Global Hunger IndexDelhi, 1286 kilometersHow Indian women claim their right to food – and demand respect for the poorest
India has 84 dollar billionaires, but they don’t contribute much to reduce the country’s life-threatening poverty. India also has laws which guarantee certain rights to the poorest, but they are not well implemented in most villages. However, in remote Jharkhand, 1,000 women stand up against this injustice. They search for 1 kg of rice per person that did not reach them. But they have more on their mind than just grains – they demand respect.
Rama Gosh and her friends are preparing the first demonstration Dhanwe village in Northeastern India has ever seen. They plan to march and sing in front of the local government office.
What makes these women so upset?
Rice that the central government in Delhi promised them.
Rice that would fill their childrens' bellies.
Rice that did not reach them in Dhanwe.
Dhanwe - Delhi: 1286 kilometers
None of the Dhanwe women has ever been to the capital Delhi.
It is another world.
But they don't.
India the poor
2 million Indians die every year of malnutrition and diseases related to poverty. The Global Hunger Index ranks it among the countries most seriously affected by hunger and malnutrition.
This is what poverty looks like in
The Indian poverty line is at 32 INR (0,40 Euro) per day for rural areas.*
Enough to have some rice and lentils, but not enough to buy a single vegetable, to pay school fees or health costs.
22% of all Indians (or 52% of all Indians in rural areas of Jharkhand where the women live) are considered poor by these standards.
* This correlates with the World Bank’s poverty line of $1,90 (1,69 €) when adjusted for purchasing power.
When wealthy people cremate their dead on the Ganga shore, they throw money into the river as an offering. This man fishes out the coins. For him and his family they can make the difference between life and death.
11 - alternative: Google Earth-Ansicht von Slum vs. reicher Wohngegend in Delhi
Rich and poor Indians live in different worlds, hardly ever talking to one another.
The right to be alive
To reduce social inequalities, the current Modi government (and the previous Singh administration) have passed laws that guarantee basic rights to the poorest.
- And the right to food
The National Food Security Act of 2014 guarantees 5 kg of highly subsidized rice every month to every poor Indian.
But a law passed in New Delhi does not guarantee that it is being implemented more than 1000 km away - in one of the villages that urban Indians like to call “backward”.
Everybody blames someone else:
- The Woman’s Federation blames the ration shop dealer and see a conspiracy on the block level.
- The dealer blames the local government.
- The leader of the village council (Panchayat) acknowledges the shortcomings. He thinks that dealers and traders have taken their share of the rice, because the central government has not provided them with another incentive to sell and transport the rice.
Of course Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not hand out the promised rice directly to Rama Gosh and other people in need.
The government buys the rice from large farmers and keeps it in huge storage facilities, from where drivers transport it to so called Fair Price Shops in the villages – supervised by the state, block and local level officials who hand out ration cards to every family below the poverty line. Before Rama Gosh gets her share from the ration shop, a lot of players can branch something off.
And some of them do – hence the mysterious disappearance of 1 kg per person and month.
Rama would have known
Any local farmer would have warned the local government that this well is destined to become a ruin. But Rama and the others have not been asked, the well was just built like that.
For decades, local governments have spent their money as they deemed right, without consulting the communities.
Wells in improper places…
... and unused school buildings ...
... all over rural India tell that story.
is why Welthungerhilfe and its partner organization train communities to map
their village, identify the poorest people and apply for development
aid that they really need.
And the government started to look and listen.
The local government equipped Dhanwe village with 7 wells within 2 years - in places where people really need them.
Empowered – this is what the women in the self-help groups and their delegates in the Federation feel now. Not only in their contacts with government officials but also within their own families.
"It is important that the poorest gain self-confidence and get their voices heard at the political level.
But we don’t want them to become dependent on government schemes which can change anytime and have their flaws - rice alone is not very nutritious. This is why we equally support them to become self-sufficient farmers."
Anshuman Das, Program Manager, Welthungerhilfe India