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Measuring Hunger Across States

GS2/GS3 Paper 

 Syllabus: Government Policies and Interventions/ Human Resources


Source: TH


Context: The article discusses the issue of hunger and malnutrition in India and the need for a more localized assessment of this problem.


What is Hunger?

As per FAO, hunger is the condition characterized by habitual or chronic consumption of too few calories to meet the minimum dietary energy requirements for a healthy and productive life


Types of Hunger:

Acute HungerThis type of hunger occurs over a defined period and is often associated with crises like droughts, wars, or other emergencies. It represents a severe and immediate lack of food.
Chronic HungerChronic hunger refers to a long-term state of undernourishment where the body consistently receives less food than it requires. It is commonly linked to persistent poverty and is a pervasive issue.
Hidden HungerHidden hunger is a form of chronic hunger resulting from an imbalanced diet that lacks essential nutrients such as iron, iodine, zinc, or vitamin A. Even if caloric intake is sufficient, the absence of critical nutrients can lead to health problems.


What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition refers to a condition where an individual’s diet lacks the necessary nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates) required for proper growth, development, and overall health. Malnutrition can manifest as

  • Undernutrition (insufficient intake of nutrients)
  • Overnutrition (excessive intake leading to obesity)
  • Specific nutrient deficiencies


Status of India on Hunger:

  • Despite being a major food producer with extensive food security programs, India faces significant food insecurity, hunger, and child malnutrition.
  • In the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI), India ranked 107th out of 121 countries, behind Nigeria and Pakistan.
    • The GHI measures undernourishment and hunger on a national level, including calorie undernourishment, child malnutrition, and under-five mortality.
    • Over the past five years, India’s GHI score has worsened primarily due to the rising prevalence of calorie undernourishment.
    • Child Malnutrition: India faces significant challenges in child nutrition, with high rates of stunting, underweight children, and wasting
  • The 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report revealed that India has over 224 million ( over 22 crore) undernourished individuals, with notable disparities among states.


About State Hunger Index (SHI):

Index IndicatorsGlobal Hunger Index uses four indicators among children below age 5:

·        Prevalence of calorie undernourishment

·        Under-five mortality rate

·        Stunting

·        Wasting

·        Mortality



State Hunger Index uses the same indicators, replacing calorie undernourishment with BMI undernourishment among the working-age population.

Data SourcesData for stunting, wasting, and child mortality are from NFHS-5 (National Family Health Survey 5). BMI undernourishment data is from NFHS-5 (2019-21) and Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (2017-18).
Calculation of SHISHI score is calculated by combining normalized values of four indicators using GHI-recommended techniques. SHI scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more hunger.
Performance of States·        Alarming: Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh scored 35

·        Above national average: Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, and West Bengal all scored above the national average of 29

·        Moderate hunger: Chandigarh (12), Sikkim, Puducherry, Kerala (below 16)

·        Serious hunger: States below the national average but above 20. – Low hunger: No state falls under ‘low hunger’ category.

COVID-19 ImpactThe impact of COVID-19 on SHI is not included as post-pandemic estimates are unavailable.


Key issues:

Dispute over data & methodologyIndia’s GHI score deteriorated due to increasing calorie undernourishment. However, the Indian government disputes the findings and cites concerns about data and methodology.
Lack of National Sample Survey (NSS) dataNo NSS round on nutritional intake since 2011-12.
Climate change & food insecurityClimate change and extreme weather events threaten India’s food system and poverty alleviation efforts. Gains in poverty alleviation could be reversed by these shocks.
Non-communicable diseasesRising burden of non-communicable diseases in India, especially among the “middle class“. Strongly linked to diet and nutrition.


Suggestions for addressing the issues:

  • India-Specific Hunger Index: There is a need for an India-specific hunger index that evaluates hunger and malnutrition at the state and union territory levels.
    • This localized assessment is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to hunger eradication.
  • Prioritize Young Children’s Nutrition: Elevate the importance of young children’s food intake in policies, beyond just “complementary” nutrition.
  • Improved Assessments: Adapt the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s household-level food insecurity modules for a better understanding of food security in India.
  • Evidence-Based Policy: Base policies on measuring the availability, accessibility, and affordability of nutritious food, especially for vulnerable populations.
  • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana: Consider a strategic initiative led by the Prime Minister’s Office to eliminate food insecurity and ensure affordable access to nutritious food, with a focus on young children, to achieve the SDG of zero hunger.


Key nutrition-related programs and initiatives in India:

National Nutrition Mission (NNM), Poshan AbhiyanStarted in 2018 to reduce undernutrition and enhance children’s nutritional status.
National Food Security Act, 2013Legally entitles a portion of the population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
Eat Right India MovementOrganized by FSSAI to promote healthy eating habits among citizens.
Zero Hunger ProgramLaunched in 2017 to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2030 through farming interventions, training, and biofortified gardens.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)Provides cash incentives to pregnant women and lactating mothers.
Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman scheme (PM Poshan Scheme)A school meal program aimed at improving the nutritional status of school-age children.



The article highlights the pressing issue of hunger and malnutrition in India, the need for localized assessments, and the challenges in obtaining up-to-date and accurate data to address these critical concerns.


Mains Links:

Q) Hunger and Poverty are the biggest challenges for good governance in India still today. Evaluate how far successive governments have progressed in dealing with these humongous problems. Suggest measures for improvement. ( UPSC 2017)

Q) How far do you agree with the view that the focus on lack or availability of food as the main cause of hunger takes the attention away from ineffective human development policies in India? ( UPSC 2018)


Prelims Links:

Q) Which of the following is/are the indicator/indicators used by IFPRI to compute the Global Hunger Index Report? (UPSC 2016)

  1. Undernourishment
  2. Child stunting
  3. Child mortality


Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 3

(d) 1 and 3 only