Saturday, May 15, 2010

India's Hunger Far More Deadly Than Global Terror

In a recent article "The Distant Thunder of an Unexploded Bomb" discussing the failed terror attack in Times Square and its severe consequences in faraway places, author Ras Siddiqui invokes the memory of "a horrible famine in British India around the time of World War II" portrayed in a film “Distant Thunder” by celebrated Indian director Satyajit Ray. Several million Indians died in the Bengal famine of 1943.

Ray's film focuses on the famine during the British Raj when the colonial rulers diverted food from Bengali civilians to the British forces fighting the Axis powers in Asia and the Middle East. Unfortunately, there is no thunder, distant or otherwise, today when it comes to hunger in India. Most hunger deaths occur in silence, without making any headlines in the Indian and Western media. There is often denial of this unfolding tragedy that claims thousands of innocent, often young, lives every day in India and other parts of the world in Asia and Africa....many times more than the tragic deaths from terrorism in the entire world.

About 3000 Pakistanis died tragically in terrorist attacks last year in various parts of the country, according to government data. Putting it in perspective, however, hunger in India has proved far more deadly than terror in Pakistan. It claims as many Indian children's lives every day as all of the terror related deaths in Pakistan in a year, according World Bank HNP data. About 7000 Indians of all ages die of hunger every day, according bhookh.com.

Both tragedies are essentially man-made and preventable, and both need to be condemned and stopped by decisive action by all concerned.

Indian Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen who saw the Bengal famine in his childhood says as follows:

"When India achieved independence, more than 50 years ago, the people of India were much afflicted by endemic hunger. They still are."



As if to reinforce it, the BBC has a story today about little children in India eating mud to fight hunger.

"In Ganne, just off the main road about an hour south of the city of Allahabad, this is a simple fact of life.

It is home to members of a poor tribal community, who live in small huts clustered around a series of shallow quarries.



Inside one of the huts sits a little girl called Poonam. She is three years old, and in the early stages of kidney failure.

Like many children in Ganne she has become used to eating bits of dried mud and silica, which she finds in the quarry. Tiny children chew on the mud simply because they are hungry - but it is making them ill.

When reports first emerged of children eating mud here local officials delivered more food and warned the villagers not to speak to outsiders. But Poonam's father, Bhulli, is close to despair."


The only other country where I know children regularly eat "dirt cookies" is Haiti.

Related Links:

Right to Food

Ambassador Hussain Haroon on Failed Times Square Bombing

Indian Democracy Overrated

Theory and Practice of Right to Food

South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

Food, Shelter and Clothing in India and Pakistan

Amartya Sen on Hunger in India

Haq's Musings

India's Rights Approach

Child Malnutrition India Video

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Right to Food in India Campaign

Escape From India

Social Inequality Threatens India's Economic Stability

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Riaz

You have forgotten that america does not bother about any number of children dying anywhere but in its backyard

The case is of a guy who left a bomb in a car to fly to pakistan.

If usa does not have any qualm, i think india also does not have any problem.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from an Op Ed by Huma Yousuf today in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper:

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has announced that his country is not ‘pushing’ Pakistan to make this move, while Nato has declared that the timing and strategy of the operation are to be fully of the Pakistan Army’s choosing.

This magnanimity does not signal a shift in policy, nor does it indicate that the US has truly come to trust Pakistan as an equal partner in its prolonged war against terror. No, western security forces are backing off from plans to launch the offensive because it’s going to be messy, very messy.

North Waziristan has long been home to Hafiz Gul Bahadur’s militant group, which has struck two peace accords with the Pakistan government (in 2006 and 2008) and therefore refrains from launching attacks against government and army personnel and property in Fata or elsewhere. Previously, Bahadur has prevented other militants, including Baitullah Mehsud, from launching attacks against Pakistan from his territory, and is responsible for expelling many Arab and Central Asian militants from the agencies.

In return for this cooperation, the Bahadur group has been allowed to flourish and is now well-entrenched in North Waziristan: it runs a parallel administration boasting recruiting offices for militants, training camps, madressahs, separate courts and jails and its own taxation policy. If an offensive in the tribal agency disrupts the Bahadur group, the army will face a well-armed and well-organised force that will no longer have any reason to keep foreign fighters at bay.

