Wealthy state starves to death

It is a shame that a state as prosperous as Maharashtra has not been able to protect its citizens from death due to starvation and malnutrition. As this newspaper has exposed in the last few days, the state government spent hundreds of crores on allegedly providing infrastructure to fight starvation and malnutrition, but ended up only wasting that money to buy stationery, steel utensils, non-existent banners, medicines and even carpets at exorbitant prices; in some cases at 25 to 50 times the market price.

What is more disturbing is the complete silence from Health Minister Varsha Gaikwad who has consistently refused to speak to this newspaper regarding this wasteful expenditure. Does the state government even care that 619 children in the age group of six months to six years have died in Nashik district alone in the last one year; 450 of them in the last four months alone?

Malnutrition and starvation deaths -- and the corruption that allows them to take place -- is Maharashtra's dirtiest secret, and has been hidden from plain sight only because the media in India as well as from around the world have focused on the state's success stories in industrialisation and farming, rather than its problems. This is shameful at many levels.

 The CM, Prithviraj Chavan, already under fire for being tardy in making decisions, could perhaps redeem his "taking no decisions is also a decision" image by (a) initiating an inquiry into the wastage of funds in such a critical cause; and (b) ensuring that critical medicines and primary healthcare facilities reach the villages that are affected by this.

 Maharashtra, which was once a pre-eminent state as far as growth and development were concerned, has fallen way behind several states on various parameters. If the state has to regain that position, it has no option but to take quick decisions that will save the lives of, well, an entire new generation.

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