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An Atlas of Hunger

Meera Basu

By Asok Mitra  and Shekhar Mukherji
Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 112, Rs. 95.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

There is a great diversity in the in­equality of social, cultural, political, demographic and economic facets of the vast structure of Indian society. Mani­festations of many of the various indivi­ous modes of inequality, innate in this society, often make us appear to be a queerly 'hierarchical breed' of people. But, what may be regarded as inequality, perhaps finds its nadir in the stark diffe­rentials that exist in the varying levels of success to economic resources. Population—‘the basic constituent of a nation—and food—the fundamental means of survival—depict a miserable account of inequality when considered in absolute terms. On an average, from the several estimates of the supply and demand for food-grains, since the incep­tion of the five year plans, there has been a greater availability of food grains com­pared to the demand for it. This is in spite of the fact that between 1951 to 1971 the population has increased by about 51.8 per cent. Except during the period of the Third (1961-66) and Fourth (1969-74) Five Year Plans, owing to ad­verse weather conditions, drought and fall in the increase of per capita income supply has exceeded demand for food­grains in the remaining five year plans. In the Fifth (1974-79) Five Year Plan, the Government even made provisions to add an adequate buffer stock. This ironi­cal situation of demand for foodgrains being less than the supply, while hunger and insecurity is plentiful, needs a deeper inquiry into the pattern of demand for foodgrains, a pertinent point in this con­text. Recently, it has been vehemently argued that in a poverty-stricken country like India, the emphasis on absolute poverty or hunger prevailing in certain pockets of the population should be stressed, rather than the relative in­equality of consumption. Regional plans in India, have failed since they were, earlier, integrated in the macro-level national plans. The main cause of such failures is alleged to be the missing link between the micro-level re­gional plans within the frame-work of the national macro-level plan. From a prag­matic standpoint, 'district' as a regional unit fulfils most of the conditions for regional planning. The district, there­fore, should be treated as a unit of ana­lysis and policy-planning in the absence of more 'fine-grained' data at the taluka, village or even at the level of individual household plot. Such micro-level planning would be more responsive ...

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