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

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The Politics of Child Undernutrition Data in India

Hunger is indeed a sensational term. It causes a stir among politicians, policymakers, journalists and all concerned. Unsurprisingly, Indias poor rank in terms of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) becomes a major talking point with the release of the country report cards every year. The opposition parties and a section of the media clamour against the lacunae in public policy that seem to have left Indias high burden of hunger and malnutrition largely unaddressed. Predictably, the government remains in denial, pointing out the methodological flaws of the GHI and completely dismissing the scores and ranks. Scholars too have highlighted the limitations of this composite index, elaborate critiques of which can be found in the articles by Desai (2022) and Chakraborty and Mukhopadhyay (2022), among others. Amid this hullabaloo, attention seems to be diverted from the real issues, namely, persistence of high degree of undernutrition among Indian children. What is even more worrying is that a group of experts have started questioning such widely accepted standard anthropometric indicators of undernutrition as stunting (short stature), on the basis of purposively selected research evidence.

The GHI is composed of four indicators, namely, the prevalence of undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality. Leaving apart the first, all three indicators pertain to the child population, the second and the third being measures of child undernutrition. Indias poor rank in a global scale of hunger (notwithstanding the methodological flaws of the index) is largely driven by its high child undernutrition figures. Ironically, the source of child undernutrition data used in the construction of GHI is the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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