Says latest report on malnourished children is disturbing

Policy planners and governments have been cautioned that India cannot remain a sustainable democracy if mass deprivations continue to be there denying acceptable levels of living for millions of people.

A deep sense of anguish was expressed that the latest report on malnourished children showed that “something is deeply wrong in India and it is completely unacceptable that children live malnourished while the country is claiming tremendous developments in science.”

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, put forth his thoughts on the direct link between sustainability and social issues at the inaugural session of a three-day international conference on ‘Science, Society and Sustainability,' organised by the Lady Doak College here on Wednesday.

“With a secular Constitution, India could guarantee religious and linguistic plurality. But, what is unacceptable is that at least 70 per cent of people in India still lack the ways and means to have acceptable levels of living.

Huge deprivations and mass deprivations are there even though there are government schemes. No significant dent could be made yet on the aspect of deprivation suffered by people and unless we address that major problem, this is not going to be a sustainable democracy,” Mr. Ram said.

Stating that Maoism/insurgency was also a sustainability issue, he said that issues such as deprivation were the roots of insurgency.

Referring to the Hunger and Malnutrition Report findings, which said that 42 per cent of Indian children are underweight, Mr. Ram said even though it was not a surprise, it was completely unacceptable since the country had been going towards a high growth trajectory.

Mr. Ram was very critical of the manner in which superstitions and irrational behaviour were still posing a burden to the country at a time when much emphasis was laid on science.

“At the recent Indian Science Congress held in Bhubaneswar, which was attended by the Prime Minister Manomohan Singh, many promises have been made on science.

Spending on research and development and publication of papers by Indian scientists in reputable international journals are some of the issues.

We need more political will in the sphere of science,” he said.

“The burden of superstition and obscurantism is not good. If society has to progress, it has to overcome the ill-effects of superstitions. Science has a major role to play,” Mr. Ram stressed.

He said that the Lady Doak College was playing a commendable role by giving social opportunities for different sections of society.

Robin Gottfried, Director, Center for Religion and Environment and Professor of Economics, The University of South, U.S., in his keynote address, spoke on the social dimensions of sustainability, environment and ecology.