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Through this book, I wanted to tell stories of starvation deaths: Harsh Mander

Feb 06, 2013

Ash In The Belly- India's Unfinished Battle Against Hunger by Harsh Mander, is a shocking book, said Mark Tully, a veteran journalist.

Ash In The Belly...

People do not food to eat and on the other hand, it is available for rats, such are the policies in India, rued N C Saxena, member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) and former secretary to the Indian government. Saxena said this while speaking at the launch of , Ash In The Belly- India's Unfinished Battle Against Hunger, a book researched and written by Harsh Mander.

According to Saxena, the strength of the book is that it not only gives insight into how people live with hunger, but also gives in detail, a roadmap showing how hunger can be controlled in India. “We need to address large number of issues if we want to remove hunger,” he said.

Saxena lamented that on a large number of indicators where the government is expected to perform in areas like health and education, the state governments are not flowing the right data. “There is a great deal of suppression of data. We need to really have a great set of data if we really want to capture the crisis of hunger,” he said.

Commenting on the popular Public Distribution System (PDS) of the country, Saxena said, “I feel PDS is not the only answer to the food security in the country. We need to increase demand for food from people by improving their livelihood.

Explaining how the politics of denial has become a stumbling block in the country’s fight against hunger, .legal scholar Upendra Baxi who was also present on the occasion said,  “The book suggests that the battle (against hunger) has just started. Harsh makes painful realities (about hunger) readable,” he said.

Veteran journalist Mark Tully said that Ash In The Belly… is an enormously important book. “I will describe this book as a shocking book.  The book talks more of a compassionate economics. It is a very practical book which brings out analysis, figures, stories on hunger and makes a great deal about government responsibility,” he said.

Tully said that anyone who is complacent about the development that India has achieved should read this book. He said that ignoring agriculture at the cost of infrastructure, FDI and other issues would be very dangerous for India.

Drawing attention to the apathy of people in general, he said that revival of localism as suggested by Mahatam Gandhi was required as a strategy to fight hunger. “We need an economics which helps us to make prevention of hunger our target. It is not just the government but all of us who are allowing people to die of hunger.

Harsh Mander, author of the book, said that he was struck by the spectacular failure of state and the failure of the people in arresting hunger in India. “Through this book, I wanted to tell the stories of starvation deaths which I have seen,” Mander remarked.

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