India's hunger level constant for past 15 years

Economic growth didn't result in hunger reduction after 1996, says Global Hunger Index

By Richard Mahapatra
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

hungerHigh economic growth has not helped India reduce its hunger level, says the new Global Hunger Index (GHI), released on October 11. What's more, the level of hunger now is the same as it was in 1996. The index, prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute, has rated 120 countries. India has been ranked 65th, below Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This is the seventh such report that has been tracking hunger across the world using multiple parameters.

“India has lagged behind in improving its GHI score despite strong economic growth,” says the report. Going by such rankings earlier, India's hunger level now is the same as it was in 1996. Between 1996 and 2001, there was a slight decrease in hunger level. But the latest score shows that in the past 10 years, the level has stagnated. “The stagnation in GHI score occurred during a period when India's gross national per capita income almost doubled, rising from about $1,460 to $2,850 (per annum),” the report analyses. Two-thirds of India's alarming GHI score is owing to the fact that 43.5 per cent of the country's children are underweight. In this parameter, India scores less than Ethiopia.

In the case of India, the link between economic growth and the expected reduction in hunger got snapped after 1996. Between 1990 and 1996, says the report, India's hunger level reduction was proportionate to its economic growth. But after this, there have been no impacts of high economic growth on the level of hunger. “The disparity between economic development and progress in the fight against hunger widened,” says the report.

Slow progress in global hunger reduction

At the global level, hunger has reduced marginally in the past two decades. “Progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been tragically slow,” observes the report. In 2012 the GHI fell by 26 per cent from the 1990 level. But there are severe regional imbalances in distribution of hunger. South Asia and the Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest levels of hunger. The 22 countries with “alarming” or “extremely alarming” levels of hunger are in these two regions. South Asia reduced its GHI score significantly during 1990 to 1996 but couldn't maintain the pace. Now, the sub-Saharan region's hunger level is lower than that of the South Asian region.

“As a result of economic and population growth, wealthier population in the developed and increasingly developing world are juxtaposed with nearly 1 billion food-insecure people and 2 billion people suffering from micro nutrient deficiency,” says the report on growing inequality.

The report comes at a time when food prices are set to touch the 2008-level that triggered food riots across the globe. Food prices went up by 40 per cent in 2007. The food price rise in 2007-08 pushed 130-155 million people into extreme poverty. A recent UN report suggests that this year food prices may reach the 2008 level, triggering panic. The insecurity has led to an unprecedented rush to grab land for future food production.

The GHI report shows that world's hunger hot spots are the preferred countries for securing lucrative land. “The majority of international land deals till date have occurred in those countries that experience higher levels of hunger and where the population and national incomes depend heavily on agriculture,” says the GHI report. Most of these land parcels were in use for sustenance farming by the world's poorest farmers in the most food insecure areas. Governments justify these deals to improve their fortunes by allowing industrial farming.

Click here to read the GHI report

Global hunger index 2011: the challenge of hunger - taming price spikes and excessive food price volatility

The state of food insecurity in the world 2012

HUNGaMA (Hunger and Malnutrition) report 2011

India state hunger index: comparisons of hunger across states

State of world hunger 2011: our common interest - ending hunger and malnutrition

World Disasters Report 2011: focus on hunger and malnutrition

Global food security index 2012: an assessment of food affordability, availability and quality

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  • The economists must change

    The economists must change their methodology in assessing global hunger. Economic growth will never be an indicator of hunger. Hunger depends up on several localized factors, more particularly agriculture. The mono crop farming and cash crop culture affected severely the food and health security in rural India. Though PDS is there but we account the ground realities at that location. The hunger index further goes down with FDI/Multi-brand retail outlets. They enter en-mass into corporate agriculture and introduce crops to suite their marketing. India with a huge population this becomes a severe bottleneck point for Indian government. Last year Supreme Court highlighted the fate of food grains in FCI storage facilities. Also, FAO in its' report highlighted the food waste globally. Even our finance minister observed in his 2010-11 budget the wastage is around 50% due to lack of storage facilities. Prior to these I highlighted this 50% wastage in my Radio talk.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Anonymous | 8 years ago | Reply
  • Global Hunger Index & Global

    Global Hunger Index & Global Poor Governance

    Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali Beg

    Former Director General, PCSIR, Karachi

    I have a thesis which states that ÔÇ£Poverty per se is not a problem, it is the impoverishment of resources resulting from the Get- Rich-Quickly Syndrome in the developing countries and the Enjoying-the-Richness in developed countries that is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The poor anywhere have otherwise learnt to live with poverty and they are content with whatever they getÔÇØ (Social Pollution & Global Poor Governance, Analysis of Psyche of the Governing Hierarchy, Mirza Arshad Ali Beg, Research & Development Publications, Karachi, & Pakistan Book Foundation, Islamabad, 1999).

    Generations have passed but the poor have lived in the same ecosystem and remained poor. Likewise the poor nations have not been able to improve the lot of their poor and on an overall basis they themselves have remained poor. The developed countries may seem rich because they are enjoying their affluence after exploiting the resources of their own and of the countries that they had subdued. Now that they have attained superiority in trade and weapons, they would like to maintain their upper hand through status quo.

