Discussion Room

Discussion Room

Because, the change starts with me!


“The hand that rocks the cradle, the pro-creator, the mother of tomorrow; a woman shapes the destiny of civilization. Such is the irony, that a beautiful creation such as the girl child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity.”

When we look into areas of ushering change; when we talk high about empowering women, encouraging change; education of the girl child is most pressing. “When you educate a man, you educate an individual and when you educate a woman, you educate an entire family.” This thought is manifold; self-confidence, intelligence, determination and independence are what education endows a woman with paving the way for her to make a progressive family.

If we delve deeper into this, we can certainly understand that girls not attending school, seem to be higher in number than boys. Millions of girls every single year are denied accesses to protection, psycho-social support and most importantly the right to education. Owing to this, girls are being continually subjected to sexual assault, domestic violence and deprived childhood. Sexual health and reproductive rights are contravened every single day and most women stay mute!

The blessing is that, India contains in her a steel determination in reaching education to all her children, predominantly her girls. India has proudly declared education as a fundamental right which secures constitutional provisions for the girl child to receive compulsory free education. Campaigns like the ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ reiterate the importance of elementary education and its effect on our society.

Often educated women too are subject to persecution which restricts their inner potential from impacting the country’s development. Complete denial of independence aggravates gender inequalities and prepares women to remain in confinements perpetually. All of this subjugation stems primarily from prejudice that abounds in our society. ‘Girls are irrational, domestic beings and most importantly slow learners, then why bother educating them?’ is the thought that governs most minds.

This thought needs to change. It is time we start observing women as winds of change! A boorish ignorant mother soon needs to be wiped away from India’s face so that matters of hygiene and sanitation can be taught to the girl child right from her tender years. Malnourishment, a living illustration of this problem needs to be tackled vehemently by both the government and the society so that the health of the girl child is not compromised upon.

Programmes like ‘Mahila Samakhya Program’, ‘National Program for Education of Girls at Elementary Level’ (NPEGEL), ‘Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme’, are all initiatives by the government to ensure that the girl child is not bereft of education but unfortunately the scenario has not changed much. The question that still remains unanswered is ‘why’. ‘Why hasn’t there been change when it was expected too?’

The problem is not with the state apparatus, the problem exists in the mind. It is the way of thinking that needs to be changed; people’s commitment towards educating a girl needs to be concrete. It needs to be all pervasive. From somewhere we have to start and the change needs to initiate with us! Further we can diffuse this thought to those who would care to listen. A tiny step today will definitely metamorphose into a giant leap tomorrow!

Do write back to us and tell us how we can open up more avenues and opportunities for the girl child. Collectively as a nation what else can be done to empower the girl child.


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Discussion Room

Observing World Food Day


World Food Day is a day observed every year on October 16, when organisations and people around the world come together to declare solidarity against hunger. They take part in community events and awareness campaigns encouraging people to take action against hunger. Meal packing and delivery, food drives, walkathons, there several ways for one to take part in this quest for a sustainable solution. Because whether well-provided for or underserved, one aspect where individuals of all societies surrender is hunger. It is also true that hunger in many countries has taken on the avatar of an epidemic.

India stands as one of the topmost countries facing the retribution of hunger for many decades now. Here are few facts on India’s standing pertaining to food security—India climbed to the 55th position in the Global Hunger Index 2014 as compared to its 63rd position in 2013; the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) by UNICEF indicates that there has been a decrease in child stunting for children below the age of five in India from 48% in 2004-05 to 38.8% in 2013-14. These statistics may give us a sense of achievement but as a nation we should have had steeper upward graph in the GHI.

Whether the cause for this extensive prevalence of hunger is food wastage, improper storage and distribution, price rise or economic disparity; the continued prevalence of hunger has caused much damage to the children of our nation. 30.7% children under five years old are underweight, 1 in 4 children are malnourished and 3,000 children die every day from poor-diet related illness.

Many NGOs and innovative companies are partaking in the Government’s attempt to counter hunger by taking responsibility in the various initiatives developed. The Akshaya Patra Foundation is one such NGO that implements the Mid-Day Meal Scheme across 10 states benefitting over 1.4 million children every day. By providing these mid-day meals, it aims to bridge the gap of inaccessibility to wholesome food during the growing years of underserved children. Since children have to attend school to benefit from the mid-day meal, it also incentivises children to read and learn, thereby developing them into educated citizens of the nation.

