From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Hunger Index
Mains level : Reasons for persisting hunger in India
Despite unprecedented quantities of wealth, India is unable to overcome hunger and malnourishment. Along with this, government warehouses are overflowing with stocks of rotting rice and wheat.
- Hunger is the failure to access the calories that are necessary to sustain an active and healthy life.
- It results in intense human suffering and indignity as their brains and bodies are unable to grow to full potential they fall ill too often and are snatched away too early.
Why it is a dishonor
- Entirely preventable – With appropriate public policies — sensitively designed, adequately resourced and effectively implemented — the country has both the wealth and the food stocks to end hunger entirely.
- The success of our neighbors in combating hunger — Nepal emerging from 15 years of civil war and Pakistan still torn by internal conflict is a reminder of what India has not accomplished.
- 4 indicators — undernourishment (the share of the population with insufficient calorie intake); child wasting (children with low weight for height, indicating acute undernutrition); child stunting (children with a low height for age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and child mortality (death rate of children under five).
- The GHI report ranks India at 102 out of 117 countries.
- State of India – India has the highest rate of child wasting (20.8%). Its child stunting rate (37.9%) also remains high.
- India’s poorer neighbors — Bangladesh, Nepal, and even Pakistan — have overtaken India in the battle against hunger.
The success story of Bangladesh and Nepal
- The Bangladesh success story is attributed to pro-poor economic growth raising household incomes as well as significant improvements in “nutrition-sensitive” sectors like education, sanitation, and health.
- Nepal shows increased household wealth, maternal education, sanitation, health and nutrition programs.
What must India do better
- In the latest 2018-19 India Exclusion Report of the Centre for Equity Studies, it is found that the largest population of food-insecure people are food producers — farmworkers, tenants, marginal and small farmers, fish workers and forest gatherers.
People with farm jobs
- Food producers must be supported to receive adequate remuneration.
- Measures to protect farmer income – income transfers to farmers, MSP guarantees and crop insurance, and massive expansion of farm credit.
- For farmworkers – refocus on land reforms is called for. An expanded and managed rural employment guarantee programme with attention to land and watershed development, small irrigation and afforestation is needed.
- Shift to sustainable agricultural technologies less dependent on irrigation, chemical fertilisers, and pesticides, to reverse our agro-ecological crisis.
Non – farm jobs
- Informal workers – Hunger can’t be combated without addressing the burgeoning job crisis. It also entails labour reforms that protect job security, fair work conditions and social security of all workers.
- Urban employment guarantee program is needed to help build basic public services and infrastructure for the urban poor — especially slum and pavement residents, and the homeless.
- Employment in the care economy – with services for child-care, children and adults with disabilities and older persons.
- Public Distribution System must be universalised and should distribute not just cereals but also pulses and edible oils. It should be a decentralised system where a variety of crops are procured and distributed locally.
- Pre-school feeding and school meals need adequate budgets. Meals should be supplemented with nutrient-rich foods such as dairy products, eggs, and fruits.
- Universal pension for persons not covered by formal schemes, universal maternity entitlements to enable all women in informal work to rest and breast-feed their children, a vastly expanded creche scheme, and residential schools for homeless children and child workers.
- Absorption of food – Malnourishment results not just from inadequate food intake, but also because food is not absorbed due to frequent infections caused by bad drinking water, poor sanitation and lack of healthcare.
- WASH – India’s nutrition failures are also because of persisting gaps in securing potable water to all citizens, and continued open defecation despite optimistic official reporting.
- Right to healthcare – India needs a legally enforceable universal and free out-patient and hospital-based care, free diagnostics, and free medicines.