ON a first reading, it may appear that the Union government's Budget for 2008-09 is very different from the neoliberal Budgets of the last decade and a half or more.

The agricultural loan waiver valued at Rs.60,000 crore announced in Budget 2008-09 has dominated discussions on the Budget.

It is clear from Budget 2008 that the UPA, instead of abandoning its neoliberal agenda in an election year, has decided to stick to it resolutely. R.V. MOORTHY

A former employee of Modern Foods, a public sector unit later taken over by Hindustan Lever Limited that used to provide bread under ICDS in Uttar Pradesh until 2003, tells Down To Earth the inside story of how small players exploit the contract system on the condition of anonymity.

The implementation of the Supplementary Nutritional Programme (SNP) in Assam is "tardy and failure.' It is handicapped by long spells of non-feeding days, inequality in and manipulation of the allotment for nutrition, diversion of the allotment without compensatory replacement and incurring of excess expenditure,' according to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG). The report, tabled in the Assembly on Monday, showed that the Assam government did not provide funds for the SNP during the financial years between 2002-03 and 2004-05. The additional Central assistance of Rs. 135.86 crore for nutrition meant exclusively for children below three years was diverted for providing nutrition to all groups of beneficiaries.

Hunger is unpalatable. For a government that wishes to assert that it is not callous, it is particularly so. But hunger, with a capital H, is a pill that millions of people in Madhya Pradesh continue to swallow.

A CAG report on health services in four major Delhi hospitals reveals the plight of the urban poor.

In a slum in New Delhi. With more agrarian distress and fewer employment opportunities in rural areas, the population of the urban poor will only grow.

The Sahariya tribal population in Sheopur district continues to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

"THE tribals need to change their attitude and lifestyle," said R.K. Dixit, the Chief Medical Health Officer (CMHO) of Sheopur district in Madhya Pradesh, in response to a query about continuing reports of children starving to death in the region. The Sahariyas, one of the poorest tribal communities in Madhya Pradesh, live mostly in remote villages with little access to health care.

Malnutrition deaths of children in a tribal hamlet point to the general state of welfare programmes in Madhya Pradesh.