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

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Addressing the Data Gaps

Food Sufficiency in India

The National Sample Survey Office's survey of consumption expenditure is woefully inadequate for estimating the number of food-insecure households in India. Future surveys of NSSO need to collect information on the four pillars of food security: availability, access, nutritional adequacy/utilisation and stability. The Comprehensive Nutrition Survey in Maharashtra is an example of such a survey and appears to do a decent job of capturing the different elements of food security.

The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-1 seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. As part of this goal, one of the targets is to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger over the period 1990–2015. In a thought-provoking article on the hunger target, Fukuda-Parr and Orr (2014) make a few salient observations that can inform the current debate on hunger in India and also on what data should be collected to track progress in reducing hunger. They state that reducing hunger was a poor cousin among the eight goals and 21 targets. Since the hunger target was incorporated into MDG 1 it ended up being overshadowed by the income poverty component of the goal. Hence, it is not surprising that progress was made towards the income goal, with the progress on the hunger target being tardy. The Government of India too admits that there is a problem of hunger. In a report documenting India’s progress towards achieving MDGs, the Government of India mentions that progress in reducing hunger is “slow or almost off-track” (GoI 2013). This assertion is based on the estimates of households that do not consume adequate amounts of calories. This line of reasoning is not specific to India. As pointed out by Fukuda-Parr and Orr (2014: 147),

The theory behind the MDGs is to create outcome targets without reference to — and remaining neutral to — the alternative causal models to achieve them (p 154). The numeric targeting narrowed the concept of hunger and food security as caloric consumption… (p 157).

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