In an address to the East India Association Sir John Woodhead drew upon his experience as chairman of the Famine Inquiry Commission to review in authoritative fashion what Lord Scarborough described from the chair as one of the most important requirements of to‐day, that of increasing the food supplies and improving the diet of the people of India. Of the present population of about 400,000,000, it has been estimated that fully one‐third are under‐nourished, while a still larger proportion are ill‐nourished for lack of a balanced diet. The staple articles of diet are rice, wheat and millet, and even when these are consumed in adequate quantities their deficiencies in proteins, fats, vitamins, and mineral salts must be made good by protective foods. The technological possibilities of increasing food production are very great. It is known that the yield of rice can be increased by anything up to one‐half by manuring and by the use of improved strains; and that potential increases in millet and wheat are of the order of 30 per cent. The Famine Inquiry Commission concluded that self‐sufficiency in cereals was practicable as well as desirable as a policy for the future, and that a large increase in protective and supplementary foods, such as pulses, vegetables, fruit and fish was entirely feasible. Nor is there any mystery as to how the increase is to be achieved. The methods which must be followed, such as the provision of an assured water supply, the utilisation of every source of fertilising material, the cultivation of improved strains of plants and beasts, the protection of husbandry from pests and of the husbandman from ill‐health—all these are familiar in plans for the improvement of the rural economy of India. What is novel, however, is the increasing recognition that only a concerted effort, on a national scale, employing the resources of the people and of the Government in close partnership, can avail to raise the Indian masses from ramshackle medievalism to ordered, progressive modernity. Improvement of diet is among the most important elements in that improvement of the standard of living which is the principal object of all Indian planning to‐day. At present, lack of purchasing power is the root of malnutrition as of many other evils; increased agricultural production and a better diet arc bound up with the process of increasing the national wealth through simultaneous industrial development. Urbanisation and higher living standards may in turn exert their influence upon the growth of population; for Sir John Wood‐head's commission found that among the upper and professional classes the birth‐rate is falling steadily. Throughout the whole population, indeed, the birth‐rate fell from 34 a thousand in 1940 to 26 a thousand in 1943; but this decline may be due to transient causes only. There seemed good grounds for hoping that the future pressure of population need present no immovable obstacle to the success of a really national movement for better livelihood.
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