North Waziristan also serves as a base for the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, which primarily targets coalition forces in Afghanistan. The Haqqanis are old friends of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, and continue to be cultivated as contacts that could prove useful as political allies in a post-US Afghanistan. This network, too, has not attacked the Pakistani state, but may change its modus operandi if a military operation were to be directed against its fighters.

As practically the only one of Fata’s seven agencies that has not been the site of a military operation, North Waziristan has recently seen an influx of TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) militants fleeing army action elsewhere. Indeed, a list of all the groups whose activities have been traced to the tribal agency reads like a who’s who of regional militancy. The agency is also believed to be the hiding place of Al Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri.

---------------

A limited operation will also rule out the need to bring more troops into the vicinity (there are currently about 140,000 troops in the agency, mostly stationed in Miramshah). This is important because military action in Fata since 2005 has earned the ire of non-combatant agency residents who complain they have lost more lives and property because of army action rather than the militant presence.

This perception has fuelled the rate of militant recruitment in the area, and the last thing the North Waziristan operation should do is win more youngsters over to the militant cause. To this end, the army should work with the civilian government to raise enough funds beforehand to accommodate the IDPs who will escape the operation, and to compensate civilians for property damage.

More importantly, the army should also limit US involvement in the form of sustained drone attacks in any operation. This must be Pakistan’s fight, fought on Pakistan’s terms, with Pakistan’s best interests in mind.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is some recent data on terrorism that says, "All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t". Here are some excerpts:

CNN recently published an article entitled Study: Threat of Muslim-American terrorism in U.S. exaggerated; according to a study released by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “the terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans has been exaggerated.”

Yet, Americans continue to live in mortal fear of radical Islam, a fear propagated and inflamed by right wing Islamophobes. If one follows the cable news networks, it seems as if all terrorists are Muslims. It has even become axiomatic in some circles to chant: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims.” Muslims and their “leftist dhimmi allies” respond feebly, mentioning Waco as the one counter example, unwittingly affirming the belief that “nearly all terrorists are Muslims.”

But perception is not reality. The data simply does not support such a hasty conclusion. On the FBI’s official website, there exists a chronological list of all terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil from the year 1980 all the way to 2005. That list can be accessed here (scroll down all the way to the bottom).

According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs 6%). These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their religion. These were not terrorists who happened to be Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company.

Yet notice the disparity in media coverage between the two. It would indeed be very interesting to construct a corresponding pie chart that depicted the level of media coverage of each group. The reason that Muslim apologists and their “leftist dhimmi allies” cannot recall another non-Islamic act of terrorism other than Waco is due to the fact that the media gives menial (if any) coverage to such events. If a terrorist attack does not fit the “Islam is the perennial and existential threat of our times” narrative, it is simply not paid much attention to, which in a circuitous manner reinforces and “proves” the preconceived narrative. It is to such an extent that the average American cannot remember any Jewish or Latino terrorist; why should he when he has never even heard of the Jewish Defense League or the Ejercito Popular Boricua Macheteros? Surely what he does not know does not exist!

The Islamophobes claim that Islam is intrinsically a terrorist religion. The proof? Well, just about every terrorist attack is Islamic, they retort. Unfortunately for them, that’s not quite true. More like six percent. Using their defunct logic, these right wingers ought now to conclude that nearly all acts of terrorism are committed by Latinos (or Jews). Let them dare say it…they couldn’t; it would be political and social suicide to say such a thing. Most Americans would shut down such talk as bigoted; yet, similar statements continue to be said of Islam, without any repercussions.

The Islamophobes live in a fantasy world where everyone is supposedly too “politically correct” to criticize Islam and Muslims. Yet, the reality is the exact opposite: you can get away with saying anything against the crescent. Can you imagine the reaction if I said that Latinos should be profiled because after all they are the ones who commit the most terrorism in the country? (For the record: I don’t believe in such profiling, because I am–unlike the right wing nutters–a believer in American ideals.)

Riaz Haq said...

data on terrorism Contd:

According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs 6%). These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their religion. These were not terrorists who happened to be Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company.

