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Food for Thought

Obesity is a serious health issue, but for the majority of Indians it is the lack of nutrition and food, enough to even survive, that is a pressing concern.

How I wish we could devise a new method for solving India’s problem of disappearing waistlines, while others worry about their bulging middles. The latter afflicts a minority in India, considering India has recently been found to be the leader in a competition of shrinking waistlines, along with some sub-Saharan African countries.

Bariatric surgery, coronary bypasses, etc, are ‘therapies’ for the rich. The poor, malnourished people are spared these health dangers; like the poor in the West who survived without bloodletting, purging and induced vomiting to get the humours out for 2500 years since the time of Hippocrates, because they could not pay the price the doctors then charged for these procedures.

Social schemes addressing the hunger problem in India are hobbling from one obstacle to another. A typical example that speaks about the hair-brained nature of these schemes comes from the state of Karnataka, where the (in)famous ‘one rupee a kilo’ rice for the poor has already run into a formidable roadblock. The traders’ union has gone on strike demanding higher commissions to distribute the cheap (unfit for consumption) rice for a rupee. Many traders are trying to obtain guaranteed sales contracts for their slow-moving items, like detergents, for a particular amount, as a precondition for distributing the cheap rice!

The scheme is expected to cost the Karnataka government a whopping sum of Rs4,300 crore; a heavy burden on their budget. India is not a rice surplus country and Karnataka might have to import rice to meet the demand if the scheme gets implemented. This is the story of just one state. Then there is the presence of rampant corruption in the set-up. We are also again at the top of the list of corrupt countries.

If one is sincere about improving the lot of India’s poor, who form half the world’s poor, one has to take some basic steps; provide three square meals a day for the poor, uncontaminated by animal and/or human excreta; provide clean water which is still a pipe dream for millions; provide a toilet for every house to avoid hookworms that eat away the little nutrition people get; and provide nutritious food for India’s pregnant women in the first trimester to avoid stillbirths and birth of babies with smaller than normal vital organs like the heart, blood vessels, hippocampus major and the pancreas. Congenital debilities make them prone to precocious heart diseases and other killers like diabetes. Thanks to the hippocampus major being small, these people cannot go up the educational ladder.

The greatest misfortune that could befall anyone is “not knowing where your next meal comes from.” Agrarian societies have suffered from this curse since the time the Yangtze Valley peasants worried about floods and pestilence. The husband in rural Indian households often spends a good part of his daily wages on country liquor. It falls upon the wife to feed herself and the children by scrounging together whatever little money she can manage. Poverty, goes the old adage, is the womb of all ills. “The poor pay for their poverty with their lives,” wrote Julian Tudor Hart, working in a poor mining community in Glyncorrwg, Wales, for half a century.

India’s most urgent problem is to get some food for the starving millions who suffer from NIDS (nutritional immune deficiency syndromes) and die like flies daily. When one looks at the whole country, the diseases of affluence cannot be our priority. The lower income group people often suffer from malnutrition due to eating the wrong foods, but the vast majority, the poorest of the poor, have sub-nutrition and shrinking waistlines which needs urgent treatment!

    “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” — Confucius

Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.



Narendra Doshi

2 years ago

Brief article contains a trunkload of points to think about and implement.

Building a Better India – Part13: Police reforms

The single biggest reform required in the Indian police system is to insulate it from the control of politicians and the ruling government

Policing is regulated by the obsolete and archaic Police Act of 1861. Few states, police being a state subject under article 246 of the constitution, have enacted their own police laws but all of these laws have the imprint of the same Police Act of 1861. The police acts and police functioning need major changes and reforms based on reports of various committees formed ove the last 25 years.

The single biggest reform required in the Indian police system is to insulate it from the control of politicians and the ruling government. Since the British period, the police has been characterised as a regime force and is required to place the needs of politicians and powerful individuals over the demands of the rule of the law and needs of citizens.

The selection, appointment, recruitment and training of all Police officers up to the rank of Inspector should be done by an all-India independent and constitutional body called the “Police Commission of India”, who will constitute state level “Police Commissions” for selection, recruitment and transfer of all police forces below the rank of inspector, namely sub-inspectors, assistant sub-inspectors and constables. This central police commission will also formulate policies and give directions for better, efficient and impartial policing.