But it not just the Government’s, NGO’s or companies’ responsibility to eradicate hunger, individual involvement is needed to ensure that one day we live in a hunger free society, flagging off with freedom from classroom hunger.

Tell us your thoughts on how we can all contribute to end child hunger in India.

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Discussion Room

Making sense of undernutrition


None of us in India are a stranger to hunger. Living in a country which houses a quarter of all undernourished people across the world, we frequently see the pinched, gaunt faces of hungry men, women and heartbreakingly, the children. Today hunger among children is a very real problem in India; one that the Government, NGOs, corporates and community members have joined forces to fight every day. But in order to tackle the problem, it’s important to first understand it.

Hunger is a state of daily undernourishment where its victims live on less than the number of kilocalories needed a day to meet their energy requirements. As of 2014, one in nine people across the world suffer from undernourishment. Hunger can have devastating effects both physically and mentally, like poor energy levels, lower immunity against diseases, poor concentration and assimilation and much more.

One of the consequences of chronic hunger can be malnutrition, although malnutrition can be found even in the absence of hunger. Malnutrition includes both undernutrition and overnutrition.

Undernutrition, which is deficiencies in energy, protein and/or micronutrients, predominantly manifests in three ways. These are stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height) and micronutrient deficiency (lacking required micronutrients – vitamins and minerals). All of these forms of under nutrition are found to different degrees in children across India.

Stunting in children is more than being too short for their age; it also includes suffering from reduced brain development and cognitive capacity. This has a lasting impact on the child’s life, and on the nation. Children who suffer from stunting have experienced chronic under nutrition during the first two years of their life, which is a critical timeframe for their growth and development. Stunting can occur in children as a result of a malnutrition cycle where an already under nourished adolescent girl later becomes an undernourished mother who gives birth to a low birth weight baby. The situation is exacerbated by continued lack of access to proper nutrition post birth.

Maternal health is huge concern in preventing stunting in children. Inadequate nutrition in mothers before conception and during pregnancy plays a big role in foetal stunting. In fact, fifty per cent of the growth failure in children that happens by the age of two years occurs in the womb due to the poor nutritional status of mothers.

Post-delivery feeding practices for infants are central to their healthy development too. Breastfeeding within the first hour of the baby’s birth is critical to the baby’s survival. Six months of exclusive breastfeeding, with a combination of breastfeeding and nutritious, age appropriate complementary foods in the following months till two years of age or more are critical to preventing stunting in infancy and early childhood.

Although stunting is prevalent in the country, India is making good progress in addressing the issue today. Between 2005-06 and 2013-14 India has achieved a 9.1 percentage point reduction in stunting among children below the age of five, dropping from 47.9 to 38.8 per cent. This has been complimented by a similar improvement in breastfeeding practices in the country with the number of infants below six months of age who are exclusively breastfed increasing from 46.6 to 71.6 per cent in the same time frame.

Wasting or thinness, signified by a low weight to height ratio, is usually the result of extreme starvation or serious disease (either in the short or long term). Typically, wasting becomes evident in the second year of an infant’s life. Wasting can be treated with supplementary foods. In cases of extreme wasting, children can develop Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), which can be treated with a carefully blended combination of proteins, fat, sugar and micronutrients, as prescribed by the World Health Organisation.

On the severity scale a national prevalence of wasting between 10-14 per cent is considered a serious problem, while 15 per cent or above is critical. In 2005-06 India had a dire problem with wasting, with 20 per cent of children under the age of five suffering from this affliction. Though the situation has improved slightly according to the 2013-14 figures which show a five percentage point drop to 15 per cent, India’s wasting figures remain critical.

Micronutrient deficiency or ‘Hidden Hunger’ is also an extremely prevalent form of under nutrition. Referred to as Hidden Hunger because it is not visibly apparent, it occurs when people eat food that doesn’t supply them with the right amount of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that they need every day. Hidden Hunger has serious negative consequences on a person’s physical and mental health, especially for pregnant women and children. Over 2 billion people across the world suffer from this deficiency.

Although they are needed in very small quantities, micronutrients allow the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances that are crucial for normal functioning. The absence of these micronutrients, especially Iodine, Vitamin A Folate and Iron, can cause severe ailments and even death.

In India the 2006 National Family Health Survey showed that micronutrient deficiency was alarmingly bad with only 25 per cent of children under the age of five receiving Vitamin A supplementation. However, the same year the Government implemented a biannual supplementation programme, over time increasing the coverage to two-thirds by 2011.

