Lags behind Bangladesh and Pakistan in assessment and updating data

While the Centre is projecting a concern for the poor and the hungry through its proposed national Food Security Bill, it has not even updated data on under-nutrition and hunger in the last six years.

This has prevented international bodies such as the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) from assessing the improvement, or lack of it, in India in terms of the Global Hunger Index, in its report released on Tuesday. The United States-based IFPRI is supported by the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments and agencies.

The report, released on the occasion of the World Food Day which falls on October 16, virtually makes no mention of India for want of updated information. The only uncomplimentary observation in the fact-sheet on South Asia — which has the highest Global Hunger Index Score — is that Bangladesh, India and Timor-Leste have the highest prevalence — more than 40 per cent — of underweight children under the age of five.

India, the ‘rising economy,' has fallen behind countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan in updating data on hunger and mal-nutrition much to the chagrin of the IFPRI researchers.

Bangladesh does nutrition surveys every three years and Pakistan recently released data on this aspect whereas India, with a growing population of over 1. 06 billion people, is resting on the outdated information from the National Family Health Survey released six years ago.

“India needs to invest in updating its data because if we care about the issue, we need to monitor it. We need the latest information on India's underweight children, stunted children and maternal nutrition in relation to the Global Hunger Index. It has been six years since the last data was collected. India has not invested in new surveys to give a correct and updated picture of the state of its hungry and malnourished population, which is a major concern,'' IFPRI Research Fellow Purnima Menon told The Hindu.

Such data becomes all the more relevant as the new Global Hunger Index has related the hike and volatility in food prices with the poor who are the most vulnerable, with little capacity to adjust to price spikes and rapid shifts. India lacks official surveys on the impact of globalisation and inflation on the poor.

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