Ethanol and Hunger in India


With more than 200 million hungry people, India is the home to the largest number of hungry people in the world.  More than 190 million people in India sleep without food daily. One out of 4 to 5 children in India is malnourished. Malnourished people are prone to different diseases much more easily than the nourished lot. Needless to say that this population of hungry people in India can be seen as the most threatened section due to COVID -19. While the number of deaths and suicides due to the lockdown is increasing among the poor in India, the real figures of indirect deaths due to the lockdown  are either not estimated properly or not being reported properly. But our Government has come out with a beautiful solution to India’s hunger. Since there is a contrast between overfilled stock of grains in India, this stock of surplus food grain is going to be used for the production of ethanol to produce sanitizers to fight COVID-19! Let the hungry people in this country feed themselves on ethanol at least !

India has millions of tonnes of grain reserve, while millions of people are hungry. The Food Corporation of India has 77 million tonnes of food grains, four times more than the buffer stock. A portion of this stock can be used to deal with the existing hunger in India. But there is a need for a political will for that. It is in the context of the severe threat of hunger due to lockdown that the Government of India has decided to convert part of its rice stock for producing alcohol-based hand sanitisers to fight COVID-19. The Government actions to deal with the requirement of food for the migrant labour and India’s poor is already subjected to criticisms at an international level. In 13 states during the lock-down period, NGOs and civil society actions fed more hungry people than the Government. In Gujarat, the NGOs fed 93% of the people who were provided meals. This is what Modi’s Gujarat model is all about. So, why contribute to the Government when better results are provided by NGOs and civil society actions?

21,000 people in the world die daily in the world due to hunger and the largest section of them are from Asia and Africa. Hunger is still much bigger issue than any COVID-19, and the Corona virus is only an added problem to the hungry population.  No Government has undertaken any systematic and committed action to solve the problem of hunger.

I have heard an upper class, upper caste woman telling her husband about their eight year old son: `I think he has some problem these days. He doesn’t eat properly. He ate only 7 idlies today morning !’

Over eating has been creating serious health problems in the developed world. I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody tells me that COVID-19 has hit the Americans most because of their overeating and subsequent health disorders due to overeating. A section of the middle class with pretensions on their social consciousness in India, tell their children: People are dying in this country due to hunger. So, don't waste your food.'. The education given is:Since people are dying without food, the solution is just eat the food yourself! Do not question your Government on the irony between overstocked grains and the existing hunger. Do not question the Government on the large amounts of wastage of food. Do not demand for an equitable and sustainable distribution of food and wealth. Do not question the corporate powers on the contamination of food with deadly chemicals. Do not question the communal fascists who try their level best to divide our people on communal lines through food. Do not question the Government’s misuse of public money in the purchase and production of arms instead of feeding its hungry electorate. The social education to our children remain as `let the charity begin and end with our own stomachs.’

Just the wastage of resources by our Government is enough to feed India’s hungry people. Our expensive world’s biggest statues, our costs on militarisation, armaments, bombs and their research by utilization of a large section of skills and expertise of the scientists and technically skilled people, the economic costs of human rights violations, our wastage of resources on international travels and tours of a small section of our leaders to make international deals and contracts to sell India’s natural resources, the economic costs of destruction of India’s land, water and forests, the failure to deal with large number of farmers’ suicides, our insufficient public health services, corporate control of India’s agricultural economy and displacement of a large section of our population from their own lands and similar other issues must become as a focus of education for our youth in order to make them understand the relationship of their own food with the rest of the society. It is time that our own children see the connections between their food and India’s burning issues. It is the privilege of the well-fed people to ignore the most burning issues related to food and health. The reality is that one climate change is enough to break this pretension.

And in this hour of darkness, it is time to think fresh on why COVID-19 has left such a big scar on India’s integrity to its own people. Let us hope we will not let this scar to grow into a bigger disaster threatening our democracy, justice and peace.

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist and writer




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K P Sasi

K.P. Sasi is a film maker, cartoonist, writer and an activist

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