Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The 'invisible' half

The Hindu, Oct. 7, 2007

Sunday Magazine section

The Other Half column

They came dressed in their Sunday best even though it was a Saturday. The Warli women of Dapcheri village in Thane district, a few hours away from Mumbai, had been summoned to meet some “important” people. They gathered under a small shamiana erected in front of their Panchayat office.
The “important” people were four Members of Parliament cutting across party lines. Sachin Pilot of the Congress, Supriya Sule of the Nationalist Congress Party, Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal and Shahnawaz Khan of the Bharatiya Janata Party, young MPs who are part of a Citizens’ Alliance Against Malnutrition.

Does it ever change?
Why malnutrition? Because, in a country where the stock market has crossed 17,000 points, where inflation is under control, where the economic growth rate is climbing, almost one in every two children under three years of age is hungry. This is the invisible half of our population, people who disappear from our consciousness until they die in large numbers. Then, the media wakes up and takes note, the incident becomes “breaking news”, the government squirms when tough questions are asked, some remedial measures are put into place, and soon life reverts to “normal”, or, should we say, abnormal.

I am not sure the women really understood why these “important” people had come. They only knew that this would be a chance for them to say something. And in the predictable style of visits by “dignitaries” to poor villages, the women sat on the ground while the visitors stood. One woman was asked to speak for the rest. Instead of saying anything about lack of food, she said, “Give us work”.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link above)

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