“We have a situation where famine walks beside us”

STATING FACTS: Binayak Sen, PUCL vice president with students at Loyola College in Chennai on Monday. Photo: K. Pichumani  

“With at least one-third of the adults and nearly half of the children undernourished, we have a situation where famine walks beside us,” said Binayak Sen, National Vice-President, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

Delivering a talk on ‘Chhattisgarh today: A critical understanding of political and human rights situation' at Loyola College on Monday, Dr. Sen, a medical practitioner and human rights activist, said that the state of famine was in existence for years.

The National Nutritional Monitoring Bureau, Hyderabad, took surveys on the state of nutrition of people through decentralised State-based centres using various parameters. One of the simple parameters to measure with accuracy the nutritional levels was the body mass index (BMI). A BMI score of below 18.5 denoted chronic undernutrition and national surveys of adults had revealed that 33 per cent — one-third of the population — was chronically undernourished. .

A recent report by the same bureau has stated that 37 per cent of the men and 39 per cent of the women had a BMI score of below 18.5. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), any community of which 40 per cent had a BMI score of below 18.5 could be denominated as affected by famine. By this account, over 50 per cent of people belonging to Scheduled Tribes and 60 per cent of people belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the country were chronically undernourished.

It was a known fact that 45 per cent of children in the country were undernourished by weight for age, Mr. Sen said, explaining the famine-like situation.

In Chhattisgarh, the survival of the communities — tribal and peasants — depended on their access to land, water and forests. When people were displaced and their access to particular ecological niche was denied, survival became difficult. In South Bastar, 650 villages have been cleared through ‘Salwa Judum' after 2005, forcibly displacing 60,000 people into camps, and those who refused to go to camps were branded Maoists.

Stressing that the definition of Maoist could be what the State wants it to be, Mr. Sen said the situation had spread to the surrounding States, leading to the arrest of several activists from across the social spectrum.

The phenomenon of deprivation of land and natural resources was common to all States irrespective of the ruling party.

People have to assert themselves on the terrain of peaceful struggle to safeguard democracy.

V. Suresh, national secretary, PUCL; Sudha Ramalingam, national vice-president, PUCL; S. Balamurugan, general secretary, PUCL, Tamil Nadu; Rev. C.J. Arun, Executive Director, Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions (IDCR), Loyola College, spoke.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 7:32:00 AM |

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