Micronutrient deficiency is a serious issue, but can be tackled by providing access to supplements, fortifying complementary foods for infants between six months to two years of age, and fortifying staples and condiments in the household.

This article aims to bring about an understanding of undernutrition. It’s a messy, complex issue that countries all across the world struggle with. But the right understanding of the issue, combined with resources to tackle it, can help us end the problem once and for all.

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Discussion Room

Shridhar Venkat, Mohandas Pai discuss classroom hunger with Rotarians


Shridhar Venkat, CEO of Akshaya Patra, along with T.V. Mohandas Pai, a Trustee with the organisation addressed a gathering of Rotary Club members recently. Some of the dignitaries present at this gathering were Dr. João Cravinho, the Ambassador of the European Union to India; Shailesh Vishnubhai Haribhakti, Advisor at Gaja Capital Partners, Director of IDBI Capital Market Services Ltd; Sumantra Sen, CEO JSW Foundation and Madhav Das, Chief Communication Officer of Deutche Bank.

In their discussion Shridhar and Mohandas Pai spoke about the work the Foundation has undertaken in reducing hunger and poverty amongst children in India, the progress the organisation has made through its mid-day meal programme, and the distance they have yet to go.

“Our vision statement is that no child in India will be deprived of education because of hunger. India is home to 40% of the 165 million malnourished children in the world. 40% of our country’s children are malnourished and about 8.1 million children are out of school. Imagine being put in a classroom without any dinner or breakfast. Due to poverty, children drop out of school and take up menial jobs, missing out on the benefits of education. We have found that education is the most powerful factor to take an entire family out of the cycle of poverty,” says Shridhar, explaining the core focus of Akshaya Patra’s work.

Addressing a serious concern of food safety and quality while providing these nutritious meals to children, Shridhar also talked about the crucial role technology plays in Akshaya Patra’s operations model to cook food efficiently, both in terms of time and raw material. “This requires a lot of automation and the kitchens boast of conveyor belts and machines that can cook for 1,000 children in just 15 minutes. This also means the food is practically untouched by hand making it sterile and hygienic. The organisation also makes sure that the food is piping hot when delivered to the child,” he says.

“Akshaya Patra not only takes care of the hunger aspect but it also takes care of the socialisation objective. All the children, irrespective of caste, creed and religion come together and share a good meal,” Shridhar adds, giving us a glimpse into the greater role the mid-day meal programme plays in transforming society.

Mohandas Pai also expounded on how Akshaya Patra has gone above and beyond in its goal of reducing hunger in India, especially during times of disaster. “There was a cloudburst in Rajasthan, which resulted in floods. In 24 hours, we mobilized and supplied food for 50,000 people. Even in the last Nepal earthquake, we were able to send rotis (Indian flatbread) for 100,000 people in 24 hours,” he says proudly. The Foundation is even now working with the Jamsetji Tata Trust and Sipradian Sahayata Sanstha to facilitate building a field kitchen in Nepal to provide healthy food to the earthquake affected region.

Ending the discussion by urging the Rotary Club members to support Akshaya Patra’s work Mohandas Pai said, “The latest data reveals that 30% of India’s children from 0-5 years are malnourished. Some die possibly because of contaminated water and lack of toilets, but largely because of lack of food. If we can just involve ourselves and others in eliminating this kind of hunger, by setting up kitchens where expectant mothers, nursing mothers in poor areas can get food, children will not suffer from malnutrition. When the mother is well nourished, the child will be nourished. And if you do this for the first two years, the child will grow up to be okay. I feel, as a society we don’t understand the problem… I urge you all to abstain from food for two days. Feel the pain; feel what hunger is and then you will understand. And when you feel it, then you will definitely do something about it.”

Share your views on classroom hunger in India, and let us know how you would like to get involved to help us fight this issue. Leave us a comment below.

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Discussion Room

Understanding India’s hunger problem


Globally we’ve made great strides in tackling the issue of hunger in the past 25 years. In 1990 the Global Hunger Index (GHI) score for developing countries was 20.6, but in 2014 it stands at 12.5 – a drop of 39 per cent. But despite this, there are still approximately 805 million people around the world who suffer from long term malnourishment.

In India too, the good news remains laced with the bad. India’s ranking on the Global Hunger Index has improved by eight places, positioned at 55th out of 76 countries in 2014. This drop has changed the classification of India’s hunger situation from ‘alarming’ to ‘serious’ according to the GHI. This improved ranking also shows how hard India has been working to solve its hunger problem. The results can be seen by the drop in the score of its underweight children by almost 13 points from 43.5 per cent in 2005-2006, to 30.7 per cent in 2013-14, as per a provisional 2014 study done by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF.

