The Punjab Pulse Bureau report
The Global Hunger Report 2022 released by Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe, Non-Government Organisations from Ireland and Germany respectively, has ranked India at 107 among 121 countries.
The index is an erroneous measure of hunger and suffers from serious methodological issues. Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to health of Children and cannot be representative of the entire population. The fourth and most important indicator estimate of Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population is based on an opinion poll conducted on a very small sample size of 3000.
The report is not only disconnected from ground reality but also chooses to deliberately ignore efforts made by the Government to ensure food Security for the population especially during the Covid Pandemic. Taking a one-dimensional view, the report lowers India’s rank based on the estimate of Proportion of Undernourished (PoU) population for India at 16.3%. The FAO estimate is based on “Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” Survey Module conducted through Gallop World Poll, which is an “OPINION POLL based on 8 questions with a sample size of 3000 respondents”.
The data collected from a miniscule sample for a country of India’s size through FIES has been used to compute PoU value for India which is not only wrong & unethical, it also reeks of obvious BIAS.
Some of the questions asked to the respondent are:
“During the last 12 months, was there a time when, because of lack of money or other resources: You were worried you would not have enough food to eat? You ate less than you thought you should?
It is evident such questions do not search for facts based on relevant information about the delivery of nutritional support and assurance of food security by the Government.
The per capita dietary energy supply in India, as estimated by FAO from the Food Balance Sheets, has been increasing year-on-year owing to enhanced production of major agricultural commodities in the country over the years and there is absolutely no reason why the country’s undernourishment levels should increase.
During the period Government had taken series of measures to ensure food security. Some of the actions taken in this regard include running the largest food security programme in the world. In the wake of economic disruptions caused by the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, the Government in March 2020 had announced the distribution of additional free-of-cost food grains (Rice/Wheat) to about 800 million under National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries at the scale of 5 Kg per person per month over and above the regular monthly NFSA food grains i.e., regular entitlements of their ration cards. Thereby, effectively doubling the quantity of monthly food grains being normally delivered to the NFSA households, so that the poor, needy and the vulnerable households/beneficiaries do not suffer on account of non-availability of adequate foodgrains during the times of economic crisis.
The distribution has been done through State Governments, who on their own further supplemented the efforts of Central Government by providing pulses, edible oils and condiments etc to the beneficiaries.
Under Anganwadi Services, since Covid-19 pandemic, supplementary nutrition was provided to approximately 71 million children upto the age of 6 years and to nearly 2 million pregnant women and lactating mothers. 5.3 Million Metric Tonnes of Food grains (comprising 2.5 Million Metric Tonnes of Wheat, 1.1 Million Metric Tonnes of Rice, 1.6 Million Metric Tonnes of Fortified Rice and 12,037 Metric Tonnes of Jowar and Bajra ( minerals and protein millets) was supplied.
The distribution of supplementary nutrition was undertaken by Anganwadi Workers and Helpers across 1.4 million Anganwadis in India. Take Home Ration was delivered to beneficiaries at their homes every fortnight.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojna, more than 15 million registered women were provided Rs 5000/- on the birth of their first child for wage support and nutritious food during pregnancy and post-delivery period.
The three other indicators apart from PoU, included in Global Hunger Index relate primarily to children viz. Stunting, Wasting and Under 5 mortality. These indicators are outcomes of complex interactions of various other factors like drinking water, sanitation, genetics, environment and utilisation of food intake apart from hunger, which is taken as the causative/outcome factor for stunting and wasting in the GHI.
Calculating hunger based on mainly indicators relating to health indicators of children is NEITHER SCIENTIFIC nor RATIONAL.
Beyond its citizens India has provided food aid to Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. ( All ranked higher on hunger index.
These NGO reports are to be thrown in the dustbin where they belong. And India will continue to work towards bettering nutrition and food security for its billion plus people and children.
The scale is lost on many.