A print release by the Government suggests- “India ranks first in milk production, accounting for 18.5 per cent of world production, achieving an annual output of 146.3 million tones during 2014-15 as compared to 137.69 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a growth of 6.26 per cent.”

While milk production is on a steady high, so is milk consumption. Though research suggests a huge disparity between the amount of milk consumed in rural areas and the urban areas, an average consumer in north western states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana spends more than Rs. 500 per month on milk. Undoubtedly, milk is the nation’s favorite since it is not only associated with being a source of nourishment and protein, but also as a means of displaying appreciation and dissent.

GENERIC OBLIVION NEEDS STATISTICAL WAKE UP CALL – TEMPLES AND ACTORS EARLIER, ROADS NOW!

The tradition of offering tonnes of milk to the ‘Shivling’ (during Mahashivratri which is almost on the cards) and other idols of Gods and Goddesses has long been under the baits of discussion. Reports are suggestive of how gallons of milk is wasted in the name of offering it to Gods while millions die of hunger each day. The World Bank estimates India as one of the highest ranking countries in the world in terms of malnutrition statistics.  Another startlingly alarming fact is that 10 million people succumb to death every year, owing to chronic hunger and various other hunger-related diseases. And to put facts under a clearer slate of reasons, 92% of these deaths are a result of hunger prevailing under normal and ‘celebratory’ circumstances of the land of festivals. Only eight percent are the victims of hunger due to calamities such as high-profile earthquakes, floods, droughts and so on.

When temples weren’t enough, we jubliated towards decorating milk on the posters of God-like celebrities such as Rajnikanth just prior to his film release. And still when our obsession with milk didn’t seem enough, we came up with downpour of gallons of milk all across city roads like those of Ahmedabad on 6th July since a bunch of farmers wanted to protest.

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MERE HYPE OR CAN MILK INDEED TREAT MALNUTRITION? 

According to experts, carbohydrates, protein, fats and vitamins are the 4 essentials which save us from mal-nourishment. Surprisingly, just 250 ml cup of milk per day contains 8.38 g fat, 11.65 g carbohydrate, 8.3 g protein and is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, has 5% Vitamin A and 29% Calcium. Furthermore, 87% of milk is water and hence a vital indirect source of nutritional solvents.

I can now quite confidently say that my argument is not just another plain one hanging in the thin air, but yes, even a cup of milk per day can facilitate the inherent battle of the internally plagued and malnourished India.

A single metric tonne of milk is equivalent to 1,000,000 ml. This quantity is sufficient enough to feed 4,000 people Below the Poverty Line. Though there isn’t a confirmed statistic on the number of tonnes of milk wasted annually in the name of Mahashivratri season and protests, the fact that there are thousands of huge temples across the country, reassures that the milk wastage is definitely beyond a single unit of metric tonne. Just imagine! How many malnourished children can be treated with this amount? 4,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 or more?

WHAT’S BEEN DONE ISN’T ENOUGH!

In 2014, Madras High Court had passed an order over a PIL that sought to hold the wastage of  milk. The court bench said: “The commodity should be used for the benefit of young children besides offering to the deities.” The bench however, conceded that it could not put restrictions on the rituals under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.

On the other hand, some are not willing to give up. Care takers of Saketri Shiv Temple in Chandigarh came up with an initiative to utilize the offered milk in 2015.  The officials stated that people usually got milk in pouches. The temple collected these pouches only to distribute after heating the milk. The temple volunteers collected 170 quintals of milk at the rate of Rs 38.35 per kg for offering. About the same quantity of milk is donated by the devotees which comes up to be 350 quintals. Besides this, 60,000 bananas were also arranged for devotees.

Though an impressive step, it hasn’t been replicated by many. The stress must lay on prohibiting the wastage of milk, it can save lives and it has been validated enough. Ours being a progressive society, must save its millions of kids who die of hunger, when its completely in our hands to move beyond our religious obsessions. How progressive is our India where 10 million hungry people die annually? And, how much milk do you plan to offer to idols this Mahashivratri?

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