Astonishing truth behind India’s low rank in Global Hunger Index

"It has been driven almost entirely by an incorrectly recorded rise in the number of children who have low body weight for their height.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022 has ranked India 107 out of 121 countries with a score of 29.1 on a scale of 0 to 100.

The Indian government has rejected this index and called it “an erroneous measure of huger” and labelled this as an attempt to “taint” India’s image.

Astonishingly to many, India’s rank was below its neighbouring countries Sri Lanka (rank 64), Nepal (rank 81), Bangladesh (rank 84) and Pakistan (rank 99).

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Pakistan is going through a severe economic crisis and according to US President Joe Biden it is “one of the most dangerous nations in the world.”

Afghanistan, ruled by the Islamist terrorist organisation Taliban and presently supported in its food and medical needs by India, has been placed at rank 109 just behind India.

Prof. Salvatore Babones (Image source: supplied)

Dr Salvatore Babones, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Sydney, told The Australia Today that India’s “poor performance” on GHI 2022 “has been driven almost entirely by an incorrectly recorded rise in the number of children who have low body weight for their height, a phenomenon called ‘wasting’.”

He adds:

“The wasting data cited by GHI in their 2022 report are consistent with official GoI data from the National Family Health Survey. The problem seems to be that the GHI’s prior report (2014) used incorrect, artificially low wasting estimates for India. The result is that the GHI is reporting a rise in wasting since 2014, when in fact the actual data show a modest decline in wasting.”

Netizens were not surprised to see India’s opposition party leaders from Congress, TMC and Left celebrating GHI 2022 instead of questioning the obvious bias and lack of transparency in data collection.

Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA
Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA

Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted “When will the honourable PM address real issues like malnutrition, hunger, and stunting and wasting among children? 22.4 crore people in India are considered undernourished.”

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Sitaram Yechury, Secretary-General of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) tweeted that the government must take responsibility for this era of darkness India has been brought to in 8.5 years.

Mahua Moitra, All India Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Lok Sabha (Krishnanagar), tweeted “Messrs Modi & Shah – all our neighbours who you so lovingly call termites & “ghoospetias” are doing better than us!”

The GHI 2022 report said stunting disparities between districts were particularly pronounced in India.

“The example of India shows the importance of considering the subnational context when designing programs and policies to target child stunting. Researchers investigated the factors that contributed to a decline in stunting in four Indian states between 2006 and 2016: Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu.”

Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA
Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA

In a press statement the Ministry of Women and Child Development observed that the GHI data is not indicative of the Indian population:

“Three out of the four indicators used for calculation of the index are related to health of Children and cannot be representative of the entire population.”

In 2021, India ranked 101 out of 116 countries while in 2020 the country was placed at rank 94.

After a critical review of the appropriateness of the indicators used in GHI, the Expert Committee of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) concluded that it doesn’t “measure hunger per se” as undernourishment, stunting, wasting and child mortality are not the manifestations of hunger alone.

Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA
Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA

In a report entitled “Global Hunger Index does not really measure hunger – An Indian perspective” authors noted:

“Referring to this index as a Hunger Index, and thereby ranking countries is not appropriate, since many of the measures that are used to evolve an index that measures hunger are probably contextual. Countries should therefore evolve their own measures that are suitable for their own context.”

Dr Babones is also of the view that “the thresholds on which the Indian and GFI hunger data are based do not necessarily represent actual hunger.”

Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA
Indian Children; Image Source: @CANVA

He adds:

“They represent the weight of Indian children compared to a reference survey of children around the world. The fact that many Indian children are lighter than other children of the same height does not necessarily mean that they are less well-nourished. It may even simply reflect the higher prevalence of vegetarianism in India than in other countries.”

GHI 2022 also goes against the findings of a working paper of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that noted Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKAY), which provides free foodgrains to poor people, played a key role in keeping extreme poverty in India at the lowest level of 0.8 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the second year in a row that the Indian government has rejected the GHI rankings.