India’s recent ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) has slipped to the 107th position in 2022 from the 101st position in 2021, among 116 countries.
GHI is calculated based on four indicators:
- Undernourishment Refers to the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake.
Example: A significant portion of India’s population suffers from inadequate calorie intake due to poverty and limited access to nutritious food.
- Child Wasting Represents the share of children under age five with low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
Example: High levels of child wasting in certain Indian states indicate severe malnutrition among children, such as in Madhya Pradesh.
- Child Stunting Reflects the share of children under age five with low height for their age, indicating chronic undernutrition.
Example: In states like Bihar, a substantial proportion of children suffers from stunting, leading to long-term health and development issues.
- Child Mortality Denotes the mortality rate of children under the age of five.
Example: High child mortality rates in impoverished regions of India are often linked to malnutrition and inadequate healthcare.
Reasons for India’s poor performance:
- Impact of Pandemic Food insecurity increased from approximately 32% in 2019 to 38.5% in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Example: Lockdowns disrupted livelihoods and access to food for many vulnerable populations.
- Less focus on Nutritional security in PDS (Hidden Hunger) The Public Distribution System (PDS) often prioritizes cereals over diverse nutritious foods.
Example: Many Indian households suffer from “hidden hunger,” lacking essential micronutrients despite having sufficient calories.
- Inadequate Distribution of Food through PDS Challenges in the efficient delivery of food to beneficiaries.
Example: Irregular supply of food grains and leakages in the distribution system hinder food access.
- Lack of access to remote areas Inaccessible terrain and inadequate infrastructure limit food availability in tribal and hilly regions.
Example: The northeastern states of India face geographical challenges in food distribution.
- Corruption Diverting grains to the open market, selling poor-quality grains at ration shops, and irregular shop openings contribute to food insecurity.
Example: Reports of corruption in the PDS system are not uncommon.
- The Economic Survey 2023 emphasizes a shift from ‘food security’ to ‘nutrition security’:
- Food Fortification
- Encouraging cultivation of fruits and vegetables through favorable prices.
- Expanding the PDS food basket to include millets, pulses, and oil.
- Regular Monitoring of Food Security.
- Enlarging the Scope of Food Security Schemes:
- Universalizing access to the Public Distribution System.
- Implementing the One Nation One Ration Card scheme (ONORC).
- Bringing Development and Humanitarian Policies Together
The right to food is both a statutory and human right.
India, as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, bears the responsibility to ensure the right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food for all its citizens.