Sunday, November 25, 2012

Modi’s milk comment termed ugly

Gujarat EDN
AM  31AUG2012

Experts say by attributing malnutrition among girls and women to them being fashion-conscious, Chief Minister Narendra Modi is shirking responsibility; Gujarat actually fares worse than ‘underdeveloped’ states on human development index

Dhwani Pathak Dave 

Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that girls in state suffered from malnutrition because they are “more beauty-conscious than health-conscious” has stirred a hornet’s nest. People in the know have questioned his source of information and wondered if he was updated with the ground reality.
    Prof Darshini Mahadevia of Cept University saw Modi’s statement as an insult to the women of Gujarat. “It is a completely irrational statement. This also reveals that there is complete lack of interest in the issue and the chief minister isnotawareoftherealsituation.Wedon’texpect him to be knowledgeable but he should at least know of some ground realities,” Prof Mahadevia said.
    Said Renu Khanna of Society for Heath Alternatives, “This is a very simple way of passing the buck on to someone else. In comparison to some other states, Gujarat’s performance on human indexisworse.ItisworsethanevenBihar.Thesituation is extremely problematic among the urban poor. This is an irresponsible statement.”
    Quoting figures, Khanna said infant mortality rate (IMR) of Gujarat is 44 while India’s is 47. However, IMR in rural Gujarat is 51 which is almost the same as in rural India. These figures are even higher than those in rural Bihar. States like Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal fare better than rural Gujarat.
    DhruvilShah,anaccountant,raisedthequestion of affordability of milk. “Where is the money with the middle class to afford milk all the time? It is so difficult to run the house on one income when the prices are rising. Why is nobody addressing that issue?”
    Her statement was echoed by Bankim Acharya,ashopownerinGhatlodia.“Tosaythat we are beauty conscious is ridiculous! I have seen instances of discrimination where the boys are givenmilkandgirlsaredenied.Thisgenerationis majorly into junk food which I think should be prevented rather than anything else,” he said.
    Senior bureaucrats were evasive in their replies. Rajesh Kishore, principal secretary (medical services and medical health) said that he did not deal with the issue. “This is not something that I handle. You should speak to someone in women and child development department.”
    When contacted, Anju Sharma, women and child development secretary, said she was not aware of the issue. “I was traveling so I am not really aware of what the chief minister has commented,” she said.
    Meanwhile, in an open letter, social activists Rohit Prajapati, Dr Trupti Shah and Dr Nandini Manjrekar wondered if Modi’s statement was based on any study. “We would like to know if thisstatementisbasedonanyresearchstudythat examined whether malnutrition in Gujarat is related to lifestyle issues. We ask you to share the findings of this study with the people of Gujarat since available data portray a grim scenario.”
    Citing Human Development Report-2011, they pointed out that Gujarat is the worst among the high per capita income states in the country in fighting malnutrition, even lower than the 'less developed' states of Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, WestBengalandAssam.InGujarat44.6%ofchildren below the age of 5 suffer from malnutrition, 41% are underweight, and nearly 70% are anaemic. More than half the women in Gujarat (55%) also suffer from anaemia.
    Malnutrition is directly related to issues of livelihood and well-being, which are the foremost indicators of development, which you as chief minister take credit for having spearheaded in the state of Gujarat, the trio said.
    “You and your government have to take responsibilityforthefactorsthathaveledtothese appallingstatistics--wherealmosthalfthechildren do not even have access to milk -- through pursuing a development model in aggressive promotion of privatisation. It is shocking that you should attribute this to the state being largely 'middle-class' and vegetarian and obsession with body image among girls. These statements are not only completely lacking in fact but also reflects an amazing callousness and trivialisation of the real issues of the people, especially women and girls, for whom access to livelihoods,education,healthcareandsurvival itself is a matter of everyday struggle,” they wrote in the letter.
» Child and welfare department figures state that the overall percentage of malnutrition in state is 45.47%, while that of young girls is 43%.
» National Family Health Survey 2005-06 states that there are 47% children who are underweight while 42% children are stunted. The reason for this is being cited is that malnutrition is high among children due to mother’s malnutrition.
» 56% of women in the age group 15-49 are anaemic.
» 61% of pregnant women are anaemic. 22% men are anaemic.
» Latest Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of Gujarat (2007-09) is 148. This is much higher than Kerala which is at 81, Tamil Nadu at 97, Maharashtra at
» 104, Andhra Pradesh at 134 and West Bengal at 145.
It is a careless and casual statement. Had a dietician said this he would have lost his job! Modi’s statement pertains to a certain group but not to the entire population. He should have been a little more careful.
SHIV VISVANATHAN academician and columnist

Malnutrition occurs majorly among poor women and children. The middle class group with malnutrition forms a very small percentage of the population. The problem is more among those who have alternatives to milk. The poor don’t refuse. Actually, they don’t have access to milk.
INDU CAPOOR founder director of Centre for Health Education Training & Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA)