Akshaya Patra: What India Can Teach the World

Before completing a four-week study tour in India, I had barely considered India’s role as a global leader. India’s influence was not taught at school and hardly touched upon in my degree of Development Studies and Cultural Anthropology. My knowledge of Asia taught at school as the Vietnam War and Edmund Hillary being first to scale Mount Everest in Nepal.

With 1 in every 4 people in the world being Indian, why is India given little weight in the education, media and business sectors?

India has the fastest growing economy in the world and it is predicted to become the biggest economy by 2050. Not only that, it is one of the few countries in the world to have more than 50% of its population below the age of 25. An aging population is a challenge which many countries in the global north will face in the coming years. For example Japan’s average age is 48, compared to India’s who sits at 29 years.  A young population means opportunity. Whereas aging populations come with challenges such as decreasing numbers in the workforce. India will have the advantage of their population entering the workforce.

Nick, one of the leaders of Indogenius, was effective at drilling this fact into our heads: for every problem there is a solution in India. From rickshaw drivers to CEO’s of start-ups – so many Indian’s seem to possess a spirit which drives them to do better for them and their families. This creates an environment perfect for start-ups. Passionate people with an idea and the drive can bring their to life which may not be realistic in places such as New Zealand. We interacted with many people who had successfully turned their vision into multi-million-dollar companies, from Delhi to Pondicherry.

This is not only limited to the world of business in areas such as tech which India is gaining a worldwide reputation for. NGOs such as Jaipur Foot and Akshaya Patra are touching the lives of millions of people in an extremely practical and productive way.

Akshaya Patra Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 2000 which feeds 18 million children in schools daily. It is the largest school lunch programme in the world, which believes that “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger.” We had the privilege of touring the kitchen. Their kitchen holds the title of biggest kitchen in the world which produces 1.4 million meals a day. One cooker could fit 2500 kilograms of dhal.

Making Dahl for 1.4 million people

Not only are meals an initiative for students but parents themselves as it takes the financial pressure off them to provide a meal. An article published by Education New Zealand (2019) says that between 150,000 and 250,000 New Zealand children are in poverty, depending on the measures used. Jacinda Ardern has announced that Year 1 to 8 students in thirty schools will be provided with a free school lunch, it is projected that 120 schools and 21,000 students will be provided with lunches by 2021. I think that the New Zealand government would benefit from looking at a system like Akshaya Patra has perfected. A child is fed a nutritious meal five times a week for a school year for only twenty dollars.

A simple but effective initiative that Akshaya Patra Foundation has introduced is including a sweet within the one of five days meals are served. They keep this day random as they have seen attendance increase to 100 per cent for the day including a sweet only. By switching this day weekly, attendance has increased throughout the week by five percent. When operating at such a scale this is an amazing accomplishment in attendance.

Akshaya Patra is only one example of what can be achieved in India. Good people are changing peoples lives domestically and international. With 1.4 billion brains India is a gold mine of potential that the rest of the world can learn from.

Annalise O’Sullivan-Moffat

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