The Global Hunger Index results may be questionable but lacunae in the system cannot be denied

This year, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has also introduced nutritive values also which is a good step.

The Global Hunger Index results may be questionable but they cannot be wished away. Amartya Sen along with Mehboob-Ul-Haq had devised the Human Development Index. Amartya Sen wanted to devise a single-digit index but it would not be exhaustive.

Mehboob-Ul-Haq asked him to devise something which gave more information about the quality of life than GDP. The same thing can be said about Global Hunger Index. It is not exhaustive but does give a fair indication of the standard of life of the population.

The Global Hunger Index indicates that there are many Indians who are still denied the right to food. Today one has just to venture some 100 kilometres into the hinterland of Madhya Pradesh and find people still struggling to get two square meals.

The Global Hunger Index is based on four parameters of any nation. All the parameters are given equal importance.  These parameters are – Insufficient calorie intake, Wasting, Stunting and Child death rate. For stunting and wasting, the data between 2016 and 2020 was used.

The data has been taken from the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4) which was dependent on the 2015-16 data. The NFHS-5 survey has been completed taking 2019-20 as a base. However, the initial results have been released only in December 2020.

There is no index for hunger and trying to fix a benchmark is not easy. Some questions have been devised to measure hunger and it included situations such as going hungry to bed, eating less or circumstances that forced people to eat less. This year, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has also introduced nutritive values also which is a good step. However, this parameter has always been questioned and controversial.

The limitation of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) in other parameters has also been highlighted. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) has used the UNO based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) data was used for determining if the population was getting an insufficient intake of calories. The data used is very suspect and not exhaustive. This year, the procedure to obtain data has been revised because the Women and Child Development ministry has challenged the data.

The Indian Government has contended that the Global Hunger Index (GHI) is far away from ground realities and not logical. The data used for calculating malnutrition should ideally have been the weight and height of the subjects. However, the data used from Gallop was based on telephonic enquiry. However, one thing which is evident in the report is that there has been no improvement in the state of Child wasting and child stunting in 2021 as compared to 2020.

So, coming to the question of India’s ranking of 101 in a list of 116 nations, is the situation really bad?  The answer to this question is found in the nations which are above and below us. Afghanistan is two ranks below us while South Korea which is not a democracy is placed at 96th position. India is at a very low position when it came to wasting and stunting.         

Successive Indian governments have always neglected health, nutrition and hunger and therefore, it is no surprise that India is ranked so low in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). The child nutrition budget is measly and even that has been slashed in 2014. The COVID-19 has further aggravated the situation. The first lockdown that led to the closure of Anganwadi has further compounded the problem. Indirectly, it has also affected the associated programs like Child vaccination, Post Natal Care have been severely affected.   

Thankfully, India has the basic framework in the form of Anganwadi and school mid-day meal schemes. Improving the PDS and improving the nutritive value of school mid-day meal schemes will go a long way in improving India’s position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI).                                                                                                   

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