50 p.c. of children, SC, ST live in permanent famine: Sen

Kolkata : About 50 per cent of children, equal percentage of scheduled tribes and 60 per cent of scheduled castes in the country are living under conditions of permanent famine as indicated by their Body Mass Index (BMI), civil rights activist Binayak Sen said.

As per WHO specifications, a person is recorded as undernourished if their BMI (body weight in kg divided by the square of height in metres) was below 18.5. If at least 40 per cent of the population of a group or a community had BMI below 18.5, it was said to be living in a permanent state of famine.
"Our studies have found that nearly 50 per cent of children, 60 per cent of SC and more than 50 per cent ST population in India have a BMI below 18.5 and as such, they can be said to be living in a state of permanent famine," Mr. Sen said at a seminar here yesterday.

About 33 per cent of adults were also living under a state of permanent famine, he said.

Mr. Sen, also a paediatrician and community health specialist, said his research in a village near Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh had found that pulmonary tuberculosis was rampant among those with a BMI below 18.5.
The campaign for universal health will have to be carried out within the human rights framework to make it truly effective, he said.
Mr. Sen claimed that the National Rural Health Mission had lost much of its effectiveness as the human rights issue had not been factored in its policy framework.