India has managed to achieve this growth through initiatives like improving agricultural productivity, making provisions to reduce vulnerabilities of small and marginal farmers, and focusing on improving the cost efficiency, targeting and nutritional value of food-based social schemes like the Targeted Public Distribution System, Integrated Child Development Service and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.

However, according to UNICEF, India is still home to approximately 243 million adolescents (aged 10-19 years), of which 56 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys suffer from anaemia – raising the crucial and often overlooked issue of hidden hunger (micro-nutrient deficiency). Also, despite the fact that India’s per capita income has increased by more than three times in the past 20 years, social inequality still remains very high. This gap between the rich and the poor in Indian society can be seen by the fact that the bottom 10 per cent of the population account for a little over 3 per cent of the total consumption expenditure, while the top 10 per cent accounts for 31 per cent.

Food wastage is another crucial aspect while analysing India’s hunger problem. An article in The Hindu reported last year that as much as 1.94 lakh metric tonnes of food grain worth crores of rupees were wasted in India between 2005 and 2013. In India food wastage occurs at several levels. Huge amounts of food are lost because of poor infrastructure at the production and processing stages. Lack of proper storage facilities like warehouses for grains, cold storage units for perishable items and unreliable stowage during transport cause huge losses to both society and the economy. At the consumption level too food waste is high, especially in the middle and upper classes of society. Perfectly edible food is discarded into dustbins across millions of households on a daily basis, while cultural norms of lavish celebrations for festivals and weddings in India have contributed to excess food wastage as well.

Hunger is a deep-rooted issue that India struggles with even today, but the tide is slowly turning. As the economy grows and infrastructure improves, literacy rates go up and access to health care expands India moves towards a zero hunger society. To achieve this goal as quickly as possible we urge each of you to try and fulfil the theme of this year’s World Hunger Day (28th May), and partner with us to ‘Do something great’! Together we can help end malnutrition and hunger in India.

How would you like to help solve India’s hunger problem? Leave us your comments below.

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Discussion Room

Moving towards zero hunger


Hunger is an endemic issue that affects 805 million people (1in 9 people) on earth. Even worse, hunger doesn’t differentiate based on age. Each year around 3.1 million children below the age of five die because of poor nutrition. Around 100 million children in developing countries around the world are underweight, and 66 million primary school children go to class hungry on school days.

It’s a paradox. Today hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined; yet for the first time in human history we have the technology, resources and policies available to achieve zero hunger in our lifetime. (source: wfp)

That’s what the the Zero Hunger Challenge, launched by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, urges us to attempt. The World Food Programme emphasises this through their Hunger Map 2014 which points out the prevalence of undernourishment across the populations of developing countries in 2012-14. The map highlights the widespread hunger across the world by classifying countries according to a five point hunger scale.

Developed countries like the United States of America, Brazil, Argentina, the Russian Federation, Australia, countries of Europe and a few others fell within the ‘Very Low’ hunger scale; Peru, Colombia and China were a few that were rated ‘Moderately Low’; Bolivia, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India were some that were rated ‘Moderately High’; Botswana, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Congo were rated ‘High’; while Namibia, Zambia, Ethiopia and others were rated ‘Very High’. Some countries were not rated due to insufficient data.

But by leveraging the huge amount of wealth available across the world and the growing global concern over hunger, with the technological advancements that allow us to mass produce food on a scale we’ve never seen before, we have the arsenal we need to eliminate global malnutrition and starvation for good.

Akshaya Patra has been attempting to achieve this amongst school children in India over the last 15 years. By partnering with the Government of India, the Foundation has created an affordable operations model where a contribution of Rs. 750 (£10/$15) can feed one child the nutritious, filling mid-day meal every day for an entire year. In fact, being a non-profit organisation Akshaya Patra is eager to pass on its operations model to interested parties to facilitate this war against hunger.

With its highly mechanised kitchens each designed to mass produce up to one lakh meals a day, the Foundation has served as an example with the London School of Business and the Harvard Business School doing case studies on the operations process. In addition, Akshaya Patra has also been nominated and represents itself on the Central Government Mid-Day Meal Scheme’s National Steering-cum-Monitoring Committee. These measures and more exemplify Akshaya Patra’s dedication to ending classroom hunger in India, and someday across the world.

