G.S. Mudur


Notwithstanding the generally acclaimed booming economy of India, the country is the home of the largest number of hungry people, worse than Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon. Within India, Gujarat touted as the most prosperous state is only second to Chhattisgarh in hunger score.


New Delhi, Oct. 14: India has worse hunger levels than Sudan, Nigeria or Cameroon, and economic growth in some Indian states hasn’t translated yet into lower hunger, according to reports released today.


The Global Hunger Index 2008, an effort to assess hunger worldwide, has ranked India 66 among 88 developing countries — higher than Bangladesh, but lower than all other South Asian countries and several sub-Saharan African nations.


The assessment by the International Food Policy Research Institute and other collaborating institutions has found that 12 out of 17 states in India have alarming levels of hunger — the most severe level observed in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Jharkhand and Bihar. Punjab, Kerala, and Haryana have the highest proportion of not-hungry populations.


Researchers calculated the hunger levels by assessing three parameters — infant mortality rate, the proportion of population consuming food below a specified calorie intake, and the proportion of children below five years underweight.


The researchers classified a score of 10 to 19 as “severe”, 20 to 29 as “alarming” and 30 and above as “extremely alarming”. Bengal falls in the “alarming” category.


The India Hunger Index 2008, a related report released by the same institute, has found high hunger levels in Maharashtra and Gujarat with strong economic growth in recent years. But states with relatively lower growth such as Punjab had lower hunger, according to the report.


“Under-nutrition among children contributes significantly to hunger in India. Poverty removal does not automatically translate into better nutrition for children,” said Purnima Menon, a research fellow at the IFPRI and the author of the India report.


The analysis has shown that hunger levels have declined in India from a hunger score of 32.5 in 1990 to 23.7 in 2008. “But hunger persists and it is still serious,” Menon said.


“I think the most important finding is the lack of correlation between economic growth and reduced hunger in some states,” said Berhard Hoeper, the regional director in South Asia with Welthungerhilfe, a non-government agency based in Germany.


The researchers said more studies would be required to interpret this finding.  “It’s possible that there’s a need for more nutrition education in some prosperous states,” Hoeper said. “Perhaps households lay more emphasis on consumer goods rather than on better nutrition.” Menon said the findings are intended to guide policy on nutrition.


“Children need to be ideally reached out with good nutrition between birth and two years of age, but the existing child nutrition programmes aren’t focused enough on this age group,” Menon said.


India Index (The lower the score, the lower the hunger)


Punjab 13.6


Kerala 17.7


Hatyana 19.5


Assam 19.8


Andhra 20.0


Uttar Pradesh 20.9


Tamil Nadu 21.0


Rajasthan 21.0


West Bengal 22.2


Karnataka 22.8


Orissa 23.7


Maharashtra 23.8


Gujarat 24.7


Chhattisgarh 26.6     


(The Telegraph, Kolkata, October 15, 2008)

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