Letter: Stomachs are empty today

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The Independent Online
Phillip Knightley is wrong about India ("Fifty Years On", Review, 30 March). The fact that it is exporting food does not mean that "people have full stomachs", just that the very poor (at least one-third of the total) cannot afford to buy it. Tell people in Kalahandi that no one has "died of famine" since independence, and (if they have enough energy) they'll give you chapter and verse about hunger deaths. India isn't a tiger economy for many reasons, but no informed commentators would say that the answer is "simple - too many people"; many would not count over- population as even one of the causes. Indians may "put family above all else" but they do not "reproduce as prolifically as ever". Fertility rates have dropped from about six children per woman in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s to just over three today - one of the world's more rapid declines.

Roger Jeffery

University of Edinburgh