Blaming India for eating too much
I thought the controversial issue of Bush and Rice “accusing” India and China of pushing up world food prices (because now we can afford to buy good food!!) would have blown over by now…but to my surprise, the International Herald Tribune wrote about it yesterday:
…a growing number of politicians, economists and academics (in the west) believe that “instead of blaming India and other developing nations for the rise in food prices, Americans should rethink their energy policy and go on a diet.
Then there was a TOI report today which said that the Indian arm of the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has “jumped headlong” into the controversy by writing a letter this week to the US President George Bush “urging him to become a vegetarian and asking other compassionate Americans to follow his example.”
How it all started
It was the United Nations which started it all by saying that the growing demand for bio-fuels, needs of rising populations and the growing middle class in India and China were pushing up food prices. America’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice latched on to this and said that “improvement in the diets of people in India and China” was a factor in the current global supply shortage…and well, Bush parroted it…even though India is an exporter of food, not importer.
This seemed to be the trigger that Indian politicians needed. All of India’s political parties including the ruling Congress, BJP and the Left lashed out at the US President for his statements. And as for the Opposition parties, they used Bush’s statement to bash the Congress in the election year…
While the Left parties blamed the “neoliberal economic policies imposed on India by the Bush administration”, the BJP used the US President’s statement to attack the Congress-led coalition at the Centre over its “failure” to control inflation.
Then the media got on the bandwagon
All this news was already creating headlines and the Times actually published details about how much more American eat per capita as compared to the Indians…basically five times more grains. It was also revealed that the US per capita grain consumption increased from 946 kg in 2003 to 1046 kg last year whereas India’s per capita consumption remained static in this same period.
There was also criticism in the Indian media about the amount of meat eaten by Americans…they eat the highest amount of meat per capita per year in the world… per capita consumption of Beef + Chicken + Pork for Americans is 117.7 kgs while it is barely 3.6 for Indians. And in America there is consumption of other meats like Turkey as well.
Reading all this was enough to make most Indians quite indignant. Soon there were bloggers protesting against Bush’s insensitivity. It was only after all the brouhaha was over that one felt that perhaps the issue had been blown out of proportion, particularly as Bush half apologized, saying that he had meant well…that if there was “greater economic prosperity around the world, whether it’s in India or China or elsewhere…that is good for the international system.”
Has the controversy embarrassed America?
That should have been the end of the matter but the controversy seems to have embarrassed America…IHT, a reputed American publication has been highly critical of Bush’s statements. They wrote about how much America eats…about how an American consumes 3,770 calories per capita a day, the highest amount in the world, while an average Indian consumes 2,440 calories. IHT also mentioned that America is the largest per capita consumer in the world of beef which happens to be the “most energy-intensive common food source.” And where oil consumption is concerned, the United States and Canada top the world in consumption per person. The article quoted Pradeep Mehta from CUTS (Center for International Trade, Economics and Environment):
If Americans were to slim down to even the middle-class weight in India many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates…the money Americans spend on liposuction to get rid of their excess fat could be funneled to famine victims instead…
The IHT added:
Developing nations like China and India have long been blamed for everything from the rising cost of commodities to global warming, because they are consuming more goods and fuels than ever before. But Indians from the prime minister’s office on down never fail to point out that per capita, India uses far fewer commodities and pollutes far less than the West, and particularly the United States.
Well, I wonder if Bush is listening or whether he cares.
(Photo is taken by me on the streets of Mumbai and copyrighted)