Zero Food Children


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Today many young women keep busy by working in the homes of people in urban centres of India, especially in the states of UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and the Indian capital Delhi. Most of these women are in the age group of 20 to 35 years. Despite getting suitable wages, they feel unhappy in their conditions. The reason being that they are unable to take proper care and give sufficient food to their children who are generally quite young — about a year or three year old.

If the child is a year old or less, the child predominantly feeds on the breast milk of his mother. We use the term   Zero Food Children  for such children because they generally do not eat regular food — they survive on milk.

But take any woman, she is busy working in various homes, and is thus unable to have sufficient free time to breast feed her baby properly. The woman does not know how to feed her young child and provide sufficient intake of food to the baby. Even if she gets sufficient time for breast feeding, she is still unhappy since she herself is not properly and sufficiently fed and so she feels how can she feed her baby adequately.

This problem is not confined to one or a few women; it affects many women not only physically but also emotionally. Women  feel that there is insufficient milk for the baby in the woman’s body, leaving the baby semi starved.

The deprivation women  feel for the baby is not confined to a few women only but has spread to hundreds of women who work for low wages leading to common problems — insufficient food for themselves and for their kids. In India the problem is most acute in the large state of UP bordering Delhi. Apart from UP, it is also present in several states of India — Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, etc where one finds large number of poor children suffering from insufficient intake of food and milk.

Several studies have been carried out to understand the magnitude of this problem and its occurrence in many urban areas of these and other states of India. The problem of   zero food children   is spreading due to the rapid urbanisation of many regions as well as due to increasing number of nuclear families. Moreover most women are ignorant of the problem of insufficient food that affects children and do not know how to tackle it. If families  live together, the problem can be understood and shared and become less acute. It would be good for children as well as their mothers.

Since large number of women are busy working domestically in various homes, they have less time and less energy to feed their children — breast or regular feeding of children. They however do realise that breast feeding is more effective to provide sufficient intake of nutrition to their small babies.

The problem of insufficient food arises because of increasing urbanisation and increasing number of women looking for livelihood in urban areas. If women were working in rural areas and farms as they did traditionally, the issue of not finding time to feed their children would be less complex and more easily solved. There would also be more discussion with other women leading to better understanding and thereby making the problem of   Zero food children    less acute.

We are witnessing this social phenomenon of urbanisation leading to women being unable to provide sufficient food for their small children. Some aspects of the problem have been understood and suitable action taken. But the issue of   Zero Food Children   is a novel one and  a new approach is required to tackle it.

We will have to wait for some scholars and affected women themselves to suggest some means so that the problems of feeding small children and babies become less acute.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 Mar 2024.

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