Food for thought – on World Food Day

Food for thought – on World Food Day

Shobha Shukla

The world observes October 16 as World Food Day. Once again another day of rhetorics to rue about the dismal food scenario (especially among the developing nations); to reiterate our noble intentions of formulating new plans to feed the starving masses by reeling out scary statistics that world wide 9 billion people are dying every year due to hunger and hunger related causes, of which more than 50% are children.

Hunger accounts for more deaths than war, tuberculosis and AIDS put together. Even amongst those who escape the killing spree of hunger a whopping 1 billion are undernourished, most of whom are again children and women. And yet an almost equal number are overweight. (It is ironic that 80% of world’s hungry children live in food surplus countries).

Both, the under fed and the overweight, are examples of malnutrition. This indeed is a public catastrophe where obesity poses as much a health hazard as under nourishment. Poverty arising out of under or no employment is the main cause of hunger related deaths whereas affluence is killing people in the form of diabetes, heart and other chronic diseases. ‘Round bellies’ (arising out of too much of eating) are as much a sign of ill health as ‘pot bellies’( arising out of too less to eat).

It seems that the entire society is sick in mind if not in body. In fact our thinking process has become so unhealthy that it is in immediate and dire need of ‘proper nutritional values’. Else why would rich companies falsely allure farmers to grow killer tobacco instead of life sustaining food crops?. This is one of the reasons for a steady decline in India’s grain production after the year 2000, resulting in more hunger related deaths.The land used for tobacco growing denies food denies food to about 20 million Indians apart from being responsible for another 9 lakh deaths per year from tobacco related diseases alone. Thus consumption of tobacco in any form contributes to a hungry and diseased society by reducing economic productivity and posing serious health hazards for the poor and rich alike.

Again, there is something definitely wrong when in the name of progress we are building huge dams which often not only threaten the environment but also expose the displaced people towards imminent poverty and hunger as a result of improper and long drawn out rehabilitation process. The likes of Medha Patekar are waging a relentless battle against this menace.

The creation of special economic zones by grabbing fertile land from poor farmers for the benefit of the super rich industrialists is just another symptom of our mentally sick government.Not only are the farmers paid a measly price, they are also deprived of their sole means of livelihood, pushing them deeper into the abyss of debt and poverty from which only death can rescue them.

If they are mentally sound then why are companies knowingly producing ‘Fun For You’ foods ( rather than ‘Good For You’ products) which are potentially unhealthy and then spending billions to run campaigns which are unscrupulously targeting the most vulnerable ( children )? Why are our super film and sports stars endorsing these false advertisements which is contributing towards making a whole generation of kids addicted to colas and junk/processed food, thus jeopardizing their health? By donating a small part of their earnings to some charity they cannot wipe their conscience clean of their grave sins.

It is imperative that all of us start eating just enough of the right type of nutritional food and rid ourselves of the illeffects of poverty and affluence alike. Hunger should not be traded with obesity and diseases of poverty should not be replaced by diseases of excess.

There is as much a crying need to teach about healthy diets and moderate lifestyles to school children as is to empower the rural masses with education and join them in their fight for fair wages and land/water rights. We need to wage a war on all those multinational companies, government policies, and people who are bartering the nation’s health for illgotten wealth and thereby supporting hunger in the garb of economic development.

At our own small level as individuals let us boycott all such harmful products like cola beverages, fatty and processed junk food, tobacco products and at the same time share our overstuffed refrigerators with those who have nothing to eat and also support all efforts aimed at empowering them towards poverty alleviation. Let there be enough good food for all. Amen.

Shobha Shukla

(The author teaches Physics at India’s noted Loreto Convent, and writes for media in India and abroad. She can be contacted at:

Mounting public pressure against dams in Uttarakhand

Mounting public pressure
against dams in Uttarakhand
People of Uttarakhand state, are fasting since 9 October 2007 against the state government’s approval to building dams on Ganga and other rivers.

The native people of Uttarakhand who are to be affected from the dam constructions on rivers in the state, organized themselves and representatives of many people’s movements including journalists joined their agitation.

These dams have been sanctioned in Uttarakhand in the absence of comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or Socially Impact Assessment (SIA). In India, though EIA came into existence around 1978-79, it was made mandatory only in 1994.