With the community involvement in feeding programmes rising all over the world, the challenge to achieve zero hunger is becoming more achievable every day. Tell us how you would like to help make our world hunger free by leaving a comment below.

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Discussion Room

Small steps to save earth


To quote Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Mankind is on the pinnacle of advancement, with breakthroughs in science and technology happening every day. These developments have given us power, but we have a responsibility to wield this power with caution.

Today with earth’s resources strained more than ever before, humanity is coming together to reverse the negative impact development has had on our planet. On Earth Day, let’s take a moment to see how we as responsible citizens can contribute on an individual, community and organisation level to saving planet Earth.

  • Save water: We all waste water in different ways. Sometimes we leave the water running while washing dishes or never get around to fixing the leaking faucet. These oversights that we think will make no difference have a huge impact in combination with the global population. Saving water in your home or office means more water for your community, and every little bit counts.
    At Akshaya Patra a technology to treat effluents called Porous Sulpha Sponge (PSS) has been identified. This technology is under consideration to be adopted in the kitchens.
  • Reduce air pollution: Smog and dust have become a regular part of our lives. But we can reduce their impact by taking a few basic steps like planting more trees, using environment friendly ways of commuting like walking or cycling and using less electricity to reduce burning coal and natural gas.
    Using data analytics Akshaya Patra reduced the number of meal delivery routes by five, lowering the fuel consumption and vehicle emission each month.
  • Manage waste better: Try and reduce your home or office waste by purchasing products that are reusable and composting waste food scraps to nourish your backyard or garden. This waste can also be used to generate power for your home or office.
    Taking into account the huge amounts of waste generated, Akshaya Patra’s Vasanthapura (Bangalore) and Vadodara (Gujarat) kitchens have installed BioUrja plants. In Bangalore the compact bio-waste to energy system has enabled the kitchen to generate fuel worth 70 cylinders a month. In Vadodara the plant takes care of 1/3rd of the LPG needs of the kitchen at less than five per cent of the current recurring cost.
  • Reduce your energy usage: There are many ways to reduce your energy consumption. Some of these are to fit your home or office with solar panels to run your basic electric needs, use energy efficient appliances, and replace or clean air filters on time in your air-conditioner or heater to avoid them working overtime.
    The Vasanthapura kitchen has also had a solar plant installed which produces up to 70 units of power a day. This energy is used to power applications like fans, computers and other basic systems.

These steps can be implemented even on a mediocre scale in any home or office. If each one of us make these small changes to take care of our planet, we will soon see Mother Earth thriving once more.

Do you have any eco-friendly tips to share? Let us know by commenting below.

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Discussion Room

Come together to reduce Maternal Mortality


11th April, 2015 is a Saturday. While this is enough to make most of us happy, there is another reason to be glad. It is also National Safe Motherhood Day, a day dedicated to raise awareness on the issues and importance of women’s health especially during the times of pregnancy and beyond.

This event came into being in 1999 with the support of The White Ribbon Alliance (WRA), to ‘ensure that all women realise their right to be safe and healthy before, during and after childbirth’, and has been picking up momentum ever since.

Improving maternal health in India is an immediate need, one that has been taken up in a large way through recent years. In fact, the Maternal Mortality Ratio has been successfully reduced from 212 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007-09, to 178 in 2010-12, and further to 167 in 2011-13 according to the The Office of the Registrar General, India – Sample Registration System (the SRS is India’s largest demographic survey). However, in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals, India has to achieve a target MMR of 140 per 100,000 live births by the end of 2015.

Therefore community participation in solving this issue is crucial. The theme chosen by WRA India for 2015 is ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ – Citizens participation and engagement for improving women’s and children’s health. This can include framing policies, running/volunteering for programmes that improve the health of women and children, raising awareness among women of the best practices to follow, donating to institutions that support this cause and much more.

Akshaya Patra too works towards improving the health of pregnant and lactating mothers by providing meals at Anganwadis in Jaipur. Currently the Foundation feeds almost 6,000 women across 298 centers in Jaipur every day. This ensures that during this crucial period of their lives, these women have access to sufficient, nutritious food that keeps them and their new born healthy and strong.

Tell us what you think should be done to ensure safe motherhood for women? Leave us a comment below.

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Discussion Room

5 complexities of India’s hunger problem


We all want to end child hunger. That’s a no brainer. When we look around and see those under-served, we all yearn for a world where there is enough food for everyone. But hunger is a very complex problem, especially in a country like India.

Here are some elements that need to be considered for us to create a reliable strategy against hunger.