Yet notice the disparity in media coverage between the two. It would indeed be very interesting to construct a corresponding pie chart that depicted the level of media coverage of each group. The reason that Muslim apologists and their “leftist dhimmi allies” cannot recall another non-Islamic act of terrorism other than Waco is due to the fact that the media gives menial (if any) coverage to such events. If a terrorist attack does not fit the “Islam is the perennial and existential threat of our times” narrative, it is simply not paid much attention to, which in a circuitous manner reinforces and “proves” the preconceived narrative. It is to such an extent that the average American cannot remember any Jewish or Latino terrorist; why should he when he has never even heard of the Jewish Defense League or the Ejercito Popular Boricua Macheteros? Surely what he does not know does not exist!

The Islamophobes claim that Islam is intrinsically a terrorist religion. The proof? Well, just about every terrorist attack is Islamic, they retort. Unfortunately for them, that’s not quite true. More like six percent. Using their defunct logic, these right wingers ought now to conclude that nearly all acts of terrorism are committed by Latinos (or Jews). Let them dare say it…they couldn’t; it would be political and social suicide to say such a thing. Most Americans would shut down such talk as bigoted; yet, similar statements continue to be said of Islam, without any repercussions.

The Islamophobes live in a fantasy world where everyone is supposedly too “politically correct” to criticize Islam and Muslims. Yet, the reality is the exact opposite: you can get away with saying anything against the crescent. Can you imagine the reaction if I said that Latinos should be profiled because after all they are the ones who commit the most terrorism in the country? (For the record: I don’t believe in such profiling, because I am–unlike the right wing nutters–a believer in American ideals.)

The moral of the story is that Americans ought to calm down when it comes to Islamic terrorism. Right wingers always live in mortal fear–or rather, they try to make you feel that way. In fact, Pamela Geller (the queen of internet Islamophobia) literally said her mission was to “scare the bejeezus outta ya.” Don’t be fooled, and don’t be a wuss. You don’t live in constant fear of radicalized Latinos (unless you’re Lou Dobbs), even though they commit seven times more acts of terrorism than Muslims in America. Why then are you wetting yourself over Islamic radicals? In the words of Cenk Uygur: you’re at a ten when you need to be at a four. Nobody is saying that Islamic terrorism is not a matter of concern, but it’s grossly exaggerated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's report in Jerusalem Post about wikileaks talking about the US as an exporter of international terrorism:

According to a CIA analysis released by Web site Wikileaks on Wednesday, the US is an "exporter of terrorism" and has been for many years.

Further, says the analysis, if the rest of the world were to begin regarding the US as such, diplomatic relations could be severely damaged and willingness to cooperate with US activities could be hindered.

The classified report, titled "What if Foreigners See the United States as an Exporter of Terrorism?" was produced in February 2010 by the CIA's Red Cell, a think tank set up in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center.

According to The Washington Post, a CIA spokesperson played down the report, saying that it was compiled simply to provoke thought and present a range of views.

It considers international terrorist organizations targeting and recruiting Americans. It says:

"Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons. This report examines the implications of what it would mean for the US to be seen increasingly as an incubator and 'exporter of terrorism.'"

The online whistle-blower organization Wikileaks calls itself a "multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public."

Last month the group published 76,000 classified U.S. military records and field reports on the war in Afghanistan.


http://www.jpost.com/Home/Article.aspx?id=186034

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an Asia Times report about PM Manmohan Singh rejecting Indian Supreme Court Order to give food free to starving Indians:

MUMBAI - Should unused food be allowed to go to waste or used to feed the hungry? An unprecedented "order" by India's Supreme Court to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to distribute food grain free to the poor, instead of letting millions of tonnes of it rot, has blown up into a core issue, raising questions about about the balance of judiciary and government, and how should a government deal with abject poverty.
"I respectfully submit that the Supreme Court should not go into the realm of policy formulation," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on September 6, politely telling the court to keep away from what he perceived as exclusive governmental turf. "It is not possible in this country to give free food to all the poor people."
Manmohan, disappointingly, missed the point, or pointedly avoided it, during a 80-minute meeting with senior journalists atnhis residence in New Delhi on Monday. The Supreme Court order of August 12 had directed the central government to ensure free distribution of only grain that would have otherwise rotted in godowns. The government was not asked to feed for free all the poor across the country, all year. Distribute the grain free as a "short-term measure", the court had said.