EIA seeks to ensure sustainable development through the evaluation of those impacts arising from a major activity (policy, plan, program, or project) that are likely to have significant environmental effects, like dams. Now the EIA has become a requirement in more than 100 countries (Canter 1996).

SIA is a methodology to review the social effects of infrastructure projects and other development interventions, like dams. It includes the processes of analysing, monitoring and managing the intended and unintended social consequences, both positive and negative, of planned interventions (policies, programs, plans, projects) and any social change processes invoked by those interventions. Its primary purpose is to bring about a more sustainable and equitable biophysical and human environment.

The fast began on 9 October 2007 at Devprayaga Sangam, on the banks of river Bhagiratha and Alaknanda, this is where the Kotli Bhel projects are being implemented. The Fast is lead by MATU Jan Sangathan with support from Ganga Rakshak Sangharsh Samiti and several other organizations and individuals.

‘Baandh Pariyavaran - Hum Aur Uttarakhand’ (Dams, environment, we and Uttarakhand) meeting took place on 10 October 2007 at Devprayaga Sangam, and was attended by noted individuals like Dr Giridhar Pundit, State Joint Secretary of CPI, JP Pundit, former Principal of Omkarananda College, Aacharya Shailendra Shastri of Devprayaga, Dr Prabhakar Joshi, senior Journalist from Dainik Jagaran and the Presidents of affected gram panchayats.

Dr. Giridhar Pandit strictly opposed these dams which will affect the environment as well as the local people. “Its all about a political game, people will not get any benefit from these dams” said JP Pundit. Dr Prabhakar Joshi raised a question of what kind of development will be there if the local people are unaware of the current circumstances.

Presidents and other members of affected gram panchayats raised vital concerns about the loss of livelihood of local people, displacement impact and also on the role of government in deciding compensation and managing rehabilitation. Gram panchayat members and people were outraged that how can they trust the government when they were not even consulted before giving a green signal to dam projects on state rivers!

MATU Jan Sangathan and Ganga Rakshak Sangharsh Samiti activists demand that the construction of dams in Uttarakhand should be immediately halted and proper comprehensive EIA and SIA be conducted. The affected people should be allowed to engage in dialogue and decision making involving the dams. The use of emergency clause of land acquisition Act should be stopped, demand the affected people. There is also a demand to explore other alternative energy sources including solar and wind energy systems.

For more information, please contact: MATU Jan Sangathan at:

Will Independent Commission increase judicial accountability?

Will Independent Commission

increase judicial accountability?

The recent case of Justice Sabharwal and the sentencing of four Mid Day journalists again brought to the fore the problem of the lack of accountability of the higher judiciary in the country.

"We have today, a judiciary with enormous powers, but virtually no accountability" said senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, on behalf of Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) committee which is patronized by Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Justice PB Sawant, Justice H Suresh, Shri Shanti Bhushan, Shri Prabhash Joshi, and Arundhati Roy among others, in the invitation to the Seminar on this issue in New Delhi on 13 October 2007. The Seminar is being held at the Indian Society for International Law, Bhagwandas Road, opposite the Supreme Court of India, on Saturday, October 13, 2007, from 10 am to 5 pm.

With the failure of the impeachment system, no mechanism has been put in place for investigating and taking action against judicial misconduct. "The problem is compounded by the use of contempt power which is deterring even exposure of judicial misconduct" said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and National Convener of NAPM (National Alliance of People's Movements).

An Independent National Judicial Commission might be able to regulate the power of contempt of the Judiciary. CJAR is dedicated to build strong public opinion to force Parliament and the Government to bring the required amendments to the Constitution and the laws for an independent judicial commission.

The judiciary in the country today is not only the arbiter of disputes between citizens, between citizens and the State, between States and the Union, it also in purported exercise of powers to enforce fundamental rights, directs the governments to close down industries, commercial establishments, demolish jhuggis, remove hawkers and rickshaw pullers from the streets, prohibits strikes and bandhs etc. In short, it has come to be the most powerful institution of the State.

Every other institution of the State is accountable to the anti-corruption agencies, and to the judiciary which has the power of judicial review over every executive and legislative action. Moreover, the political executive is accountable to the legislature and the legislature is democratically accountable to the people-that at least is the theory of our constitutional scheme.

