India ranks 65 out of 79 nations on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) and what’s worse, it has remained on the same position for the last 12 years. In further shame, even war-torn Rwanda fares better. India’s ranking comes as a shocker particularly when the mid-day meal scheme, touted as the world’s largest school-feeding programme, is claimed to benefit 12 crore children in the country. The index has been worked out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) as a composite of three equally weighed indices – under-nourishment, child morality rate and proportion of underweight children.
Almost 23 per cent of Indians are battling hunger and need immediate support according to the IFPRI report. Anything above 10 per cent on the scale is considered serious. The acute hunger percentage in China is only 5.2 per cent while in Rwanda it is 19.7 per cent. Neighbouring Bangladesh, at 23.3 per cent, is only 0.4 per cent higher than India.
Citing the report, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resource Development Dr Amarjit Singh said, “Unfortunately, the Global Hunger Index in India has stagnated even when the gross national income per capita has doubled.” In a letter to secretaries of state governments, Singh said that as per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, 18 per cent of pre-schoolers are under-nourished. The figure doubles to 36 per cent during the adult years. “The above sets of data show the critical importance of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) in our country. Apart from improving the quality of education, effective implementation of MDMS can contribute towards increase in retention at the school level,” Singh underlined.
He also asked the state secretaries to give personal attention to critical issues and ensure full coverage of eligible school going children under MDMS. “A little effort on your part will go a long way to ensure, not only that no child remains hungry in the school but also that the basic health and hygiene needs of the children are met,” he said.
A comparison in mid-day meal data for the first two quarters of 2011-12 and the corresponding period in 2012-13 reveals that the number of beneficiaries has gone down to 10.44 crore from 10.69 crore.