Centre questions Global Hunger Index

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 16, 2021

As India slips behind Bangladesh and Pakistan, govt challenges methodology


Raising alarm over food security, the Global Hunger Index — prepared by Ireland-based aid agency Concern Worldwide and Germany-based Welt Hunger Hilfe — has ranked India at 101 down from 94 in 2020.

India’s neighbours China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are positioned above the country. The government said it was “shocking” and questioned the methodology used by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to assess hunger. The Opposition parties simultaneously attacked the government, saying that its policies had led to the slide.

Covid impact

The report said people in India have been severely hit by Covid-19 and by pandemic-related restrictions. According to the report, India has the highest child wasting rate worldwide. Global Hunger Index tracks hunger at global, regional, and national levels. The score in the index is based on four component indicators such as undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. “With a score of 27.5, India has a level of hunger that is serious,” the report said.

The Union Ministry for Women and Child Development said it was “shocking” that the Global Hunger Report has lowered India’s rank on the basis of FAO estimates on proportion of undernourished population. The FAO estimate, the Ministry said, is found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues. “The Global Hunger Report publishing agencies Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe have not done their due diligence before releasing the report,” the Ministry said.

The Centre also argued that the FAO methodology is unscientific. “They have based their assessment on the results of a ‘four question’ opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup. There is no scientific methodology to measure undernourishment like availability of foodgrains per capita during the period,” the Ministry said in a release and claimed that the report completely disregards the government’s “massive effort to ensure food security of the entire population during the Covid period”.

Opposition flays Centre

The Opposition criticised the Centre’s policies. “Congratulations Modi for eradicating poverty, hunger, making India a global power, for our digital economy and so much more,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal Tweeted.

The CPI(M) said the Modi government policies have failed miserably and people continue to suffer.

Economists said the index could be a pointer to an impending catastrophe. “One should not read too much into this index. But I see it as a useful reminder that India is one of the most undernourished countries,” said eminent economist Jean Drèze. “There is a catastrophe going on for sure. There have been many household surveys and reports pointing to an increase in hunger during the lockdown. The extra allocation of foodgrains did not make up for the huge loss of employment and income,” Drèze added.

Published on October 15, 2021

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