Transfers, postings and promotions of police forces:

These should be handled by the police commissions without any political or external pressure after due consideration of the recommendations of the DGP and the state government, but with no obligation to work by the rcommendations. Transfer of officers or policemen should be mandatory after three years, but no policeman should be transferred before two years are completed at a posting, as frequent transfers are inconvenient, expensive, demoralising and cannot fix accountability.

Standardisation of duties, powers, remuneration, increments, insignia and uniform of police:

All these should be common and uniform throughout the country and fixed by the police commission in consultation with the Home Ministry. Promotions should be based on merit, career record, fitness and other tests and examinations. Separate police manuals should be scrapped and a uniform manual should be made applicable across the country.

Standardisation of Police ranks:

Different ranks for the same police post as prevailing from state to state should be scrapped. For instance, Director General of Police in one state is called the Commissioner of Police (state) in another state, Inspector General of Police in one state is called the Joint Commissioner in another state. These dual, confusing nomenclatures should be done away with and standardised throughout the country.

State Police Commissions:

The state police commission should have a separate wing duly constituted with the inclusion of a few eminent citizens to deal with complaints against the policemen charged with neglect of duty, misconduct, partisan behaviour or high handedness.

Operational Suggestions:

The code of conduct for policemen should be well drafted and strictly enforced. The procedure for removal of corrupt policemen should be made simpler and more effective.
The jobs of maintaining law and order and arresting the criminals should be separated from the subsequent investigation part to enable independent and fair enquiry and save the innocents.
45 minutes of daily physical activity, regular practice in use of service arms, and medical and fitness tests once in 6 months should be compulsory for all police personnel irrespective of rank. Every policeman must be compulsorily provided a leave of reasonable duration, for rest and recreation once in 6 months with a special allowance.
All police officers above the rank of asst sub-inspector must have expert knowledge of criminal laws and procedures, and below these ranks a fairly good knowledge of the same.
The police department must be provided with a full fledged legal cell consisting of highly experienced lawyers for help and assistance in booking charges and finalisation of charge sheets.
Deaths or serious injury or rape of accused in police custody must be subjected to mandatory judicial enquiry and till enquiry is over the suspected policemen must be sent on leave.

Upgradation and renovation of police stations:

Special funds should be provided for modernisation and computerisation of all police stations with provision of new facilities for the policmen.

The conditions of lock up rooms need urgent improvements with provision of at least a fan, toilet, mattress and bed sheet.

If funds are a constraint, local level police heads should work with private citizens, corportaes and citizen's organisations to gather funds for the respective area.

The following police legislations should be replaced by one consolidated Indian Police Act:-

a) Bombay Police Act 1951
b) Police, Agra Act 1854

c) Calcutta Police Acts 1866  

d) Madras District Police Act 1859.

e) Police Act 1861 /1888

f) Police Act 1861/1949

g) North East Provinces Police Act 1873

h) Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act 1922

i) Delhi Police Act 1978.

j) Kerala Police Act 1960

k) Karnataka Police Act 1963

l) Police Forces (restriction of right) Act 1966

m) Madhya Pradesh Police Act 2002

n) Bihar police Act 2007

o) Himachal Pradesh Police Act 2007

A well supplied, regulated, encouraged Police force is essential for the social and political structure of the coutnry to be on firm ground. Police reforms have been talked about for years and it should have been a priority even decades ago.

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2 years ago

I happened to read a news item yesterday in a prominent Kerala daily. A district head of an Indian multinational company was arrested and produced before the court for not producing the licence and other documents during a police vehicle checking. Actually the police stopped the car for checking drunken driving. Since the driver was not drunk the Police asked him for the vehicle documents !! As the documents were not there he pleased before the Police he would produce the documents. The Police would have let him off. But the problem started when he addressed the Police sub Inspector as "Mr. Officer". The officer got enraged, arrested him and produced before the Court for not possessing valid documents.

Look. How petty is our Junior level Police Officers are !



In Reply to MOHAN 2 years ago

he pleaded

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