India Hunger Project

Link to India Hunger blog:

Our groups project focused on the mass amount of hunger going on in India today. We each focused on smaller topics of the lower caste that cause or are caused by hunger. These topics are farmer suicide, gender discrimination with food, sustainability of food, the cleanliness of the county along with its large population, and the affects on children. My personal topic was the affect on children and the lower caste, where I went into how the kids can not receive a quality education because they are busy searching for food and the lack of food decreases their development in the brain. Along with the lower caste, I described how their culture and society will not allow them to advance, and how they actually make up a huge portion of the Indian population. Our solution to this major problem in India was to get some support from their government and fellow citizens because the people of the lower caste could contribute to the prospering of India if properly nourished.

india hunger

My portion of the essay:

Caste and Effects on Children

Author: Dakota Hitchcock

India is operated by a socioeconomic system that ranges back centuries. The lowest caste in India is the Dalits, also known as the “Untouchables”. Annapurna Waughray states, “India’s Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) number around 167 million or one-sixth of India’s population. Despite constitutional and legislative prohibitions of Untouchability and discrimination on grounds of caste they continue to suffer caste-based discrimination and violence” (327). They are permanently stuck in the lowest caste of Indian society. Once people are placed in a particular caste, it is nearly impossible to get out. Waughray writes, “Caste membership, and hence social status, is hereditary (determined by birth) and not susceptible to alteration through personal effort” (328).  Their constant poverty is a main factor that has lead to these people’s constant hunger and starvation. The caste system is part of centuries of culture and tradition; this system is as unchanging as the Dalits lack of proper nutrition. If a family is born into the Dalit caste, their life is predetermined to be worse than others. Waughray describes the Dalits, “Untouchability, whereby members of certain groups are considered permanently and irredeemably ritually polluted and polluting such that all physical and social contact with them must be avoided, serves both as a cause of and a mechanism for social exclusion and material exploitation” (328-329).  With low wages and no sign of change, families cannot earn enough to sustain a healthy body or standard of living.  Moses Penumaka states, “the so-called “untouchables” or dalits are considered neither human beings nor even creatures but rather total infidels and invalid ones in the society” (302). The Dalits are harshly treated by the rest of society and it all stems from societal roles that were established long before there were human rights.

India is one of the most populated areas in the world, so there is a larger group who are in poverty. Living on a very minimal income puts a strain on the Dalits. Daniel Gustafson describes India’s situation, “rising food costs can have major impact on vulnerable households, pushing those least able to cope further into poverty and hunger” (398). Families with little to no income are forced into hunger because they can simply not afford the high costs of necessities. The lack of ample funding for food leads to long-term nutrition based problems.  Gustafson states, “undernutrition levels in India are higher than many other countries that are much poorer and that have not reached near the economic growth” (399). Since families are poor the lack of food trickles down through to the younger generations. Children are those who suffer the most. Gustafson also writes,  “particularly for children, even short-term worsening of nutrition can lead to permanent detrimental effects” (399). Children are often neglected even as their family’s situation improves. Indian children are not adored as much as Western children. Daniel Gustafson quotes Banerjee who illustrates a typical situation in India:

“While Indians may prefer to buy things other than food as they get richer, they and their children are certainly not well nourished by any objective standard. Anemia is rampant; body-mass indices are some of the lowest in the world; almost half of children under 5 are much too short for their age, and one-fifth are so skinny that they are considered to be “wasted”” (405).

Parents would rather buy other things than food that greatly affects the health of their already malnourished children.  The growing population also means more children. This alone could create a problem of increasing number of children and also a larger number of malnourished children. Either way the aspect of hungry Indian children will likely never change if the Dalit caste system remains firm.

The hunger crisis in India is something that cannot be denied. Some argue that in large, rich countries than famines do not happen, but that is simply false. Bob Currie writes, “In short, people do not starve in electoral democracies; and they do not do so because public action gives this issue instant attention in such polities, thereby motivating governments to initiate policy interventions necessary to safeguard public access to food and the capability to achieve this” (873).  India does provide very much action or relief to the impoverished Dalits. They are virtually a people who are not cared for or given aid, and this is a societal standard. The Indian government cannot be asked to give all the aid to those in need though. There are over one billion people in Indian and there is a large group that are in poverty and in need of food. Since the government and other Indian citizens forget the Dalits, it will take help from outside sources to end their hunger pains. There are regions in India where the concept of public action to combat hunger is practiced. The public and government are called upon to help their fellow citizens in need. Currie describes, “in Kalahandi and Naupada districts in the western Orissa region of India, public action has been widely in evidence, designed to place pressure on government to maintain effective programmes to combat long-term poverty and hunger” (877). These are just isolated examples of where public action is popular. There are many more regions that are in need and those Indians will have to hope to get help from other places.  Currie states, “responsibility for relief and welfare administration at regional and local level is rarely the concern of the government sector alone; instead in India this more commonly operates through a wider network of actors, including government departments (with inputs from elected representatives and appointed civil servants), non-government organizations (local and from overseas), private contractors, political lobbyists and other agencies” (876). The generosity of the Western world and others are what is going to help the most. There are of course limitations and at this point in history there is far less relief for all those who are in great need, especially the Dalit children of India.