    Developing countries on getting independence after World War II, started to catch up with the countries that had reached the developed stage. In doing so they also adopted the same ladder of growth as the developed countries i.e. industrialization to attain superiority in trade and if possible weapons. Many such countries adopted the two-step-ladder and three-step-ladder for growth to achieve high rate of growth. Many who had ample resources survived but for many others the growth bubble had to burst.
    In any case the result was impoverishment of resources. If one takes the example of Pakistan, it will soon be found that in having a maximum rate of growth of about 7.5 percent, the country has exhausted its resources of fossil fuel, lost the fertility of soil, and lost its high level manpower. Since the focus was on achieving a high rate of growth, any improvement in the social sector was sidelined.

    In terms of global hunger index (GHI), the index reduced in Pakistan from 25.5 in 1996 to 19.7 in 2012, and the country is at position 57 on a global scale. In India the GHI reduced from 30.3 in 1996 to 22.9 in 2012 and this country is at position 65. Sri Lanka had the same GHI in 1996 as Pakistan has in 2012 and it improved from 20.8 to 13.4; it is at position 37. Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan are in the serious state in terms of Global Hunger Index while India is in the alarming state.

    In the three cases just cited, the hunger remained persistent despite the rapid rate of growth they went in for. High economic growth did not help India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka in reducing the hunger level of their people, according to the new Global Hunger Index (GHI), released on October 11. What is more, the level of hunger now is the same as it was in 1996. The index, prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute, has rated 120 countries, and that includes India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

    It is legitimate to seek an answer as to where have the benefit of rapid rate of development gone? In each case the answer lies in the governance system comprising a major component of its governing hierarchy which is itself being guided by a feudal frame of mind. The network partners of the feudal system have been manipulating to obtain command on management of public affairs so that maximum benefit could be delivered to the informal sector. This has been used as an argument for the expansion in the volume of the underworld economy which is now estimated at over 50% of the GDP and also for the wide gulf between abject poverty of the 40% population that lives below the poverty line, and the ostentatious living of the network partners of the feudal system which accounts for less than 5% of the population.

    Describing the system in Pakistan and citing cases of a few other countries it has been observed in the above cited reference that an informal governance system has made strong presence in each country and that is running an economy parallel to the formal system. In the industrialized countries, such a system has been suppressed, though not eliminated; there are evidences that the same have been formalized there. The informal system is operated by partners of a network and is regulated by the psychological frame of mind or psyche that is peculiar to each society and country.

    The driving force of these operations is social pollution, which is in essence the get-rich-quickly psyche, and that invariably induces the informal governance system to manipulate, maneuver and determine the role of each partner of the network. The role model is developed in accord with and in response to the psyche of the informal system. The psyche itself develops in an environment that has socially polluted to the extreme or is likely to be degenerated with the development of intensity in the driving force of social pollution.

    All manipulations have only one agenda and that is to see to it that any benefit of development has to reach the governing hierarchy through the informal system. The network of social pollution interfaces with the formal system and uses the psyche as the common denominator of the members of the two systems, to manipulate decisions in its favour.

    Under these circumstances the rapid pace of development will revolve in a vicious circle and the benefit of development will be limited to construction of roads, highways, flyovers so that the rich could operate their vehicles, consume the fuel resources, pollute the environment. In like manner they would establish industries and power plants that would produce goods and promote consumerism that make the industrialists and traders richer. The poor will not get employment since the industries are energy intensive and no longer labour intensive. In each case the development processes in mimicking the developed countries, impoverish the country of the meager resources, irrespective of the hunger that looms large in the country concerned.
    An interesting conclusion that can be drawn here is that the driving force in a socially polluted environment which leads to increase in its entropy is ultimately responsible for increase in the level of corruption. The corruption is of different type in the case of developing and industrialized countries. In the former the eyes of the persons involved in corruption are set on accumulation of wealth but not necessarily enjoying it. In the industrialized countries there is a change in expectations and hence the psyche of those concerned revolves around enjoy-the-richness. There, the amassed wealth is used for playing with it, sometimes by investments and at others by its total withdrawal. In the former scenario, i.e. investment, it is the growth of their wealth that is watched and in the latter the state of deprivation and impoverishment of a society is enjoyed and then help is offered to pull it out of it.

    It is also of interest to note that the lower position held by the countries in Global Hunger Index is also held in the Social Pollution Index developed by this author from Corruption Perception Index (CPI) developed each year by the Transparency International. This clearly upholds the above conclusions that the benefit of all development, rapid or otherwise goes directly as well as indirectly to the cobweb of social pollution. Thus the poor remains hungry while the rich becomes richer.

    The psyche of whatever nature constitutes a vicious circle which must be broken and replaced by a virtuous cycle to distribute the benefits of development equitably. However, the cobweb of social pollution has since irreversibly impoverished the world of its limited resources and now there is little time to avoid total collapse.

    Dr. Mirza Arshad Ali Beg

    Posted by: Anonymous | 8 years ago | Reply
  • Good article on India's

    Good article on India's hunger level.
    One Economist observed,Agriculture in spite of the glorious opportunities offered to it is sick because it is subjected to colonial economics which no one cares to study and supersede. It is not the resources but resourcefulness that explains why people perish in the midst of plenty.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply