New Delhi, April 30, 2008: Getting more than 100 Members of Parliament to sign a pledge was never going to be an easy task. Staging a candlelight vigil at the high-security India Gate area was also fraught with problems– permissions, security, crowds…etc.
On Wednesday, April 29 2008, the last of the MPs signed the Resolve, taking the number who had signed it to one hundred and thirty one! Cutting across party lines, this was a unique initiative as it brought parliamentarians with diverse ideologies together for a good cause.
They came together to fight child malnutrition. Over a third of children in the country are born with low birth weight, approximately 46 per cent of children under three are underweight, 57 per cent are Vitamin A deficient and 70 per cent are anaemic.Confronted with the alarming figures the MPs sought to press home the fact that this was no longer acceptable. They sought not to point fingers but instead to take up the issue within and outside Parliament, with governments at the Centre and in the states and with civil society.
On Wednesday evening, a representative group met the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Mr. Somnath Chatterjee to launch their initiative.
Terming the initiative a ‘healthy development’ he whole heartedly welcomed it. He urged the MPs to raise the issue for debate in the House and said that he would support it.
The group then presented the Resolve to the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil. She welcomed the initiative and urged the need for greater awareness on the issue.
And finally, it was time for the candlelight vigil at India Gate. Milling crowds, ice cream vendors and colorful balloons greeted them as they alighted from their cars.
Framed by Uniting to Tackle Child Malnutrition banner, the MPs holding placards walked silently towards India Gate.
‘Uniting against Child Malnutrition’
‘Every second child in India malnourished’
‘Poshan ke Pehredaar’ (Guardians of Nutrition)
‘Mother and Child health is linked’
As the dusk turned to darkness, they lit their candles, holding them up as they sang ‘leh mashalien chal pade hein log mere gaon ke…’
The vigil was a success in uniting across party lines. The challenge is in keeping the flame that they lit, aglow until child malnutrition in India becomes a thing of the past.