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In Focus

October, 12

India Falls to Rank 100 on the Global Hunger Index



The Global Hunger Index (GHI) in its annual report showed that India’s rank fell to a historic low of 100, out of 119 countries. India’s score is at the ‘high end of the serious category’. This is all the more horrifying considering that North Korea and strife-riven Venezuela are doing better. What’s more, India's fall in the rankings has been very sharp. From a ranking of 55 in 2014, India fell to 80 in 2015 and then to 97 in 2016.

More than a fifth (21%) of India’s children are 'wasted' as per the 2017 report. The GHI defines ‘wasted’ as children under five who have low weight for their height, making it a measure of acute under-nutrition. This puts India in the same category as Djibouti and war-struck South Sudan. This has seen an increase from 15% in 2016. Further, the report found that almost a third (35.7%) of children under five are underweight and one in three (38.4%) is stunted. Alarmingly, only 9.6% of children between 6 and 23 months receive adequate diet and less than half (48.4%) of households have access to improved sanitation facilities. Even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh rank much better than India in the GHI.

During the UPA tenure, however, the story was radically different. The 2014 report highlighted that over the preceding decade India had made good progress in fighting undernutrition. Child wasting had fallen by over 5%, stunting rate had fallen by 9% and the underweight estimate fell by a staggering 12.8 %. It also praised the UPA for “scaling up nutrition-specific interventions over the past decade.” The report also praised 'The Integrated Child Development Services Program' for setting up 1.4 million centres to improve nutrition and development of children. The National Rural Health Mission was applauded for its community-based outreach and facility-focused health initiatives to support rural areas. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme was singled out for its benefits and significant praise was heaped on the Public Distribution System. The report recognised the UPA’s “efforts to create an enabling environment for nutrition.”

After inheriting a well-functioning system, how was the Narendra Modi-led government able to completely botch it up? In effect, India’s ranking has in effect doubled from 55 to 100 under this government. The gains against hunger made under the UPA have been eradicated. There is no doubt that the BJP government is only concerned about a handful of rich industrialists, and not poor and marginalised Indians.

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