The other name of the winter season in Assam is the season of Wasted Food. It is the season during which thousand of picnics are held where lakhs of people are party to a mindless waste of food in a country that cannot afford any kind of waste. This is not to suggest that the waste of food that takes place in the thousands of picnics and hundreds of parties is deliberate. As far as picnics are concerned, organizers are unduly concerned about running short of food without the means to do anything about such a situation in an out of the way place without any shops. So the general tendency is for everyone to strive for abundance in the raw materials required for cooking food. Not surprisingly, such unplanned estimates for food requirements results in the kind of waste that is criminal in a country where about 3,000 children die every day due to hunger. This translates to 125 deaths per hour or more than two deaths a minute due solely to hunger. This is not the kind of thing that ought to go unpunished. And there are some advanced countries where waste of food is a punishable crime. Unfortunately, some amount of waste is deemed a sign of good breeding by most Indian families. One is expected to leave something on the plate when one gets up from the dining table. This kind of perverse training in ‘good breeding’ promotes the kind of waste due to lack of planning that we see all around us: waste of time, waste of money, waste of precious resources and so on. It is the kind of early training that goads chief ministers to think nothing of having 20 vehicles in their motorcade every time they stir out. Likewise, they are also unconcerned about the waste they generate due to lack of planning or due to wrong and hasty decisions. Over the decades, one has also noticed the amount of food that boarders of our colleges waste at every meal. It is the kind of waste that has enabled several piggeries to thrive without any expense on food!
It is high time we had a movement against waste of food and made the waste of food a penal offence. Here is a country where two children die every minute due to lack of food. Here is a country where 15.2 per cent of the population suffer from malnutrition. The ready argument that one is likely to hear from one who wastes food is: I have paid for this food. What I do with it is my concern. Why should anyone else have a right to tell me whether I can waste what I have bought? What people tend to forget is that what they buy with their money was produced by a cultivator who, in our country, may not have the wherewithal for two square meals a day for his family. Besides, any oblique defence of the right to waste food that one has paid for runs counter to the legislation that some countries have rightly brought in to make waste of food a penal offence. It is high time we had lessons for our school children that identify the waste of food as a major crime, especially in a country where not everyone has enough to eat.