Book Review of “The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays” | Riyaz Ahmed

Title: The Republic of Hunger and Other Essays
Author: Utsa Patnaik
Published by: Three Essays Collective
ISBN 978-81-88789-48-1

Utsa Patnaik in her book argues that India and China are the two major giants who constitute almost one third of the total population in nominal terms but in more effective and real terms northern countries are consuming more resources as compared to India and China. She cites the example of USA and Canada which are consuming 47.5 times more units of energy than India and China, where former consumes 100 units and the later 230 units. Further, she argues that USA alone consumes 40 percent of the world energy consumption although it has only 4% of the world’s nominal population. On the other hand two Asian giants consume total 4 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Yet they are termed as the most populated nations depleting resources.

The writer further shows that, how trade became menace to underdeveloped and developing countries due to Neo-Liberalism and deflationary policies of the developed countries. She argues that the situation had been worse than the one in Colonial times to Peasants. In 1990”s it became more difficult  when export exceeded due to temperate climatic conditions in north American and European countries not suitable for growing crops as compared to tropical climatic conditions of Asian and Sub-Saharan countries.

As Capitalism spread, Russia collapsed in 1991 which had a great impact on her own resources. It had world’s largest Oil, Gas, Gold deposits and other major source of raw materials. Infant mortality rate rose to 18.6 which is worse than (16), an Indian state. Life expectancy declined to six years, inflation rose steadily and death rate also increased drastically. Utsa wrote that in Sub-Saharan countries of Africa the situation became poorer when suddenly food output declined during 1980’s. The most populated countries of the region such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Zaire met the ill fate. The situation Infact became shoddier than Sahelian countries. GDP declined. It leads to starvation.

The author attempted to highlight that how in India from 1998 to 2003 the per capita food consumption had been sliding down by 177kg to 155kg which made the state of affairs as bad as it was during the Second World War. The author also makes a mention of the great femine in China and the Russia’s unrecognised femine of 1991.

In the concluding section of the book, the author highlights the agrarian crises that occurred in the era of Neo-imperialism and the role of peasants to tackle the situation citing the examples of Mexico. In Chiapas province the peasants rose in revolt against NAFTA. They forced Mexican government to set up a ‘National Commission for Integral Development and Social Justice for the Indigenous People.’ The Neo-Liberal privatisation, deflationary policies and export promotion caused food insecurity which paved the way for a revolt against the system.

About the Reviewer: Riyaz Ahmed is a student of M.A Social Work at Central University of Jammu.

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