Over 2,600 children under the age of 6 years have died of malnutrition in Raichur district of Karnataka during the past two years, as per data provided by women and child welfare department.
Ironically, Raichur is home to India's only active gold mine - Hutti mines - situated in the Lingasugur taluk of the district.
"As many as 4,531 malnourished children are on their deathbed. Malnutrition has hit epidemic proportions in villages of Deodurg and Manvi taluks in the Raichur district. We are fed up of raising the issue with the authorities concerned. For them, it is a joke," rued Y. Mariswamy of Samajika Parivarthana Andholana (SPJ), a movement for people's rights.
Acute poverty, unemployment, poor income and lack of health services coupled with government's apathy and nonimplementation of NREGA has turned Raichur into a mini Somalia. Raichur district is one of the hottest and arid regions in Karnataka. Landless people from the district often migrate to Hyderabad and Bangalore in search of livelihood.Arvind Gowda in India Today. Here
Though there are number of schemes for the malnourished none of them has benefited the people in the district.
"The entire system has collapsed. It has now become a sociopolitical and economic issue. Karnataka claims to be a progressive state but look at what is happening in these villages," Dr Akhila Vasan, a child healthcare expert and worker, said.
The Data also shows that 78,366 children are malnourished in the district, of which 639 are severely malnourished (grade III and grade IV). "People in Deodurg and Manvi talukas are agricultural labourers. Their combined family income is not more than Rs 100 per day. Their staple diet is jowar. Neighbouring Bagalkote, Gulbarga, and Bidar districts have similar issues," Ambanna Arolikar of the SPJ said.
Karnataka has a poor track record in implementing child welfare schemes.
The infant mortality rate in the North Karnataka districts is higher than the state average of 55. As of now, there are 8,620 children belonging to grade III and 643 children belonging to grade IV levels of malnutrition in the state. Of this, Raichur district alone accounts for the bulk of it.
"It is shameful that such a serious issue is being neglected by the government. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) has completely failed. There are enough complaints that the packaged food given to children (below 6 years) at the Anganwadi centres is sub-standard. Hot cooked meals containing cereals, pulses, and egg have to be given to malnourished kids. But in remote villages, the Anganwadi centres do not even exist," pointed out Clifton Rosario, state adviser, Office of the Supreme Court Commissioner on Food Rights.