There is a general lack of quality food for improvised people and their children and it leads many health issues. There was a study conducted on the deficiency of Vitamin A in rural Indian preschoolers. This can be attested to lack of Vitamin A in their diets and this steams from lack of basic proper nutrition. N. Arlappa states, “History of night blindness among pre-school children was obtained from their mothers by asking them whether their children had any difficulty in playing and/or identifying things/toys in dim light, especially at sunset” (132). Children are some of the must susceptible to health affects from poor nutrition. In the developmental years of a child’s life, nutrition is key to proper development. Nitish Mondal describes affects children could experience, “It has been opined that chronic undernutrition during this period is linked with slower cognitive development and serious health impairments in later life that subsequently reduce quality of life” (199).  Mental development can be greatly altered by deprived nutrition. Family income and size are also factors to whether a child can end up underweight or have stunted growth. “The impact of family size and number of sibling on the prevalence of undernutrition was studied after controlling other confounding factors such as family income, education and nature of occupation. Family size did not seem to have any association with the prevalence of undernutrition” (Mondol 210). The number of children needing to be fed seems to cause more issues than the overall size of the family. If there are more young children, there is a greater chance for one or more to become undernourished. Children and their overall health should be one of the main concerns when dealing with eliminating hunger in India.

The Dalit caste in India, also known as the Untouchables, is the lowest of the low. Societally they are at the bottom of the chain and it is simply a matter of birth that lands a family in this caste. They are the most impoverished and undernourished. There is no way to change one’s status so it is almost perpetual poverty. This poverty affects how families use their money. Food is a scarce necessity that most do no have enough of. This lack of food affects children the most which can lead to underdevelopment and cognitive issues. In India there are so many impoverished people that it is nearly impossible to help them all. Without help generations of poor children can begin to show signs of wasting and developmental issues. India needs to change its social rankings in order to fix much larger issues like child hunger.



Works Cited

Arlappa, N., et al. “Prevalence Of Vitamin A Deficiency And Its Determinants Among The Rural Pre-School Children Of Madhya Pradesh, India.” Annals Of Human Biology 38.2 (2011): 131-136. SPORT Discus with Full Text. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

This article is about the deficiency in vitamin A in India and their food supply. It tended to focus on the effect on rural pre-school aged children who were poor. This works for my portion of the paper because it shows how children are highly affected by the lack of something they need in their food, which also they barely receive in the first place.

Currie, Bob. “Public Action And Its Limits: Re-Examining The Politics Of Hunger Alleviation In Eastern India.” Third World Quarterly 19.5 (1998): 873-892. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

This article focused on what people are doing about hunger, and maybe ways they can fix it. It looks into India’s liberal government and how they are trying to help their people. This was fitting for the project by showing some possible solutions to this ongoing problem.

Gustafson, Daniel J. “Rising Food Costs & Global Food Security: Key Issues & Relevance For India.” Indian Journal Of Medical Research138.3 (2013): 398-410. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

This article touched points how food and the technology to produce food has risen. It showed India as one of the top countries with food insecurity. My article needed this information to show that the lower caste cannot afford food for their children, and also to show how, globally, India is seen as a very hungry and poor place.

Mondal, Nitish, and Jaydip Sen. “Prevalence Of Undernutrition Among Children (5–12 Years) Belonging To Three Communities Residing In A Similar Habitat In North Bengal, India.” Annals Of Human Biology 37.2 (2010): 198-216. SPORT Discus with Full Text. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Penumaka, Moses. “The Suffering Reality Of The Oppressed In God–The World’s Future And Its Implications For Dalit Theology.” Currents In Theology And Mission 39.4 (2012): 297-305. ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.

Waughray, Annapurna. “Caste Discrimination And Minority Rights: The Case Of India’s Dalits.”International Journal On Minority & Group Rights 17.2 (2010): 327-353. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.


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