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India: Developing to become the 'Hunger Land'!

"The findings of FAO's 'State of Food Insecurity in the World' and IFPRI's 'India State Hunger Index' shocked the whole country, but the political leaders of India are yet to take a lesson from it and realise that taking hunger as a political concept will never provide food security to at least 230 million undernourished people of the country. Industrialisation and development against agriculture would probably bring no solution but worsen the situation."

Basudev Mahapatra : October 18, 2009

The fresh World Food Insecurity Report and the latest hunger map released by WFP and FAO and the 'India State hunger index' (ISHI) published by International Food policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has made lots of revelations to disillusion the common man of India about louder slogans on socio-economic development of the country, foreign direct investments in all sectors to improve the quality of life and vigorous industrialization at the cost of poor people’s livelihood. According to the report, India’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score is 23.7, which gives it a rank of 66th out of 88 countries. It ranks slightly above Bangladesh and below all other South Asian nations. This score indicates continued poor performance at reducing hunger in India. Countries who have been ranked as better performers with less percentage of hunger are Nigeria, Kenya, Cambodia, Rwanda, Pakistan etc.

‘All 17 states have ISHI scores that are significantly worse than the “low” and “moderate” hunger categories. Twelve of the 17 states fall into the “alarming” category, and one—Madhya Pradesh—falls into the “extremely alarming” category’, says the report adding that, ‘scores for Indian states range from 13.6 for Punjab to 30.9 for Madhya Pradesh, indicating substantial variability among states in India. Punjab is ranked 34th when compared with the GHI country rankings, and Madhya Pradesh is ranked 82nd'.

Given that poverty in India is often the root cause of insufficient food intake, child malnutrition, and child mortality, the latest world hunger report points at Punjab, Orissa, and Kerala, “positive deviants”—that is, they have significantly lower hunger index scores than would be expected of states with their level of poverty whereas, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are termed as clear “negative outliers,” with a much higher hunger index than would be expected based on their poverty level.

Madhya Pradesh again stands out as having a much higher level of hunger than would be expected based on its per capita income; Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are also “negative outliers,” as is Maharashtra, which has a hunger index almost as high as that of Orissa but an NSDP twice as large. Several states are also doing better than expected given their economic level, with Punjab being a noticeable positive outlier, as well as, to a lesser extent, Kerala, Assam, and Rajasthan.

The report has prepared the rankings of states within India using the India State Hunger Index in 2008 and the Nutrition Index in 1994. Some distinct changes in ranking occurred over time. The report expressed its concern over the poor performance of Orissa which ranked 5th on the Nutrition Index in 1994, now ranks 12th. The state has ranked below Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Cambodia. In 1994 index, Orissa had scored better than Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Assam who have surpassed this time leaving Orissa at 6th from the down bottom.

Naveen Pattnaik led Orissa government’s all excitements for Signing a series of MOU with corporate houses and the satisfaction of eliminating hunger by providing Rice at rupees two per kilo must have been shattered with the state featuring much below in the fresh hunger map of the world.

>>> Scroll down to read rest of the Story


Placed at the bottom, Madhya Pradesh has been another State of concern as ‘in 1994, Madhya Pradesh ranked 11th out of the 15 States whereas it ranked last (17th) in 2008. Given the large contribution of child underweight to the ISHI scores, the decline in ranking could be due to the lack of improvement in child under-nutrition rates in Madhya Pradesh over the past seven years.

Even though few states are described as outperformers, No state has come to the standard mark. Scoring between 10 and 19.9, Punjab Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Assam are placed in serious category but the best performers of the country.

Among the best performers noteworthy is the performance of Assam. The state was one of the poorest performers and ranked 14th on the Nutrition Index in 1994, but became one of the best performers in 2008, in spite of having had the lowest growth rate of per capita income over the past 14 years among all states. Tamil Nadu also performed well and improved its ranking from 12th in 1994 to 6th in 2008.

Apart from the IFPRI Hunger Index, the Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India brought out jointly by United Nation’s WFP and MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) reveals the fact that, ‘almost two third of rural households in Jharkhand did not have access to safe drinking water; more than 90 percent of rural households in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh did not have access to toilets within their premises’.

However, these facts may not be as shocking to the political leadership of India as they are to the common people of India. After the report has been published leaders of many countries have come up with their replies and confession before the public. But the political leadership in India has not yet reacted to the report nor has come up with any reply to the findings of recent Hunger Reports that indirectly indicates gross failure of the programmes implemented for socio-economic development of people. Is it because, they know, people of India are neither united nor are they that aware to react against the leadership for fooling the nation since more than half a century?

The irony with Indian leadership is that, they do not bother for 20% of the population suffering from under-nourishment, 42.5% of children under 5 years of age who are underweight due to hunger and mal-nutrition, 7.4% of children who die before crossing five years of age. Rather, what they bother for are, beefing up security around them spending crores of public money, maintaining a lavish life style that is beyond the dream of more than 90% of Indians, and fooling people again and again to continue ruling over them (the common people).





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