When India gained independence from the British in 1947, it was still reeling from the impact of the 1943 Bengal famine that left 3-4 million people dead. The new leaders of our country were determined to make the fight against hunger a priority. Yet, according to the UN, India is still home to a quarter of the world’s undernourished population today. The struggle against hunger continues. And among those fighting to give us independence from this scourge are these 5 men and women, who we honour this Independence Day.
According to the annual report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, released in May this year, India has 194.6 million undernourished people, which is the highest number in the world. This means that 15 percent of our population lives in acute hunger.
And yet, in the face of this grim reality, there are many individuals and organizations who shine a beacon of hope for the hungry. From small initiatives that involve distributing food amongst a few hundred homeless in the neighbourhood, to feeding millions through well-organized NGO campaigns, our countrymen and women are leaving no stone unturned to free India from hunger and malnourishment.
Here are 5 such Indians, who have devoted themselves to this difficult battle:
1. Tara Patkar
In Mahoba, a city in one of the most backward districts in Bundelkhand, UP, volunteers are seen giving home-cooked rotis and vegetables to needy people every day. Roti Bank, the brainchild of Tara Patkar, is managed by a group of 40 young volunteers and 5 elders. They go from door to door and collect rotis, and then feed the hungry in the area. The initiative, which began in April this year, feeds more than 400 people every day. “They (the people who donate rotis) themselves are not too comfortably off, as they are hard hit by constantly rising food prices. Still, they feel morally responsible that no one should go to bed hungry in Mahoba,” Patkar was quoted saying here. According to him, every household in the area has volunteered to give two rotis every day. Read more about the Roti Bank here.
2. M. S. Swaminathan
Prof. Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan is known as the ‘Indian Father of the Green Revolution’ for his outstanding contribution to the ‘Green Revolution’ of India. The ‘Green Revolution’ was a period during which agricultural yields in the country increased through the introduction of high-yield crop varieties and application of modern agricultural techniques. He received the First World Food Prize in 1987, and he founded the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) with the proceeds of that award. His Foundation works to apply science and technology to issues related to agriculture, food and nutrition in rural India. He is a member of the board of directors of Fight Hunger Foundation which is dedicated to ending deaths of children due to hunger in India. He was also a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) from 2007-13, and the Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers from 2004-2014. Read more about him here.
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3. Sindhutai Sapkal
Also known as the ‘Mother of Orphans,’ Sindhutai Sapkal is a social worker and activist in Pune, renowned for her work with orphans. Lovingly referred to as Mai, Sindhutai faced many hardships in life, including an early marriage to an abusive husband. She had to beg in order to feed her daughter at one point in life. It was then that she noticed a number of abandoned orphans who had even less to eat. She begged harder and tried her best to feed them all like her own child. Today, she has adopted more than 1,400 orphans and received many awards for her work. She uses her award money, and what she earns from giving speeches about her work, to shelter and feed these children. Three hundred children will live in her new Sanmati Bal Niketan, currently under construction in Pune. Read more about her here.
4. Sam Pitroda
Sam Pitroda, better known for his work in information and communications technology (ICT) as an inventor, entrepreneur and policy maker, also heads the India FoodBanking Network in his lesser known avatar. Established in 2010, the India FoodBanking Network aims to create a network of food banks across the country that collect donated food and have it delivered to the needy. The mission of this network is to eradicate hunger from India by 2020. Read more about Sam Pitroda and his organization here.
5. Gyarsi Bai
Gyarsi Bai is an activist and community organiser in the Sunda village of Rajasthan. She has done a lot of work towards encouraging education in her community, and is also known for organising community meetings in Sunda that led to the development of India’s first grain bank in the region. She is a Sahariya, a member of a ‘primitive’ tribal group, as categorised by the Government. During the 2001 drought, 47 Sahariyas in the region died due to starvation. Together with her community, she led their fight against starvation in 2012. Read more about her work here.
These are just 5 of the many incredible people who are doing similar work in eradicating hunger. You too can be a hunger hero this Independence Day – #FreeTheHungry with our food donation drive for the Robinhood Army’s #Mission500K.
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