We never realised this but it seems that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has a sense of humour, though it may not really have many of us rolling in the aisles. How else can you explain his comments on malnourishment? In an interview to the Wall Street Journal, the Gujarat chief minister blamed the high malnourishment levels in the state, one of richer states in the country, on the predominantly vegetarian diet of the people and the middle class being more beauty conscious than health conscious. So, the beloved leader told us, they are averse to ingesting healthy products like milk. Now if you are wondering what malnutrition has to do with being figure-conscious, we can only say - or rather hope - that the man who is keen to lead India in the coming years was just trying to reveal his lighter side.
But Mr Modi is possibly not the only civil servant or political leader with little grasp of such issues or probably in their race to make their states an economic powerhouse, forget the link that exists between human development and economics. In Lords of Poverty, Graham Hancock described vividly how often there is very little connect between the needs of the people and the polices that governments or aid agencies devise for their development. So in a dirt poor African country, a Western aid agency had the brilliant idea of sending slimming pills! Then in another, they sent refrigerators to a country without replacing the plugs with the ones that can be used in a non-European country. So people started using them as beds! Indeed, Mr Modi is in august company.
However, during the course of the interview Mr Modi also assured us that he is coming up with a fool-proof plan to tackle the malnutrition crisis in his state. Well, we believe him, but considering that his information base on the problem is thin on the ground, he just might end up proposing cosmetic surgery to improve the looks of malnourished people. So to Mr Modi, here is our two-bit worth of advice: it's time to get real.