? What if they have always had less food than they need? Biostasis, scientists have told us, is what happens – that is, the body makes do with less food such that hunger need never be articulated. However, modern science offers a measure for hunger – as malnutrition. And as malnutrition, hunger has made its place in public policy. It is hardly surprising that the government spends some Rs 27 billion annually on direct nutrition programmes such as the National Mid-Day Meal Programme (NMMP), specific micronutrient programmes and the longest running Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) put together. But this comprises only 0.15 per cent of GNP which is considered to be completely inadequate to combat the 'malnutrition crisis' in India.

In 1993 the country evolved National Nutrition Goals for the year 2000. These included reduction by one-half of severe and moderate malnutrition among young children; reducing below 10 per cent the incidence of low birth weight; eliminating blindness due to vitamin A deficiency; reducing to 25 per cent iron deficiency anaemia in pregnant women; reducing iodine deficiency disorders to 10 per cent; producing 250 million tonnes of foodgrains; and improving household food security through poverty alleviation programmes.

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