For decades, food wastage has been a serious problem in the country (see India outsources food-waste woes, Asia Times Online, July 21, 2010), with US$12.2 billion worth of agricultural produce allowed to rot due to inadequate government-owned facilities. It was time the referee stepped in.
"Give to the hungry poor instead of it [grains] going down the drain," a Supreme Court bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma instructed, responding to public interest litigation on the issue filed by a New Delhi-based civil rights group, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).
PUCL filed the original petition nearly 10 years ago, and the latest Supreme Court order was its 58th ruling on the issue - in a shameful indictment to government disinterest in tackling both agricultural wastage and the crisis of hunger.
India is home to about 25% of the planet's hungry poor, according to the Rome-based United Nations World Food Program, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger.
The hunger crisis and food wastage could find a meeting point. About 55 million tonnes of grain rot to waste annually in India, according to Colin Gonsalves, the country's leading civil rights lawyer who is fighting the PUCL case in the Supreme Court. "And the government refuses to give away for free even a few crumbs of it to the poorest people. Have we as a nation become so insensitive and cruel?"
Gonsalves, who in 2004 received the International Human Rights Award from the Chicago-based American Bar Association, is due on September 24 to file his response to Prime Minister Manmohan's government rejecting the Supreme Court order.
Perhaps Manmohan has to be reminded daily that over half the children in India are malnourished, and about one-quarter are so badly nourished that they have shrunken brains and stunted bodies.
India's controversial Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar too bluntly dismissed the free food grain order, offering only to supply to the poor an additional 2.5 million tonnes at subsidized prices through the existing Public Distribution System.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an India blogger Abhinav talking about "India's growth story" on hunger and starvation:

Today’s news on the death of fifty people from hunger at Balangir in Orissa is a grim reminder of the little growth story that India has had. It clearly indicates many negative facets of our system, bureaucracy and the public at large. As per the World Food Program, almost half of the world’s population who are deprived of food live in India. Another website of a well known NGO (http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/hunger-facts-international.html) offers a grim picture of this particular issue especially when the same is getting the least attention by the policy makers across the world. If 50% of the starving residents belong to India, we do not need to look beyond our borders to nail the culprits.

More than six decades post independence and being counted as one of the key growth engines to the world economy, why are hunger deaths still happening in India? Is it because there is a scarcity of food to offer the ones hungry? Clearly that is not the case.

Those leading a life above the poverty line pay taxes to the Central and the State Governments so that it is used for public facilities, amenities and for the benefit of those living the poverty line. Obviously, those in power have to let go of their hunger for corruption or we have to watch the country going down the drains. Otherwise, it would constantly fail to administer the proper distribution of food and nutrition to people who matter.

We all talk about “3 idiots” and how a college principal is called a murderer who is responsible for the suicide of the students in his college. In the same way, aren’t the following responsible for the demise of people from hunger in our country?

1. Politicians responsible for making food security and food distribution laws.
2. Governmental agencies responsible for proper storage of food grains.
3. Bureaucrats responsible for administration and distribution amongst the right people.
4. Local security agencies which must maintain law and order to ensure proper distribution.

And why is it that they are not punished for these deaths. We have poor being imprisoned for thefts but those in power prosper, while the poor suffer. Is there any accountability for what is being and can be done to break this nexus? Would those in urban cities who are fortunate enough to be writing and reading this blog do something about it? Would they start taking candle light walks in memory of those unfortunate who die in India of hunger every day? Will they go beyond the regular candle marches or force those in power to take responsibility and amend their ways?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an IANS report on "The dark side of India's economic growth" leading to growing hunger and malnutrition in India:


New Delhi: A more inclusive growth policy targeted at marginalised communities and protection of their basic rights is required to combat hunger in India, international NGO ActionAid said.

"The dark side of India's economic growth is the fact that the poor have been dispossessed further, leading to malnutrition, hunger and starvation deaths," Sandeep Chachra, executive director of ActionAid India said here.


The International Food Policy Research Institute has ranked India 67th on the global hunger index, way below its neighbours China and Pakistan.

In a hunger score card released before the Millennium Development Goals Summit at the United Nations headquarters at New York in September, ActionAid said that while India's per capita income had tripled between 1990 and 2005, the number of chronically hungry had not reduced, standing at a staggering 270 million.

