India has the largest number of hungry people in the world, despite the
strong economic growth witnessed in recent years. From New Delhi, Anjana
Pasricha says a new report shows that India's economic boom has brought new
prosperity to its middle class and pulled many out of poverty, but that millions
of people n the vast country still struggle on low incomes.
by the International Food Policy Research Institute says hunger, across India's
17 major states, ranges from "serious to extremely alarming."
The report - released as part
of the 2008 Global Hunger Index - presents a dismal picture for India. It says,
despite years of robust economic growth, India scores worse than 25 sub-Saharan
countries on the index. It says more than 200 million Indians suffer from
The report identifies high levels of child malnutrition as one of
the main factors resulting from hunger in India.
The report says that
poorer states have substantially higher levels of malnutrition, compared to
their more prosperous counterparts. It found the most severe levels of hunger in
the country's largest and least developed states, such as Madhya Pradesh and
However, Purnima Menon - lead author of the report - says poverty
is not the only factor responsible for hunger. She says some poor states with
better health programs or higher levels of literacy have managed to lower levels
of malnutrition and child mortality.
"Poverty is one of the underlying
reasons, but there are a number of states that actually are performing either
much better or much worse than one world expect," said Menon. "And, that could
relate to specific investments that those states have made in social protection
programs, in health and nutrition programs, in really scaling up those things
that would make a difference for childhood underweight, childhood mortality and
things like that which are captured in our index."
Thus one of India's
poorest states, Orissa, and one of the country's most literate states, Kerala,
fare better on the hunger index than some of the country's wealthier
But, overall, the situation is bleak. Even the country's
best-performing state, Punjab, ranks below countries like Vietnam.
International Food Policy Research Institute suggests that increasing
investments in agriculture and poverty-reduction programs could help India
Experts say the high level of hunger in the country
highlights the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Five years of high
economic growth has brought new affluence to millions of people who shop for
luxury goods in glitzy new shopping malls. But, for poor people living in
teeming urban slums or the countryside, food has become more unaffordable,
because of the increase in global food prices.
At least half the
country's billion-plus people live on less than one dollar a day. The government
says it is striving to put in place programs that will ensure more inclusive