However, when it comes to the judiciary, we find that it is neither democratically accountable to the people, nor to any other institution. The only recourse against a judge committing judicial misconduct is impeachment, which has been found to be a totally impractical remedy. To initiate the impeachment process one needs the signatures of 100 Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs. This one cannot secure unless two conditions are satisfied. First, one must have conclusive documentary evidence of very serious misconduct against a judge. And second, the evidence and the charges must have been publicized, such that it has assumed the proportions of a public scandal. Till that happens, there are few MPs who are willing to put their signatures on an impeachment motion. Most MPs or their parties have cases in court, and nobody wants to invite the wrath of the judiciary.

The media is unwilling to publicise the charges against judges (even when they have documentary evidence to back the charges) because of the fear of contempt of Court which constantly hangs as a sword over their necks.

Mid Day had carried a series of articles in May and June 2007 showing how Justice Sabharwal passed the orders of sealing commercial properties in residential areas in Delhi after his sons had got into partnerships with at least two of the leading shopping mall and commercial complex developers of Delhi. These orders stood to directly benefit his sons and their partners by pushing the sealed shops and offices to shopping malls and commercial complexes and thus driving up their prices.

Mid Day published much of the documentary evidence in support of this huge story exposing what appeared to be a scandalous conspiracy at the Apex of the judiciary.

Yet neither any other media organization, nor any judicial, executive nor legislative authority acted upon these news stories.

Thereafter, on 3 August 2007, CJAR released a detailed charge-sheet containing as many as 7 serious charges against Justice Sabharwal, each backed with documentary evidence. Tehelka and Karan Thapar carried major stories on it. The story however hit the headlines in the mainstream media only after the conviction of 4 Mid Day journalists by the Delhi High Court for contempt.

If someone has evidence of corruption by a judge, there is not much that can be done. It cannot be exposed because of the fear of contempt, in the absence of which, even impeachment is a non-starter. FIR cannot be registered against the judge under the prevention of Corruption Act, because of an embargo created by the Supreme Court in 1991 by means of a judgement where they held that no judge can be subjected to a criminal investigation without the prior written consent of the Chief Justice of India. In the 16 years since that judgement, not even a single FIR has been registered against a sitting judge. To top it all, the recent attempt by the judiciary to insulate themselves from the Right to Information Act, has made it further difficult.

The Mid Day journalists were convicted despite their offering to prove the truth of all their allegations. The High Court held that the truth of the allegations was irrelevant since they had brought the entire judiciary into disrepute.

All this underlines the need to do away with this jurisdiction of punishing for "scandalizing the court or lowering the authority of the court".

There is a compelling need to have a totally independent constitutional body called the National Judicial Commission which will have the power to investigate charges against judges and take action against them, feels CJAR.

For more information about CJAR, please contact:

Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reforms
14, Tower 2, Supreme Enclave,
Mayur Vihar Phase-I
New Delhi- 110 091
Tel: 9811164068, 9958141703

Action demanded against attack on Catholic priest

Action demanded against


VARANASI: Representatives from Fathers and Sisters from Church Institutions of Varanasi and from a consortium of social activists in Varanasi called “Sajha Sanskriti Manch” met city’s District Magistrate and SSP demanding prompt action against those who attacked a 64 years Catholic Priest Father Dr Joseph Neetilal on the night of 29 September 2007.

Although police lodged the FIR and took possession of the motorcycle used by alleged attackers, still no action has been taken to-date to bring the alleged attackers to books.

Father Joseph hails originally from Kerala State, and is the Secretary of the secular registered society, ‘Lok Chetana Samiti Varanasi’. He has been working from his office near Chiraigaon Chauki in Varanasi since 1994. His main work consists in educating people in all issues connected with rural development especially in view of community building and communal harmony, making effective use of the Panchayati raj system as a means for the same.

At about 6.30 pm on 29 September, two unidentified people attacked him at his residence with ‘desi Katta’ (country-made pistol) and knife, demanding money. However Father Joseph didn’t yield and putting his life in danger, took the serious risk and with the help of his other two associates Father Emmanuel D’Cunha and Father Bins John to catch hold of one of the attackers. The local residents are witness to the entire episode. Eventually the alleged attacker escaped leaving behind his motorcycle (registration number UP65 B 2017) and also the ‘desi Katta’ and knife used by them to intimidate and injure Father Joseph.