At this rate, India cannot halve its number of those starving until 2083, the report said.

"Implementation remains a massive challenge. Food and other entitlements have to be delivered on the ground, which requires greater political will," Amar Joyti Nayak, thematic head for food rights for ActionAid India, said.

Riaz Haq said...

According to a report from Loonwatch.com's Mr. Danios, various news commentators and others expressing Islamophobia have been popularizing the claim that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but (nearly) all terrorists are Muslims.”

Despite this idea becoming axiomatic in some circles, it is quite simply not factual. In fact official FBI records to show that only 6% of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005 were carried out by "Muslim" extremists. The remaining 94% were from other groups (42% from Latinos, 24% from extreme left wing groups, 7% from extremist Jews, 5% from communists, and 16% from all other groups).

However, across the Atlantic Ocean, in Europe, the data is even more staggering. The data gathered by Europol strengthens the argument even further. Europol publishes an annual report entitled EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. On their official website, users can access the reports from 2007, 2008, and 2009.
The results are stark, and prove decisively that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, a whopping 99.6% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by non-Muslim groups; a good 84.8% of attacks were from separatist groups completely unrelated to Islam. Leftist groups accounted for over sixteen times as much terrorism as radical Islamic groups. Only a minute 0.4% of terrorist attacks from 2007 to 2009 could be attributed to extremist Muslims.

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005/terror02_05

http://www.europol.europa.eu/index.asp?page=publications&language=&utm_s ource=Islamic+Information+Center&utm_campaign=a7514f23fb-Interfaith&utm_ medium=email

Riaz Haq said...

Here's what Roy told the Guardian after the reports of her planned arrest today:

"I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/26/arundhati-roy-kashmir-india

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of a book "Churchill's Secret War" by journalist Madhusree Mukherjee offering evidence that Churchill "starved India" in 1940s:

It is 1943, the peak of the Second World War. The place is London. The British War Cabinet is holding meetings on a famine sweeping its troubled colony, India. Millions of natives mainly in eastern Bengal, are starving. Leopold Amery, secretary of state for India, and Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell, soon to be appointed the new viceroy of India, are deliberating how to ship more food to the colony. But the irascible Prime Minister Winston Churchill is coming in their way.


"Apparently it is more important to save the Greeks and liberated countries than the Indians and there is reluctance either to provide shipping or to reduce stocks in this country," writes Sir Wavell in his account of the meetings. Mr Amery is more direct. "Winston may be right in saying that the starvation of anyhow under-fed Bengalis is less serious than sturdy Greeks, but he makes no sufficient allowance for the sense of Empire responsibility in this country," he writes.

Some three million Indians died in the famine of 1943. The majority of the deaths were in Bengal. In a shocking new book, Churchill's Secret War, journalist Madhusree Mukherjee blames Mr Churchill's policies for being largely responsible for one of the worst famines in India's history. It is a gripping and scholarly investigation into what must count as one of the most shameful chapters in the history of the Empire.

The scarcity, Mukherjee writes, was caused by large-scale exports of food from India for use in the war theatres and consumption in Britain - India exported more than 70,000 tonnes of rice between January and July 1943, even as the famine set in. This would have kept nearly 400,000 people alive for a full year. Mr Churchill turned down fervent pleas to export food to India citing a shortage of ships - this when shiploads of Australian wheat, for example, would pass by India to be stored for future consumption in Europe. As imports dropped, prices shot up and hoarders made a killing. Mr Churchill also pushed a scorched earth policy - which went by the sinister name of Denial Policy - in coastal Bengal where the colonisers feared the Japanese would land. So authorities removed boats (the lifeline of the region) and the police destroyed and seized rice stocks.

Mukherjee tracks down some of the survivors of the famine and paints a chilling tale of the effects of hunger and deprivation. Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones. "No one had the strength to perform rites," a survivor tells Mukherjee. Dogs and jackals feasted on piles of dead bodies in Bengal's villages. The ones who got away were men who migrated to Calcutta for jobs and women who turned to prostitution to feed their families. "Mothers had turned into murderers, village belles into whores, fathers into traffickers of daughters," writes Mukherjee.