Monday, April 22, 2024

Hunger and malnutrition a curse in India


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The theme for 8 March 2024 – International Women’s Day is “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.” India needs to invest in daily wage earning mothers to accelerate progress in the field of fighting hunger and malnutrition among children. Mothers in many economically disadvantaged households work very hard to earn wages even while rearing their infant children. As a result, they do not get adequate time to feed their starving children. They face double torture in the form of anaemia for not getting adequate food for themselves plus starving children for not getting adequate time to feed them.
Vandana Prasad, a paediatrician and public health specialist said that many infants are deprived of complementary feeding because their mothers’ circumstances prevent them from providing the children with feeding care. He pointed out that maternity entitlements and childcare services could help address the issue but many women do not have access to such services. This causes 1 out of 5 infants in our country to starve for a long period of time.
Population health researcher S. V. Subramanian from Harvard University, Omar Karlsson from Duke University in the US and Rockli Kim, a public health researcher in Korea conducted a study across 92 low-income and middle-income countries on zero-food children. Zero-food children (ZFC) are infants aged between 6 months and 24 months who have not received any food over a 24-hour period. For their study on ZFC in India, they used the data from the Union Health Ministry’s National Family Health Survey for 2019-21.
It was found that in terms of the total number of zero-food children, India is at the top of the list with over 6.7 million infants and the third highest in the world percentage wise. India has 19.3 per cent of zero-food children. India’s position is better than two West African nations Guinea (21.8%) and Mali (20.5%). But much worse than 89 other low-income and middle-income countries like Bangladesh (5.6%), Pakistan (9.2), Nigeria (8.8%) and DR Congo (7.4%).
The nutrition indicators for children under 5 years shows that 1 out of 3 children (35.5 per cent) is a victim of stunting and 1 out of 5 children (19.3 per cent) is a victim of wasting as per the Union Health Ministry’s, National Family Health Survey – 5 (2019 – 20) report. India’s child wasting and child stunting rates are horrific in both the government’s NFHS report and the 2023 Global Hunger Index report.
India has slid into a horrific 111th rank among 125 countries in the 2023 Global Hunger Index. India is behind China (at the top bracket that includes 20 countries), Sri Lanka (60), Nepal (69), Myanmar (72), Bangladesh (81) and Pakistan (102) among our neighbours. The report says that India’s child wasting rate (18.7 per cent) is the highest on the global level.
The New National Educational Policy has proposed that the midday meals provided to students in government and aided schools should be supplemented by breakfast as children are unable to learn optimally when they are hungry.
A few days ago, the Supreme Court of India has left it to the states and union territories to decide on setting up community kitchens for providing nutritious food to the underprivileged to tackle hunger and starvation deaths. Community kitchens can also effectively tackle malnutrition.
Every woman should enjoy maternity entitlements and childcare services. Moreover, free milk for infants of poor families, breakfast plus midday meals for the students and community kitchens for the needy must be started. Lifting children and their mothers out of hunger and malnutrition should be given top priority.
Yours etc.,
Sujit De,

Has 5G really revolutionized Bharat?

Almost a year into the rollout of 5G services by Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, the two now cover nearly 10,000 cities and towns and aim to have pan-India coverage by the end of the current calendar year, or March 2024. 5G is available in India in almost every city and in our state as well, but has it really lived up to its promises? Or to the glorious perks that were promised?
5G is great on paper. But in real-world use, it has been synonymous with call drops, constant shuffle between 4G and 5G, and network vacuums. It has basically been a disaster, and in this piece, I am digging deeper into the poor experience.
5G speeds are not consistent across the country, and there is patchy coverage, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Sadly, in our city, many areas have not been totally covered by 5G, both in the SA and NSA modes, as per the 5G network deployment provided by Jio and Airtel. Vi and BSNL are still on the queue to deploy this technology.
In my locality, both Jio and Airtel are providing stable and good 5G networks and data speeds, but once I move to another location within the city’s vicinity, horrible is the word I am using because there is no uniformity in the availability of the 5G network and my cell phone is always switching between 4G and 5G, often greatly impacting my cell phone’s battery life. Hence, I am restricted to keeping 4G mode only while moving out of my abode, which is frustrating.
Keeping my problems aside, for many cell phone users in our state, transiting or being able to use this technology is not easy as bread and butter for them, as they need to buy a new cell phone with 5G compatibility, and truth be told, there are limited and specific 5G bands where the telecom giants are deploying their 5G networks.
Many cell phone manufacturers have claimed that they have 5G technology in their cell phones. However, when the consumer has bought the device, it is sad to say that their cell phones are not compatible with the 5G bands deployed by both telecom parties in our country. Hence, this matter needs to be clearly understood and addressed, and the 5G network providers should make the consumer understand this before transitioning to this technology.
The surveys conducted of subscribers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, they are still latching on to 4G and, to my amazement, 2G networks too on Dumb phones.
In May 2023, India hit the $100 million milestone for the sale of 5G smartphones. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed stringent performance benchmarks for telecom operators, especially related to call drops, incorporating parameters for 5G services and the 5G Bands for the first time as it looks to improve the consumer experience.
Sure, Indian mobile phone users—at least those who are using either Airtel or Jio—can see the 5G mark on their phones in most Indian cities. But can they use and experience 5G the way it has been promised? No. So far, the 5G rollout in India has been a disaster for users as of now.
Disaster! A big word, right? But I have my reasons, based on my shoddy experience with 5G on multiple phones and on too many occasions. And I believe that by the time I am done sharing all these reasons, chances are that you will agree with me.
Here’s the thing: while 5G is the buzzword in the country and the speed test results have been a great source of praise for the network providers, the truth is that 5G’s real-world accessibility in India remains limited. The reality beyond the speed tests is very different.
Yours etc.,
Chanmiki Laloo,
Shillong 02



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