Earlier Father Joseph and Sister Lily Mathew (also from Varanasi) had received threatening phone calls and had duly reported the matter (along with the phone numbers used for making those threatening calls) to Station Officer of police station in Sarnath, Varanasi.

Till-date, police has neither traced back these phone numbers nor the owner of the motorcycle used by the two alleged people who attacked Father Joseph.

UPDATE from VARANASI by Father Anand:

Dear Friends,

I am very glad to inform you that the campaign for booking the culprit behind the attack on Neeti Bhai (Fr.Neetilal IMS) has brought a positive result.

The criminal who attacked Neeti Bhai with gun and knife, has been arrested by the police today. Neet Bhai was called to identify him. The police has assured that they will within two days unsolve the conspiracy behind the incident. Let us wait and see. Thanks a lot for your cooperation. If you have not sent the appeal to the DGP, there is no need to send it.

Thanks a lot from Neeti Bhai and all of us here.

Anand IMS

Farmers march to fight hunger in UP

Farmers march to fight hunger in UP
More than 4000 small and marginal farmers from all over Uttar Pradesh are taking part in a march which started on 7 October and culminate on 16 October on the occasion of World Food Day.

This march is being organized by the Small and Marginal Farmers Union as part of a ‘kisan hit adhikar yatra programme’ to highlight the woes of the small and marginal farmers.
Agriculture is main livelihood option of about 80% of India’s vast population while for U.P. the figure is 90%. A majority of these are small and marginal farmers. It is ironical that these ‘bread growers’ who work hard to feed millions never have enough to eat themselves and lead a life of abject poverty. During the last 15 years about 1.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide due to their miserable living conditions and the phenomenon continues unabated.
It is a telling commentary on our times that while India marches ahead as a rising global economy, its vast majority is still struggling to get two square meals a day.

Lack of feasible and /or misappropriate implementation of government policies have only added fuel to this fire burning in empty bellies. The so called developmental and farmer friendly projects of the MNCs also seem to be aimed at filling their own coffers rather than resolve the basic problems.

During the last 60 years, most of the government efforts in the field of agriculture have benefitted the small number of big farmers only. The abolition of the Zamindari system brought in its wake more exploitative groups in the garb of public servants and corporations.

In U.P. alone, more than 4 lakh land consolidation cases are pending in various courts. Even where courts have decided in favour of the small farmers, a majority of them have not been given possession of the land which is rightfully theirs.

Now in the name of global economic development the government, in collusion with multinational companies, is acquiring agricultural land at throw away prices to create ‘special economic zones’. This is totally destabilizing the already crumbling economy of the small farmer.

There have been mass protests ( Nandigram and Singrur, to mention the least), but these have been quelled ruthlessly. As a result of this ‘land grabbing’ by vested interests, there has been a massive exodus of these farmers to neighbouring cities, which in turn has created more problems for the city as well as the urban populace.

We are ready to grow less and borrow more, ready to make more destitutes to make a few more rich, ready to dazzle a few homes to snatch away even the embers of a dying fire from others.

“Globalization is indirectly leading our country towards dependency (not independency) and crores of marginal and small farmers are being deprived of their meagre livelihood” said Dr Shiraj A Wajih, a senior activist in Eastern UP working for Small and Marginal farmers since last 20 years now.

In view of the present grim scenario what is needed is a collective initiative of the small and marginal farmers for protection of their own interests and rights. New policies need to be formulated with their help which will uplift them economically and socially and at the same time not jeopardize the country’s progress.
Amit Dwivedi
Special Correspondent, Citizen News Service
Email: or ph: +91 9839412418
Also published in:
Assam Times (Assam, India): 10 October 2007
Central Chronicle (Madhya Pradesh, India): 10 October 2007
Scoop Independent News (New Zealand): 10 October 2007

Love is the missing link in War-on-Terror

Love is the missing link in War-on-Terror
Shobha Shukla

The recent declaration by the United Nations to commemorate October 2 ( birthday of Mahatma Gandhi) as ‘International Day of Non violence’ is simply a reassertion of the need for a violence free society. The year 2007 is the centenary year of the Satyagrah Movement launched by the Apostle of Peace.

