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General Studies 1 >> Indian Society



1. Background

  • Global food crisis: 1 child suffers severe malnutrition every 60 seconds-UNICEF

  • Soaring food prices driven by the war in Ukraine, persistent drought due to climate change in some countries combined with conflict and the ongoing economic impact of COVID-19 continue to drive children’s food and nutrition insecurity worldwide, UNICEF noted. This has resulted in catastrophic levels of severe malnutrition in children under five.
  • UNICEF estimated that within the 15 countries, at least 40 million children are severely nutrition-insecure, meaning they are not receiving the bare minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop in early childhood. 
  • Further, 21 million children are severely food insecure, meaning they lack access to enough food to meet minimum food needs, leaving them at high risk of severe wasting, the body added. 
  • Hunger is usually understood to refer to the distress associated with a lack of sufficient calories. 
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and physical activity level 
  • The second most populous country in the world, India has enjoyed steady economic growth and has achieved self-sufficiency in grain production in recent years. Despite this, high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition persist. 
  • Around 21.25 per cent of the population lives on less than US$1.90 a day, and levels of inequality and social exclusion are very high. 
  • India is home to a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide, making the country a key focus for tackling hunger on a global scale. In the last two decades, per capita income more than tripled, yet the minimum dietary intake fell. The gap between rich and poor increased during this period of high economic growth. 
  • India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades. 
  • Gross Domestic Product has increased 4.5 times and per capita consumption has increased 3 times. Similarly, food grain production has increased almost 2 times. 
  • However, despite phenomenal industrial and economic growth and while India produces sufficient food to feed its population, it is unable to provide access to food to a large number of people, especially women and children.

2. State of Hunger in India 

  • According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020 report, 189.2 million people are undernourished in India.
  • By this measure 14% of the population is undernourished in India. 
  • Also, 51.4% of women of reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anaemic. 
  • Further according to the report 34.7% of the children aged under five in India are stunted (too short for their age), while 20% suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height. 
  • Malnourished children have a higher risk of death from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria. 
  • The Global Hunger Index 2020 ranks India at 94 out of 107 countries based on three leading indicators: prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under 5 years, under 5 child mortality rate, and the proportion of undernourished in the population.  

3. Global Hunger Index 

  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels. 
  • GHI scores are calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger. 
  • The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.

4. Methodology used by Global Hunger Index 

  • GHI scores are calculated using a three-step process that draws on available data from various sources to capture the multidimensional nature of hunger. 
  • First, for each country, values are determined for four indicators: 
  • UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient); CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition); 
  • Second, each of the four component indicators are given a standardised score on a 100-point scale based on the highest observed level for the indicator on a global scale in recent decades. 
  • Third, standardised scores are aggregated to calculate the GHI score for each country, with each of the three dimensions (inadequate food supply; child mortality; and child undernutrition, which is composed equally of child stunting and child wasting) given equal weight. 
  • This three-step process results in GHI scores on a 100-point GHI Severity Scale, where 0 is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. 

5. Government policies and intervention 

  • With a five-fold increase in food grain production from 50 million tonnes in 1950-51 to about 250 million tonnes in 2014-15, India has moved away from dependence on food aid to become a net food exporter. 
  • In 2016, the government launched several programmes to double farmers’ incomes by 2022. 
  • These seek to remove bottlenecks for greater agricultural productivity, especially in rain-fed areas. 
  • They include: the National Food Security Mission, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), the Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the e-marketplace, as well as a massive irrigation and soil and water harvesting programme to increase the country’s gross irrigated area from 90 million hectares to 103 million hectares by 2017. 
  • The government has also taken significant steps to combat under- and malnutrition over the past two decades, such as through the introduction of mid-day meals at schools, Anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers, and subsidised grain for those living below the poverty line through a public distribution system. 
  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, aims to ensure food and nutrition security for the most vulnerable through its associated schemes and programmes, making access to food a legal right.


7. Way Forward 

  • Food norms have been revised to ensure a balanced and nutritious diet for children of the upper primary group by increasing the number of pulses 
  • Decentralisation of payment of the cost of foodgrains to the FCI at the district level should be allowed.

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