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“Half of India's children suffering from malnourishment”

Special Correspondent


P. Sainath sees the irony in high number of people living on Rs. 20 or less per day and the list of top Indian dollar billionaires


HYDERABAD: Despite a high growth rate, malnourishment of children in the country remained at 46 per cent which was behind countries of Sub-Saharan Africa where these figures stood between 32 per cent to 35 per cent, observed P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

Delivering a talk on ‘The Age of Inequality' organised as part of free software workshop by ‘Swecha' here on Wednesday, Mr. Sainath told the gathered engineering students and researchers that half of the country's children suffered from malnourishment and at the same time, the situation was getting worse for farmers and suicides among them were high.

Farm debts

On an average, 47 farmers were committing suicide every day, he said adding, more than 4,000 were attempting suicide in 15 days during which period, 32,000 farmers would be quitting agriculture. In the State, nearly 84 per cent of all farmer households were in debts.

While this being the grim scenario, the government was writing off huge amounts to rich corporate companies. “An amount to the tune of Rs. 4.62 lakh crore is written off just under Direct Corporate Tax, Excise Duty and Customs Duty for richest corporates,” Mr. Sainath said.

Drawing parallels to underscore the growing inequality, he said while some were making it to the list of top dollar billionaires, Centre figures for the year 2005 show that a high number of Indians lived on Rs. 20 or less per day. “No society can sustain this kind of inequality,” he quipped. “Andhra Pradesh is not poor in terms of human resources, talent, natural resources and there hardly can be an excuse for farmers to die this way,” Mr. Sainath remarked.

Media hype

On corruption, he cited among others, structural inequality embedded in the society in the form of class, caste, gender and region and also the economic path of development and economic policies that we adopt as the major sources. Answering a query, he said there was an outrage against corruption and also hype in the media. Mr. Sainath called upon the IT and software professionals to reach out to different affected sections such as weavers, fishermen and artisans and use technology to aid them.

Virtual exhibitions

“Use your technology and develop virtual exhibitions for artisans to sell their product without the involvement of middlemen or the corporates.”

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