The recent announcement by our government to bring about the Right to Food Act is very significant as it will help to wipe out the hunger of millions of people. In India millions of people go with out food, not even a single meal a day and many die of hunger and malnutrition. This law will also prevent human beings reaching for the garbage heaps or fighting with street dogs to get a morsel of food. Though 2009 budget promises subsidies on wheat and rice for BPL ( Below poverty line) families there are millions more in our country who would not come under this scheme like street children, homeless, rag pickers and bonded labourers and the Right to food act will be a great blessing as it will cover everyone.

National Family Health Survey conducted between 2005 and 2006 shows that everyday 6000 children in India, below the age of 5 die of malnutrition and other deficiencies related to micronutrients. An U.N report points out that more than one-third of malnourished children are in India. It is around 57 million-of the world’s 146 million undernourished children. Is it not a grim and shocking figure about our brethren?

Though there are various food schemes that are run by State Governments, like mid day meal for children and providing nutrient supplements to expectant and nursing mothers etc. there are many who wait for at least a meal a day. I read recently in one article that many tribals and dalit communities go without sufficient food for days and they depend on roots, tubers and grass (?) to fill their stomach which doesn’t provide them any nutrition and fall prey to various diseases.

On the other side we see food being wasted during various celebrations and rituals. I think there should be enough publicity and awareness created among for the public to distribute such food to the needy. I have seen many Institutions coming and collecting such food from five star hotels and popular Kalyan mandap etc. But this issue has wider scope for public participation.

Another thing I feel strongly about is parents should teach their children not to waste food as it is very scarce for many. I have seen many children after helping themselves to plateful of food just waste it with out eating.

During one my sojourns in a Tamil Nadu college hostel I could see girls emptying plateful of food into the dustbins saying that it was not tasty. These girls coming from rural areas do not eat 3 square meals a day when they go home and their behaviour pained me. What I felt was they could take little portions of the food in their plate and help themselves later, if they found it to their liking or if they wanted more. But they were under the impression that as they were paying for the food they had every right to do what they wanted with their share. I felt the college authorities showed apathy in this matter other wise they could very well have given a directive to the students.

On yet another occasion, conducting a personality development programme in a reputed school in Kochi I found that a good of portion of food from the childrens’ plate, was making its way into the big bins kept outside. So I did report the same to the Principal and my next class was on “How not to waste food.” I also made them promise that they would not waste food in future. In the next few days I was with them the wastage was considerably reduced. I think we can influence children very fast if we use the right tactics. I have also come across schools where the teachers see that the children do not waste food during lunch break. I think it is a great idea.

I hope this Government initiative will succeed and we may not see in future malnourished people dying of hunger or searching for food amongst garbage bins.

Let us wait for a bright dawn where all our food problems will vanish into thin air.

Mera Bharat Mahan !

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