According to Global Hunger Index (GHI) India ranks 67 on its scale, with many sub-saharan African countries doing much better than it on the hunger scale. GHI is a calculated indicator based on statistics provided by national governments and combines three critical factors that include proportion of undernourished people as percentage of total population, prevalence of underweight children lesser than 5 years of age and mortality rate of children. Between 1990 and 2011, world, as a whole has been able bring down GHI from 19.7 to 14.6 reflecting the success of projects initiated to tackle this human problem. However the progress has not been even with some countries achieving creditable performance while many others struggle to make any dramatic break through.
Take the case of India which is reported to have a score of 23.7 in 2011, considered reasonable compared to its GHI score of 30.4 in 1990. The concept of GHI is based on the scores calculated from published data and lower the score better would be performance of a country. A score of less than 5 is considered to be synonymous with low prevalence of hunger, between 5 and 9.9 moderate, 10-19.9 serious, 20-29.9 alarming and beyond 30 extremely alarming. It cannot be a consolation for India that it has reduced the GHI score significantly during the last 20 years, a decline of almost 20% but further scrutiny of the data reveals the despicable truth that since 2001 the GHI figure is almost static hovering around 23-24 reflecting nil progress in its fight against hunger. The ruling political dispensation at Delhi will always have excuses for this moribund state of affairs vis-a-vis hunger and poverty.
While government data cannot be believed totally, there are a few Non-Government Organizations (NGO) which have high credibility and reliability among the people concerned with the health of the nation. According to a recent survey by Naandi Foundation, an NGO with considerable reputation, 42% of Indian children under the age of 5 years are malnourished while 59% suffer from various degree of stunting and underweight. What are the chances of these children ever growing to be a normal citizen when they are able grow to become adults? Probably very low because the critical phase of development in humans take place in the first two years after birth and after the age of 5 years the odds of reversing the consequences of childhood nutrition insufficiency are very great. Mr Prime Minister of this country is right in at least asserting that such a situation is serious and admitting it as a national shame! Why his team which has been ruling the country since 2004 has not been able to make any dent in the hunger front, in spite of squandering billions of rupees on different programs touted to be designed to tackle this very same problem? Added to this, country's farmers are committing suicide at the rate of 48 per day with no end in sight for stopping this trend.
If impartial observers are to be believed more shocking fact emerging out of the survey by Naandi Foundation covering 70000 house holds is that almost 60% of the children under the age of 5 years are under weight with stunted growth. In contrast children from rich families "suffer" from eating too much foods, rich in fat, but poor in proteins and micronutrients, leading to overweight and even obesity. Lack of education for the rural mothers, inadequate sanitary awareness, unsatisfactory personal hygiene, delivery of children in make shift facilities in stead of decently equipped hospitals, inappropriate diet, wrong feeding habits all contribute to sub-par health of the children born in rural areas. Can the Rs 32 per day per person poverty line as propounded by the National Planning Commission eradicate hunger? Will the proposed Food Security Bill offering cereals at throw way prices to vulnerable families in rural and urban areas make any dramatic impact on the hunger front? Unlikely because the much discredited PDS system, on which the distribution logistics are to be entrusted, has proved beyond doubt its "impotence" to deliver the food to the beneficiary in quality and quantity due to miserable management and massive pilferage.