One of my relatives—a mature woman of 66– told me, ”Little children grow on their own without any guidance! And I said,”No, madam! Your child DOES need 24 hour guidance till he or she crosses the first and most difficult half of his or her life—but after that point YOU are in need of his or her help!”

If you the parent never thought about it, and have taken your own kid for granted, your kid is either playing all the seven notes of Carnatic music as he is passing each phase of his growth or has already played all these without your being sensitive enough to be aware of the same! What probably deceived you in their outward demeanor was their spunk and exuberance, which incidentally you can see in almost all kids, even the cancer-hit that have only a month to live here with you and me!

(I recall a day more than a year ago when my grandkid Niranjan ran to meet me when I arrived home, tripped over the threshold and got injured on the top of his head—he was 2 and half or so at the time—and how he sat quiet in the car as I drove to hospital along with our daughter to get his wound stapled. It was only our daughter’s fingers that trembled at the sight of his profuse bleeding, but not his, because he felt that something unpleasant had happened to his head. So he decided to sit quietly!)

This innocence is what makes any act of injustice to our children a veritable and unforgivable crime on our part! And what elevates the cause of rehabilitating the pesticide-affected kids in the north of Kerala such a pitiable sight too needing our urgent attention!

Millions of Indian kids are given a raw deal today in various ways with our full awareness but indifference or without our awareness at all.

Denying a kid his rightful schooling can be understood as an economic issue for many families in the BPL category but starving them can’t be. Fattening them with junk food –apparently to keep up with the neighboring Joneses- can’t be.

Sitting them in front of TV cartoons for hours at a stretch so that one can play cards at some Club house or ordering them into a corner by way of punishment, there to mope, can’t be!

Our daughter (@Divya Arun) happens to be a professional wellness expert and diet planner. Sometime ago she meticulously prepared— on the basis of much of her reading many research findings from outside the country and also on the Anti-Ageing Food Pyramid enunciated by Dr Ennapadam Krishnamoorthy– a Food For Health (FFH) program tailor made for the school kids in our home State so that our school kids won’t fall ill easily, their health status being taken care of by the school management through the introduction of minor modifications in the school day time table, and they obtain fitness sessions in between classes , and so can optimize their schooling performance at one go.

It was a wonderful result-oriented program as those nutrition specialists we consulted assured us. I think she felt she owed some social commitment to her own State and country!

Since it was before elections, she doubted if the current ministry might torpedo its implementation since the media might misinterpret it as party promotion gimmick. I tried taking it to Nutrition Board here but they said that they couldn’t support it because they had many other malnutrition related issues to find redress already.

One of the employees commented,   ” Sir, who cares about children anyway, whether they fall ill or not? We have no time for them!”

If we the adults don’t care about our kids today, what will happen to them tomorrow?

India’s kids are, as I said earlier, unlucky in many ways; the miracle is that they try to come up even then in spite of the ocean of parental indifference and the very casualness, the taken-for-granted mindset visible all around and unsafe roads with rash drivers or riders, uneven roads, unreliable safety mechanisms, ill-equipped sanitation and schooling facilities, and much more.

The NSSO (National Sample Survey) data shows that, for the first time in 30 years, India’s nutritional intake has grown a little: daily fat intake has grown in both Rural and Urban India –from 31.4 grams a day to 41.6 grams and 42gms to 52 grams respectively. Protein intake has come down from 60.2 grams to 56.5grams in rural India and 57.2 to 55.7 grams in urban centers. Per capita kilo calorie consumption—hereafter kcl — has grown to 2058 kilocalories per day in urban areas and to 2099 kcl per day in rural India. But 2400 kilocalories is the Planning Commission benchmark.

Today it’s only one in five Indians that is undernourished through open starvation but the crux is that we are unintelligently nourished! Calorie intake alone is not a correct predictor of individual wellbeing. Lower levels of physical activity can cause ill health to a person though higher calorie intake prevails at his or her home. Nutritional deficit was a constant reality all through these 20 odd years.

Our national challenge is in creating enough individual awareness of eating the right kind of food and leading a healthy and hygienic lifestyle! Free housing and free food have been given to millions of Indians –including the tribal people–but even then kids die and young lives get lost.

An overwhelming majority of Indians suffer, according to family physicians from across India, from iron deficiency, reports Times News Network, and depression could become the country’s No.1 killer by 2025! Toxic manifestations of drugs can also happen.

A mere 100 milligrams of iron per day—or consistent use of iron knives and iron utensils in the kitchen– would do the trick of saving these Indians from ill health and also help save millions needed for treatment.

It’s also well known that across Rajasthan (where child malnutrition is an everyday emergency) snacks and pan masala make up a child’s daily diet by far, even if the kid’s parents can afford nutritious fare! The pan masala is for inducing sleep!

The Sahariya tribe—settled in Kishanganj and Shahbad blocks– is the most ignorant in this respect in that they mutely accept malnutrition death of kids as natural.

According to a report by ACF (Action against Hunger) a French NGO, both SAM (Severe Acute malnutrition @ 7.6% and SCM (Severe Chronic Malnutrition) @ 14.9% among kids aged from 6 to 59 months is a grim reality in that State. The NFHS (National Family Health Survey) goes one step further with SAM @ 8.4%, 7% and 5.2% among STs SCs and OBCs respectively.


Consumption of oils and fats grew but meats and dairy intake declined. Protein intake fell in Bihar Gujarat Haryana and Rajasthan but rose in Kerala TN and AP.

(Economists Angus Deaton and Jean Dreze noted in a 2009 write up in Economic and Political Weekly that the share of cereals had declined in India diet, which might have caused nutritional deficit)

Many Nutrition myths flourish among the grownups, which may be one reason we give so much junk food to our kids without our being aware of how vulnerable they are! For kids too, the issue of staying healthy is not easy nowadays with stupid TV commercials, and ignorant or misguiding parents around!

Some such myths, so easy for us to bust, are these:

       If its multi grain, its healthy what flour

       Masala Oats are better than regular oats (MO has more flavors and salt that’s all!)

       Egg yolk spikes blood cholesterol (In reality its Trans fats and saturated fats that do so!)

       Consuming fats and carbs makes you fat (No it’s the total amount of calories+ absence of PUFA and MUFA)

       Brown sugar is superior to white sugar. (An industry gimmick. Both contain the same amount of calories)

       8 glasses of water daily or your kidneys get stuck! (Stay hydrated, so consume as you feel thirsty and ensure your urine is pale yellow always.)

       Eating supper late causes obesity (Not if you eat only a veggie salad! And do eat an hour before you sleep!)

The Central Government, following the policy adopted and implemented in 84 nations globally, mulls fortifying food—i.e. in a drive to universally fortify all staple food items a la iodine-enhanced salt– to end malnutrition within the country, which is causing much drain on our national exchequer at the moment.

This was a PMO suggestion made by secretaries.

If accepted all FSSAI-regulated food products shall have to abide by the standards set in the order. Wheat is to be fortified with iron, Rice with vitamin D and iron, Milk and edible oils with vitamin A, double fortification of salt and so on!

It’s not the technology that is unavailable here at NIN, Hyderabad but the citizen-level willingness to let go of the unhygienic food consumption and disease-wooing lifestyle habits. Roadside eateries often have no water at the ready even for washing one’s hands!

Most illnesses CAN be prevented but our mindset it is that needs to change on a war footing before we can be a health-oriented nation!



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  1. Highly informative while critically highlighting the pathetic state of affairs in child health care. You have done a lot of research. There is ample proof of it.


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