India's granaries are overflowing, but it still has a hunger problem

India's granaries are overflowing, but it still has a hunger problem ...

The contrast between Indias slowing growth and its rising inequality appears to be recurring year after year.

The country is ranked 101 among 116 countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), a peer-reviewed annual report jointly produced by aid organisations Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe. According to the report released on Oct. 14, it ranks South Korea's hunger crisis at 27.5 percent.

Indias ranking among 107 countries in 2020 dropped to 94, down from 97. Despite a surplus of foodgrain, it has remained low over the years.

The report also notes that the latest undernourishment data dont necessarily match the realities of 2021. The full effects of the Covid-19 epidemic will likely only be reflected in the GHI data in years to come, it added.

The Indian government described the rankings methodology as shocking and unscientific. The widespread problem of hunger and malnutrition, on the other hand, is linked to increasing inequality in India.

Indias richest and poorest people are among the world s wealthiest and most insecure.

The ranking reflects the state of affairs in the same year that Indias richest man, Mukesh Ambani, joined the $100-billion club and 28 Indian startups turned unicorns.

According to a report by the US think tank Pew Research Center in January, India will have the most poor people in 2020, according to the report. This reversed Indias progress in significantly reducing absolute poverty from 340 million in 2011 to 78 million by 2019.

The pandemic is expected to undermine the progress made on the food security and hunger-eradication front.

Why is India having a hunger problem?

While India's overall GHI score has risen from 38.8 in 2000 to 27.5 this year, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, released by the UN'S Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it still has about 189.2 million undernourished people, the largest in world.

Research has shown that India's food insecurity has increased in tandem with the granary stocks. According to the FAOs report, the prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity in India rose by about 6.8 percentage points in 2018-20, Vaishali Bansal, a research scholar at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at Jawaharlal Nehru University, reported in The Indian Express. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, the number of people suffering from moderate-to-severe food insecurity has risen by about 97 million.

The irony is that this happened when the government had an unprecedented 100 million tonnes of food grains in its godownsmore than the food stocks of any country, Bansal said.

This, in turn, hints at a larger policy issue of access to food and fixing the leakages in Indias public distribution system.

Access to welfare schemes is available through the Welfare System.

In June 2019, the government announced the one nation, one ration card, which allows anyone with a legitimate claim to receive government-supported grains, sugar, and pulses regardless of location. This was to assist migrant workers.

According to an Oct. 7 report by rural media platform Gaon Connection, the scheme, however, is yet to see nationwide acceptance, with the number of transactions varying from state to state.

Aadhaar, India's biometric-linked identification number, has been a major obstacle on the road to food security. To get access to welfare programs, Indians must have this unique ID linked to their respective accounts, such as ration cards, to access benefits.

Lawyers and activists have petitioned India's supreme court, claiming that 20-40 million ration cards were invalid because they weren't linked to Aadhaar. In a number of states, it's believed that failing to link the Aadhaar and manual entry errors has resulted in people being denied essential foodgrains and eventually led to starvation deaths.

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