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Hunger in India

  • 20 Jan 2022
  • 7 min read

For Prelims: Hunger and related initiatives, Community Kitchen and related schemes in different states

For mains: Hunger and malnutrition in India, Related government Initiatives, Way forward for the situation

Why in News

Recently, the Union government informed the Supreme Court (SC) that no starvation death (Death by Hunger) has been reported by any state or Union territory (UT) in recent years.

Key Points

  • The Petition:
    • The court is hearing a petition that highlights how starvation deaths continue to eat into the right to life and dignity of social fabric and a “radical” new measure like community kitchens need to be set up across the country to feed the poor and the hungry.
    • The petition also referred to Rajasthan’s Annapurna Rasoi, Indira Canteens in Karnataka, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Canteen, Anna Canteen of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat and Odisha’s Ahaar Centre.
  • SC’s Ruling:
    • The SC asked the Centre to explore the possibility of a “model” community kitchen scheme by which it could support the States to ensure food security for the poor.
    • It asked the Centre to make a model scheme and leave it to the States to follow the guidelines depending on their individual food habits.
    • Called for the creation of a national food grid by the Centre which is beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme.

Hunger in India

  • Related Data:
    • Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry. Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average.
    • It had been reported in 2017 by the National Health Survey that approximately 19 crore people in the country were compelled to sleep on an empty stomach every night.
    • Moreover, the most alarming figure revealed is that approximately 4500 children die every day under the age of five years in the country due to hunger and malnutrition, amounting to over three lakh deaths every year, owing to hunger, of children alone.
    • India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th.
  • Causes of Malnutrition:
    • There are multiple dimensions of malnutrition in India that include
      • Calorific deficiency- Though the government has surplus of foodgrains, there is calorific deficiency because the allocation and distribution is not proper. Even the yearly budget allocated is not fully utilised.
      • Protein hunger- Pulses are a major contributor to address protein hunger. However, there is not enough budgetary allocations done to tackle the problem. With Eggs missing from menus of Mid-day Meals in various States, an easy way to improve protein intake is lost.
      • Micronutrient deficiency (also known as hidden hunger): India faces a severe crisis in micronutrient deficiency. Its causes include poor diet, disease, or increased micronutrient needs not met during pregnancy and lactation.
    • Other factors:
  • Government Interventions

Way Forward

  • Linking of Schemes: Agriculture-Nutrition linkage schemes have the potential for greater impact in dealing with malnutrition and thus, needs greater emphasis.
  • Early fund disbursement: The government needs to ensure early disbursement of funds and optimum utilisation of funds in schemes linked to nutrition.
  • Underutilisation of Resources: It has been pointed out many times that expenditure made under many nutrition-based schemes is considerably lower than what was allocated under them. Thus, emphasis needs to be on implementation.
  • Convergence with other Schemes: Nutrition goes beyond just food, with economic, health, water, sanitation, gender perspectives and social norms contributing to better nutrition. This is why the proper implementation of other schemes can also contribute to better nutrition.
  • PM Poshan Scheme: The PM Poshan Scheme aims to enhance the nutrition of school children by providing a balanced diet in schools. By including milk and eggs in each states’ menu, preparing a menu based on climatic conditions, local foods etc. can help in providing the right nutrition to children in different States.

Source: TH

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