Nothing much seems to have changed on this front. The world today has become a cauldron of hate and strife. As our aspirations scale new economic heights and our possessions multiply, our tolerance and sensitivity levels get reduced.

Whether it is the cruelty of the military junta in Myanmar, the suppression of democracy in Pakistan, the threat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the continued hostilities between Palestine and Israel , the dangerous rise of Hindu fundamentalism in India or a world wide scare of terrorism / violation of human rights, we are in the grip of an acute fear psychosis. This constant fear and distrust of our fellow beings is nurturing hatred leading to violence.

Human beings, the so called superior creation of God, are destroying each other (and nature too ) with a ruthlessness which is scary. We are bullying and killing each other in the name of religion and/or racial or social superiority. This is strange indeed as love and peace are common to all religions and not one of them is based on the premise of hate and violence. In Christianity Jesus comes to reveal God’s love for humankind. The very word Islam means ‘a religion of peace’. Almost all Hindu prayers end with the word Om Shanti ( let there be peace). One of the main preachings of Buddhism is ‘they do not follow dharma ( righteousness) who resort to violence to achieve their purpose’. Yet our primodal urge to rule over the minds, bodies and thoughts of others has made religion a potent tool in our insatiable quest of power.

The power hungry politicians and fundamentalists are using religion to provoke group mentality, leading not only to loss of character but also of rational thinking. The communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat saw the elite middle class looting shops and houses of a particular community. This was reciprocated in good measure later on in Mumbai and elsewhere. This grouping together in the name of religion ( a religion about which we might be knowing very little actually) , throwing all sanity to the winds, makes a mockery of our sense and sensibility.

We stubbornly refuse to learn from past mistakes. A survivor of a concentration camp in Germany said, ‘ I have seen gas chambers built by engineers, children poisoned by physicians and nurses, men and women shot dead by college graduates. This has made me a little wary of our education which is producing learned monsters and skilled psychopaths.’

Yet this is exactly what is still happening. Most terrorist outfits are manned by highly qualified people. Many of our scientists and others think it is beneficial for India to have the atom bomb to protect themselves from Pakistan. While discussing this issue with my students I pointed out to them that if we ever used this weapon against our neighbour then we would also be wiped out. They said that it should be there just to scare them, there is no need to use it. This is the general perception all around. So we are ready to spend millions to manufacture deadly weapons simply to put fear in our neighbours as if ‘those who desire peace must prepare for war’.

But peace can never be a balance of terror. It can be realised only if there is a shift from the present Culture of Power to a Culture of Love.

Non violence is the need of the hour. And this can stem only from love and compassion of our fellow beings.

Hate has alienated nations and provoked war and cruelty. By forsaking the path of Ahimsa ( non violence) we are punishing others as well as ourselves. Karma (action) needs always to be combined with Dharma.

I believe in the power of love. Love for others alone can make us respect human life and fight the forces of terrorism, fanaticism and communalism. Love alone can create a communion with life. We must love and live and let live. An ‘eye for an eye’ is making the world blind. Unless we live in peace and harmony with nature and with others ,this reckless drive of the human race towards self destruction cannot be stopped. In this endeavour we need to be more tolerant of unfamiliar neighbours, more wary of the violence of popular media and more aware that manufacture / trade of deadly weapons has no place in a world of peace. Our blue planet, (as seen from outer space) is the only home we have to care for and share in. Let us protect it with love and tolerance.

Love that caresses but not smothers. Love that gives a breathing space to all. Love that realises that my freedom ends where your begins. Love that lets no one remain unwanted, unloved and uncared for---- for that is a much greater hunger than of a person who has nothing to eat. Love that wipes out the inhuman acts of ‘road rage’, ‘violence for fun’ and ‘honour killings’ from our society.

There is no way to love for love is the only way to a non-violent and peaceful world.
(Shobha Shukla teaches Physics at India's noted Loreto Convent and writes for many publications in India and other countries in Asia as well)
Also published in:
Assam Times, Assam, India: 8 October 2007
Central Chronicle, Madhya Pradesh, India: 10 October 2007
Nagaland Page, Nagaland, India: 11 October 2007
The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh: 11 October 2007