ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Deciphering the Indian Slip on the Global Hunger Index 2021

The Indian slip on the Global Hunger Index 2021 is being attributed by the government to the alleged methodological discrepancies involved in constructing the GHI. This article, to begin with, counters the government’s argument defending India’s position on the GHI. It further finds that India likely has been undergoing a decline in food security since the mid-2000s itself. The trend is corroborated from the 2019–20 data available for selected states. Though COVID-19 has compounded the food insecurity challenges, India’s position on the GHI cannot be attributed to the pandemic alone. Rather, it reflects a trend that India has been experiencing for sometime now.


India has slipped to the 101th rank on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 and is better off than only 15 countries in the world. The fact that India’s three neighbours—Bangladesh, Nepal, and Paki­stan—rank much better than India has got much space in the media. Parallelly, the government is preoccupied with defending India’s position, citing methodological discrepancies in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food insecurity estimates based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) survey conducted by the Gallup World Poll (GWP). Here, it is important to clarify two facts associated with the construction of the GHI. First, the GHI has three components, each having a weight of one-third and measured by three indicators—prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in the population, prevalence of stunting and wasting1 among children aged 0–5 years, and under-five mortality rate or UFMR. Data on the PoU or the proportion of population below minimum dietary ene­rgy (calorie consumption) required for a healthy and active life is obtained from the FAO’s estimates of the PoU, which is infor­med by three parameters, namely the average dietary energy consumption (DEC), the inequality in access to dietary energy, and the minimum dietary energy requirement (MDER). Of these, it is only to estimate the dietary energy that the FIES-based projection is used. As each of the three components of the GHI is given one-third weight, only one-third of the GHI score could be affected due to PoU estimates, which makes use of the dietary energy. Thus, around 65%–70% of the GHI score can be explained by the performance on child stunting, child wasting, and UFMR.

Second, the FIES for 2020 is not based only on four questions as argued by the government. Rather four additional que­stions were added to the eight-question FIES module to specifically capture the impact of COVID-19 during 2020 (FAO 2021). It was assessed through the four additional questions, but for constructing the GHI, eight questions of the original module were included as well. Therefore, government’s claims on the methodological discrepancies in the GWP data to estimate food security is not relevant as far as defending India’s performance on the GHI is concerned.

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Updated On : 4th Feb, 2022
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