Lack of fresh data – The last reliable data on the weight and height for children and adults, critical in determining the malnutrition levels of the country, were issued a decade ago, in 2005-06.

However the situation is on the mend with the National Family Health Survey scheduled for release at the end of next year. In the interim, UNICEF and the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development have conducted the ‘Rapid Survey on Children’ for more information.

Recognising Hidden Hunger – It is vital to combat not just under nutrition, but micro-nutrient deficiencies too. Hidden Hunger, which is the chronic deficiency of crucial vitamins and minerals, affects an estimated two billion people worldwide.

The role of myths and superstition – Social myths about health practices (in rural and tribal regions especially) can get in the way of administering medication that fights malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Educating mothers, fathers and in-laws can be an effective way to overcome superstition and nutrient deficiencies together.

Children of tribals and other minorities – The children of minority communities are often the most deprived. Stamped with social stigma and lacking access to nutrition, the children from these sections are usually nutritionally deficient.

In fact, according to a 2009 report by the NNMB (National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau) on the Diet and Nutritional Status of Tribal Population covered across 9 states of India on children of the age group of 1-5, 52 per cent were malnourished, from which 20 per cent were severely malnourished.

Developing an interim plan – All our concerted efforts are working to turn the tide against child hunger in India. Meanwhile, we need an interim plan of how to support children and their families financially and medically, provide sustainable nutrition, education, and be their support system in this period of change and development.

These are some of our thoughts on India’s ‘hungerscape’. We’d love to know if you have something to add to this list. Let us know by commenting below.

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Discussion Room

India’s Millenium Development Goals: A semi-success story

millenium development goals

We are now less than 450 days from the deadline to the completion of the Millenium Development Goals, and it’s time to take stock of where India stands in achieving these, and make a final push towards victory. The Millenium Development Goals were agreed upon in a declaration made in the year 2000, and signed by over 189 countries across the world. Out of 8 goals this article will focus on the first two which are critical to India’s progress and closely related to Akshaya Patra’s cause.

The first goal is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. This goal has two targets through which it can be achieved. The first target is to ‘halve between 1990 and 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day.’ The progress made towards achieving this target can be judged across three indicators:

  • Poverty head count ratio (This is the percentage of the population below the national poverty line)
  • Poverty gap ratio
  • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption

Poverty rates in India dropped from 45% in 1994 to 34% in 2005, and according to the latest NSS survey (National Sample Survey) it has further dropped by 5% from 2005 to 2010. So it is clear that India has made some progress in reaching for this target, but there’s some way to go yet.

The second target is to ‘Halve between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.’ The indicator to measuring progress of this target is:

  • Prevalence of underweight children under three years of age

In this India has made less progress. With malnourishment estimated at 52% in 1990, India needs to reduce it to 26% by 2015. However in the stretch from 1999 to 2006, the malnourishment rate declined by only 3% from 43% to 40%. Unless a concentrated effort is made to achieve this target, at the current rate of decline India will have a 33% rate of malnourishment by 2015.

The second crucial goal is to achieve universal primary education. India aims to achieve this through the target of ensuring that ‘by 2015 children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary education.’ The indicators to measure this target are:

  • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
  • Proportion of students starting grade I who will reach grade V
  • Literacy rate of 15 to 24 year olds

With respect to this goal India has had tremendous success. According to the Net Enrolment Ratio (NER) and DISE (District Information System on Education), in 2009-10 India had an enrolment score of 98.3%. These figures make it highly likely that India will achieve its target of ensuring 100% NER for boys and girls well before 2015!

However it is in implementing the second target, of increasing the number of children continuing in primary school from grade I to grade V that India is struggling. As can be seen from the table after an initial burst, sustained primary school enrolment has been fluctuating in recent years.

1999  ⇒  62%
2002  ⇒  81%
2004  ⇒  73%
2008  ⇒  72%
2009  ⇒  76%

However, more good news is that India is also looking at a high probability of achieving 100% youth literacy (literacy rate of 15-24 year olds) by 2015. According to the NSS in 2007-08 alone the urban literacy rate stood at 93% and the rural at 83%.

These figures are inspiring and daunting at the same time. However with only a little more than a year to go it’s time to decide what the world’s next step should be in this battle against poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy. The suggestions outlined by the Open Working Group for Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years provide a way forward, but it is up to each of us, each country, and each Government to translate these endeavours into success.

Source: Millenium Development Goals India Country Report 2011 –

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