Petty politics over even grave issues

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Highlights

The Global Hunger Index 2022, released on October 13, shows that India’s rank in the world has slipped further – from 101 last year to 107 this year – in terms of this important indicator of conditions of hunger and malnutrition

The Global Hunger Index 2022, released on October 13, shows that India's rank in the world has slipped further – from 101 last year to 107 this year – in terms of this important indicator of conditions of hunger and malnutrition. India's rank is far below that of its neighbours, and levels of hunger and malnutrition are much better in many countries with significantly lower levels of economic development than India.

Afghanistan, a war-torn country, is the only country in South Asia below India in terms of its GHI rank. India is home to the largest number of hungry and food insecure people in the world. As per the estimates from FAO, in India, over 22 crore persons faced chronic hunger and 62 crore persons faced moderate to severe food insecurity in 2020. In the global context, India alone accounts for about a third of people suffering from chronic hunger and a quarter of people struggling with food insecurity.

The Opposition was quick to point out that the rise in prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in India over the last few years is a result of the Modi-led BJP government's catastrophic policies. From demonetisation in 2016 to the Covid lockdown of 2020, the Modi government would be remembered forever for the relentless assaults on the livelihoods of people, it averred. The Centre, however, termed the report 'misleading' and aimed at maligning India's image. The parameters were wrongly applied to make out the case, it said. The Opposition feels the government has not been collecting data on material conditions of people or it is not releasing the same.

But, there is a dispute over the estimates released by the world bodies now-a-days with several countries alleging a motivated approach. Most of the time the data of these bodies is akin to what the Western countries say or feel and hence becomes unacceptable to the governments affected by the data. COVID-19 pandemic data is one such. All said and done, India certainly had managed the pandemic during its peak and its lockdowns and the subsequent actions did not lead to a crisis as is being seen in some of the most developed European countries. The concern for India's food security raised its head again recently, when the Global Hunger Ind­ex (GHI) 2021 positioned India at 101 among 116 ranks, from 94 in 2020. The ranking puts India below its neighbours Sri Lank, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

GHI is a peer-reviewed report published by Con­cern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional and national levels. It aims to trigger action to reduce hunger around the world and not to belittle. Predictably, India said "It is shocking to find the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered India's rank on the basis of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation, a UN body) estimate on the proportion of under nourished population, which is devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues. The publishing agencies of the Global Hunger Report, Concern Worldwide and Welthun­gerhilfe, have not done due diligence." Unfortunately, both the ruling parties and the Opposition in India only prefer politics even in such serious issues.

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