Context: According to the recently released Global Hunger Index 2020, India has the highest prevalence of wasted children under five years in the world, which reflects acute undernutrition.

Key highlights of the report:

  • India ranks 94 out of 107 countries in the Index, lower than her neighbors such as Bangladesh (75) and Pakistan (88).
    • India was ranked 102 among 117 countries in Global Hunger Index (GHI), 2019 report.
  • Poor performance: In the region of the south, east, and south-eastern Asia, the only countries which fare worse than India are Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and North Korea.
  • Child stunting: Although it is still in the poorest category, however, child stunting has actually improved significantly, from 54% in 2000 to less than 35% now. 
  • Child wasting: It has not improved in the last two decades, and is rather worse than it was a decade ago.
  • Child mortality rates: India has improved in both child mortality rates, which are now at 3.7%, and in terms of undernourishment, with about 14% of the total population which gets an insufficient caloric intake.

Key reasons for India’s poor performance

  • Large existence of small and marginal holdings:
    • The agriculture output from small and marginal holdings are either stagnant or declining due to reasons such as reduced soil fertility, fragmented lands or fluctuating market price of farm produce. 
    • Almost 50 million households in India are dependent on these small and marginal holdings.
    • Though we have surplus food, most small and marginal farming households do not produce enough food grains for their year-round consumption.
  •  Declining relative income:
    • The relative income of one section of people has been on the decline. 
    • This has adverse effects on their capacity to buy adequate food, especially when food prices have been on the rise.
  • Unemployment:
    • The kind of work a section of people have been doing are less remunerative or there is less opportunity to get remunerative work.
    • The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2017-18 revealed that rural unemployment stood at a concerning 6.1 per cent, which was the highest since 1972-73.
    • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA) continues to be the lone rural job programme.
      • MGNREGA too, had been weakened over the years through great delays in payments and non-payments, ridiculously low wages and a reduced scope of employment due to high bureaucratic control.
  • Inefficient PDS system: The public distribution system (PDS) of the state is not functioning well or is not accessible to everyone.

Way ahead:

  • Renewed focus on small and marginal holdings:
    • More crops have to be grown, especially by small and marginal farmers with support from the Union government. A renewed focus on small and marginal holdings is imperative.
  • Create provisions to supply cooked nutritious food to the vulnerable section of the society:
    • A model of cheap canteen, which provides cooked food to vulnerable sections of the society for just Rs 15-20, is being successfully run during the coronavirus pandemic in many parts of West Bengal.
    • This has to be done in addition to the existing provisions of healthy diets from Anganwadi and schools through mid-day meals for children, mothers and students.
  • Increase employment and wages
    • The rural employment schemes such as MGNREGA should be given a boost to increase employment and wages. 
    • Several organisations and individuals working under the scheme have suggested that the guaranteed work-days be increased to 200.
    • Aso, commensurate wages need to be given in accordance with the minimum agricultural wages of the states.
  • Improve access to food grains under the PDS
    • The access to food grains under the PDS needs to be streamlined by simplifying technical processes and reducing Aadhaar-related glitches. 
    • This can be the right time to universalise PDS: COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of the targeted nature of the scheme.
    • The government should also ensure that the ‘One Nation One Ration card’ scheme, if brought into effect, is operationalised  through proper preparations such as proper grain allotments to shops, identification procedures  and proper issuance of  ration cards to individuals seeking food grain. 

Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report

  • The report is an annual publication that is jointly prepared by the Concern Worldwide (an Irish agency) and the Welt Hunger Hilfe (a German organization).
  • 4 Parameters: GHI is based on the following four indicators
    • The proportion of undernourished in a population
    • The proportion of children under the age of five suffering from wasting (less weight in proportion to their height)
    • The proportion of children under five suffering from stunting (low height in proportion to their age)
    • The mortality rate of children under five

Image Source: TH


After reading this article, answer the following question for Mains answer writing practice. Also you can get your answer checked free of cost by clicking on the following link.

For Mains:

Q. Despite many initiatives India continues to perform poorly in the Global Hunger Index. Elucidate