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Failure of a faulty system

Failure of a faulty system

The death of three sisters Mansi (8), Shikha (4), and Paro (2) due to starvation and gross malnourishment in the Mandawali area of East Delhi on Tuesday comes as a grim reminder of how the poor in the country are forced to live a life of penury and die without a grain in their stomach. Amid the tall claims of the Centre that GDP is growing at over 7 per cent and the Delhi' government's obsession with transforming education and healthcare sectors to become the best in the country, the poor children are dying for want of food while their parents have gone mad and directionless looking for a viable employment. The death of the three minor sisters in the national capital, which boasts the highest per capita income in the country, points to the extreme poverty prevalent in the poor neighbourhoods of the city. As Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia has admitted, the incident indicates a failure of the system. There are government schemes from mid-day meals in the schools to Anganwadi to ensure that vulnerable children get necessary food, these schemes are run without adequate supervision, often resulting in marginalised children not being included in the list of beneficiaries. The children would have benefitted from the government schemes if they had continued to go to their schools or were part of the Anganwadi centres but the mother of the children is said to be mentally unstable and the father, a rickshaw puller whose rickshaw was stolen a few days ago, went out looking for work and did not return home for the past few days. The eldest of the sisters who was studying in class III at a government school in the same locality was irregular at her school. Deprived of the parental care, the children apparently developed diarrhea before succumbing to the complications resulting from prolonged starvation. The incident came to light after the mother of these children took the lifeless bodies to a government hospital where doctors pronounced them dead. The matter was reported to the police and the children were subjected to post-mortem which revealed starvation and malnutrition as the reason for their death. The mother who took her children to hospital when she sensed that something was seriously wrong with her kids is now in a mentally unstable condition. In the hopeless by-lanes of the slum cluster where she lived with her family of five, no one came forward with any help. When the police asked her some questions in the hospital about the death of her children, she reportedly asked for food in reply. It is possible that she herself is suffering from prolonged starvation leading to derangement.

After the incident became a national issue with MPs raising it in Parliament, now politicians from across the spectrum are making a beeline to Mandawali. The mother has been paid some monetary aid by the Delhi government and visiting dignitaries. Apparently, the incident has shaken the conscience of the people in power -- from politicians to government officials. But it is not long that these people will lose sight of the issue and the problem will remain as it is. The death of these children highlights a range of anomalies, foremost of them being abject poverty and inhuman condition in which a large population lives in the national capital and other big cities in the country. There is virtually no government policy that envisages a better living condition with all social security plans in place for the toiling masses who live an anonymous life in the filthy slums of big cities. Contrast this with the ambitious road and highway projects that the government has under implementation at any given point of time or the housing projects that the government plans to undertake to cater to the housing needs of the government employees. If the system has failed to protect the innocent children who died of starvation in a country where there has not been a scarcity of food grains in recent times, it is as much due to the system being faulty and inefficient as it is due to complacent governments and insensitive officialdom. The high economic growth rate that India is aspiring for is not meant for the poor; it is being guided by the middle-class aspirations. The government needs to bring in necessary changes in its policies so that the benefits of the higher economic growth reach the poorest of the poor as much as it is available to the middle class and the rich.

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