It is not the first time that the nutritional deficiency has brought India under the unsavoury spotlight. In September, an ActionAid report said that the country's "failure to invest in agriculture and support small farms has left nearly half the country's children malnourished, with one fifth of the one billion plus population going hungry". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed his desire that the government addresses malnutrition on a "war footing". Such data proves once again that the social security net and the delivery systems are not working as seamlessly they are trotted out to be. Most scandalously, they don't even have any nutrition focus. Take the still-defective Public Distribution System. Its focus has always been on rice and wheat. Perilously, the same is the case with the waiting-in-the-pipeline Food Security Act. Why is it that India is so pusillanimous when it comes to bringing about changes in policies? And why does it shrink and go into a hole each time it learns some unpalatable truths from evidence gleaned from international organisations? Isn't it time that we formulate a new format for Integrated Child Development Services that, in its present form, doesn't even cover the nutritional needs of a pregnant mother and by extension her unborn child? In the absence of a nutritional input, many in rural India believe that they can 'cure' distended the stomachs of their famished children by branding them with pokers. Without sounding like a party-pooper, that's how 'ahead' of the pack we are.
Since access to proper healthcare is a right of any child, there's a greater need to tackle the underlying conditions that cause malnutrition in this country. Let the rhetoric stop and the government prioritise nutrition as a key issue in political and policy processes. Otherwise, we will be saddled with a population that will make a mockery of that fashionable mantra: 'demographic dividend'.