According to Oxfam India, India's rating of 101st on the Global Hunger Index for 2021 "sadly" matches the realities of the country, where hunger has worsened since the Covid-19 pandemic breakout.
India has slid to 101st place in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 116 countries, down from 94th place in 2020, and is now behind Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
This year's Union budget included increased funding for India's POSHAN (Prime Minister's Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition) programme.
However, the POSHAN Abhiyaan, which was launched in 2017 to promote nutrition among children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, has stalled due to insufficient money as a result of smart bundling with other health-budget projects, and even worse implementation. According to Oxfam India, only 0.57 per cent of the current budget has been given to finance the actual POSHAN scheme, and the amount for child nutrition has plummeted by a stunning 18.5 per cent compared to 2020-21.
Between 2012 and 2021, India's GHI score decreased from 38.8 in 2000 to a range of 28.8–27.5. Between 2012 and 2021, India's GHI score decreased from 38.8 in 2000 to a range of 28.8–27.5.
Undernourishment, child wasting (the share of children under the age of five who are wasted, i.e. have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition), child stunting (children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition), and child mortality are the four indicators used to calculate the GHI score (the mortality rate of children under the age of five).
The National Food Security Act of 2013 was enacted to ensure food security for the world's most vulnerable people. The Act covers ration distribution through fair pricing shops, school lunch programmes, and nutrition and maternity benefit programmes for children and expectant mothers at anganwadis.
India collects its own health and nutrition statistics, which is usually regarded as reliable and valuable. The National Family Health Survey's fifth cycle was conducted in 2019-20, and the results were revealed in December 2020. However, because data for Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh was not included in the first phase, the overall performance has yet to be determined. According to the report, progress has been slower than projected, and stunting, a symptom of chronic malnutrition, has increased in 11 of the 17 states examined. In 13 of these 17 states, wasting, a sign of acute malnutrition, has also increased. Children who are malnourished are more susceptible to illness and disease. In 11 of the 17 states, the percentage of underweight children has increased. 40% of children under the age of five in Bihar and Gujarat were underweight.
In 2017, undernutrition was one of the top causes of child mortality in India, accounting for 68.2 percent of all fatalities among children under the age of five (10.4 lakh). Diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malaria are all common causes of death in children who are severely malnourished.
According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, over 33 lakh children in India are malnourished, with more than half of them falling into the seriously malnourished category, with Maharashtra, Bihar, and Gujarat leading the list.
As of October 14, 2021, the Women and Child Development ministry estimate that there are 17,76,902 (17.76 lakh/1.7 million) severely acute malnourished (SAM) children and 15,46,420 (15.46 lakh/1.5 million) moderately acute malnourished (MAM) children, raising concerns that the Covid pandemic will exacerbate the health and nutrition crisis among the poorest of the poor.
Amartya Sen established the concept of 'exchange entitlement fall' as a cause of poverty and famines in his book Poverty and Famines. An unfavourable shift in the exchange value of endowments for food characterises it. It basically indicates that a certain group of people's work does not pay well enough for them to buy enough food.
Though Sen proposed this theory to explain the causes of famines, we may use it to better understand the hunger crisis in our own country. Sen discussed four types of entitlements: "production-based entitlement" (producing food), "trade-based entitlement" (purchasing food), "own-labor entitlement" (working for food), and "inheritance and transfer entitlement" (being given food by others).
Individuals face famine, according to him, if their whole entitlement set does not provide them with enough food for subsistence. Though the theory cannot account for all famines that have occurred around the world, it has been agreed that starvation is caused by a reduction in entitlements. It contradicts the Malthusian theory that defines starvation as a result of "more people, fewer food."
Despite the fact that there is enough food, most small and marginal farmers are losing access to it. Sen's classification of entitlements will make it easier to comprehend the causes of hunger in India.
Down to Earth suggests, to deal with the situation, a multi-pronged approach is required.
First, more crops must be farmed, particularly by small and marginal farmers with Union government assistance. It is critical to refocus on small and marginal holdings. Second, the government might make facilities for the distribution of cooked, nutritious food to the neediest members of society. During the novel coronavirus illness (COVID-19) epidemic in several districts of West Bengal, Left parties successfully ran a model of the inexpensive cafeteria that delivers cooked food to needy sectors of society for just Rs 15-20.
By simplifying technical processes and decreasing Aadhaar-related errors, access to food grains under the PDS can be simplified. The time has come to make PDS universal: COVID-19 has exposed the scheme's flaws due to its targeted nature.
If implemented, the Union government must also ensure that the "One Nation, One Ration Card" programme is properly implemented, including proper grain allotments to stores, identification procedures, and the proper issue of ration cards to those seeking food grain.
Written by Abhivyakti Mishra (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Edited by Mehak Vohra