Hungry India Can't Be Vishwaguru

Hungry India Can't Be Vishwaguru

Just as an army cannot fight on an empty stomach, a nation cannot aspire to global greatness – Vishwaguru – on a hungry population.

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Saturday, October 14, 2023, 12:29 AM IST
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The response of the Government of India to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released on Thursday is predictable after all these years: denial. India being ranked 111 on the list of 125 countries on the index was dismissed by the government as erroneous and having malafide intent, as it stated in the past few years. The GHI also showed that India has the highest child-wasting rate in the world at 18.7 percent reflecting acute under-nutrition or rank malnutrition. Merely in terms of ranking, India has slipped over the years. It stood at 107 out of 121 countries in last year’s index.

The easy but unfortunate dismissal of the global ranking, perhaps because it holds up a mirror that the Narendra Modi-led government would rather not see, does no good to either the government’s international standing nor, more importantly, to the millions of Indians who go to bed every night hungry and starving. If the government is selectively suspicious of international rankings, accepting those convenient to it and rejecting others such as the GHI, India’s own data and domain experts have confirmed the persistent and rising levels of hunger across the country. The data from National Health and Family Survey 2019-21, a significant data set on the subject, confirms the GHI findings of the past few years – 35.5 percent of India’s children under the age of five are stunted while 19.3 percent were wasted (the GHI pegged this slightly lower at 18.7 percent), and one in every three Indians was unable to afford a healthy diet.

Just as an army cannot fight on an empty stomach, a nation cannot aspire to global greatness – Vishwaguru – on a hungry population. Besides, of course, it is morally and Constitutionally repugnant that the government should preside over food inflation beyond imagination leading to a steady increase in hunger levels across India. The spotlight on hungry India also throws light on the inexplicable decrease of nearly 31 percent in food subsidies in the Modi government’s budget for 2023-24. It is not that only the Modi government is entirely responsible for the shameful situation of rampant bone-crushing hunger; it is a legacy that the government inherited. However, there is a major difference in how previous governments approached the fact: without exception, they accepted the data and rankings, termed it as worrying, and sought to alleviate it in some way. This government seems not bothered at all and that’s not a good sign.

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