Ranchi, 3 thousand activists against hunger in India

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - About 3 thousand activists from 15 Indian states met in Ranchi in Jharkhand, to discuss the problem of hunger in India and support maternity benefits. They included Fr. Irudaya Jyothi SJ, coordinator for the West Bengal of the Right to Food Campaign (RTF), a network of organizations and individuals who struggle for the creation of a country free from hunger and malnutrition.

Speaking to AsiaNews he said: "We have to continue to train activists and in the meantime use the political arena to lobby so that all people can enjoy the right to have quality food."

Activists met September 23 to 25, at the Sixth National Assembly of the movement. Fr. Jyothi, a prominent activist and coordinator of "Udayani" (Jesuits social arm in Calcutta), accompanied a delegation from the group of women's self-help training, composed of 252 women and 15 men. The appointment with the other activists took place in Ranchi railway station, from where the thousands of people then marched in procession to the Gossner High School, for the rally.

The activists chanted slogans and celebrated the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the Delhi government plan to reduce hunger by distributing food at tiered prices, free meals for pregnant women and nursing mothers, although there is still much work to do.

Despite the rapid economic growth that has led India to even outstrip the Chinese giant, the country remains one of the poorest in the world. According to the latest FAO report for 2015 "The State of Food Insecurity in the World", in India 15.2% of the population (of a total of 1.2 billion people) are malnourished; 194.6 million do not have enough food; 3 thousand children die of hunger every day; 58% of children under two years have growth problems and 30.7% of those under five are underweight.

According to the Global Hunger Index 2015, India is in 80th place out of 104 countries. For this, says Kavita Srivastava, national coordinator of the RTF, “hunger is a threat to democracy. Freedom from hunger is a distant dream. We are concerned about the government's apathy towards the marginalized, whether malnourished children who die en masse in Maharashtra or the Dalits and the Muslims who are lynched in the name of cow protection".

The various speakers included Bezwada Wilson, founder of Safai Karmachari Andolan, a movement that since 1994 has led the fight to abolish the practice of manual waste collection, and for which he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award, the equivalent of the Nobel Asian. He condemned the "silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for increasing marginalization in the country" and stressed a profound contradiction: on one hand the millions of rupees poured into the Swach Bharat Abhiyan project ["Clean India" , under which Delhi is committed to cleaning the streets and to building public toilets throughout the country, ed], the other the fact that the plan does not return the dignity to the thousands of people who are still forced to collect their waste manually.

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