Hungry Bengal to Hungry India: A failure

Great countries become great by taking lessons from the flaws in the past. Then why can’t we correct us? Why didn’t we take lessons from the great Bengal famine of 1946?


The famines and mass starvation that were prevalent in the British Raj, are here to haunt a technologically and nuclear sustainable state. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently published their 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) in which India ranked 100th among 119 developing countries with serious hunger problem. The grim record gets even more worrisome as it is ranked even after North Korea, refugee-torn Bangladesh and war-riddled Iraq.

India was placed 97th in the last year’s ranking and this year’s result suggests that one-fifth to one-quarter of the children under five years of age, have weight too little as compared to their height due to nutritional deficiencies, IFPRI’s report read.

India stands behind even Bangladesh and Nepal. The fact that India lags even in its own neighbourhood with score 31.4 should be a wake-up call. As a matter of fact, India has the third highest Global Hunger Index score in all of Asia. Pakistan has been ranked 106th and Afghanistan is at 107th place.

“India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end category of the serious category,” the report adds.

This should provoke an urgent introspection by the government as all governments irrespective of party lines are responsible for this drawback. There can be nothing more shameful than a country which fails to feed her own people.  It nails the failures of the much hyped ‘National Health Mission.’

A score of 9.9 or lower in the published report, denotes low hunger; while scores between 35.0 and 49.9 denote alarming hunger, and a score of 20-34.9 means ‘serious’ problem of hunger.

“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute said in a statement.

The 2017 GHI is jointly published by the IFPRI, Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe and it tracks the state of hunger worldwide, spotlighting those places where action to address hunger is most urgently needed.

The Central African Republic has the highest GHI score and it has been categorized as “extremely alarming” followed by Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Zambia. According to the report, countries such as China, Peru, Brazil, Panama and Azerbaijan have made significant improvements and the level of hunger in developing countries decreased by 27 percent, since 2000.

P K Joshi, IFPRI director for South Asia, said to Business Standard that even with the massive scale-up of national nutrition-focused programmes in India, drought and structural deficiencies have left a large number of poor in the country at the risk of malnourishment in 2017.

How long would Indian children grow malnourished and weak?