HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION
“So long as the millions live in Hunger and Ignorance, I hold every person a traitor
who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!”
These words are of none other than the founder of Ramakrishna Mission, Great Swami
Vivekananda who always worked for the betterment of the society, service to the poor,
reforms in the society to make it a better home for all the future generations.
Such Great leaders have always worked to bring equality in each and every sphere of
life, so that each and every member of even the marginalised communities could get a
fair justiciable position to hold opportunities for their overall holistic growth.
This could only be possible if every section of our society is provided with a fair equitable
position and have an equal stand to avail his rights and justice. For this, upliftment of
the weaker aspirational people is very imperative and so the need is to reap the
expanding divide between the rich and poor, and the foremost initiatives in this must be
to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition from the society.
Hunger is defined as the distress arising from insufficient calorie/food intake. A recent
report by the Food and agriculture organisation in the United Nations estimates that 14%
of the people in India are undernourished. With a population of 1.3 billion, the problem
of hunger is complex in India.
Undernutrition signifies deficiency in Energy, proteins and Vitamins. It is the result of
inadequate intake of food in terms of quantity or quality, poor utilisation of nutrients due
to infection, etc. This can further cause household food insecurity, inadequate maternal
health; or inadequate access to health services, safe water and sanitation.
Malnutrition refers to both undernutrition and overnutrition (problems caused by
unbalanced diets, such as consuming too many calories in relation to requirement). It is
the deficiency arising from insufficient or imbalanced nutrients in a person’s life.
Malnutrition can be caused by:
Income Inequality: Poor people unable to buy milk/veggies, etc.
Gender Inequality: Women eating last and least. More than 1/3 rd of Indian
women has low body mass index.
Social Inequality: SC/ST deprived of economic opportunities and thus unable to buy
food grains. Water-sanitation-disease: Open defecation can cause worms in
intestine, enteropathy. Psychological Issues: Anorexia Nervosa: person fears
gaining weight so avoid eating. Social media can cause insecurity about weight gain
and body image.
Food Security is imperative to fight these challenges which means the availability of
nutritious food at stable and affordable prices round the year for all people.
Global Hunger Index scores are calculated by drawing data from various sources to
capture the multi dimensional nature of hunger. Indicators for global hunger index
UNDERNOURISHMENT: Share of population that is undernourished.
CHILD WASTING: Share of children under the age of five who are wasted.
CHILD STUNTING: Rate of children under the age of five who are stunted.
CHILD MORTALITY: The mortality rate of children under the age of five.
In the Global Hunger Index Report, India ranked 94 with a global hunger index of 27.2.
India has made considerable progress over the years. The current nutritional situation in
India justifies its high-level national commitment with strong policy initiatives based on
evidence-informed interventions towards combating all forms of malnutrition in the
There are certain pillars of food security and the government has efficiently worked over
these in order to achieve proper food security in each and every corner of our nation.
First, food should be available in sufficient quantities at all times and at all places.
Government has introduced Minimum support price, fertiliser subsidy, cheap canal water
and subsidy to farmers. It can encourage farmers to produce more grains.
Second, food should be affordable to poor people. This is greatly accomplished by the
National food security Act and various schemes under which the government provides
cheap food grains to the poor.
Food should be nutritious to ensure healthy development of body and mind. Through
Poshan abhiyan, Mid-day meal, Integrated child development service and half a dozen
other schemes, the government ensures nutritious food to children and women. In a
healthy economy, food supply must be stable. The Food Corporation of India keeps
‘Buffer-stocks’ of grains. It can be sold to the open market or distributed among people
during high inflation, natural disasters, etc.
Department of consumer affairs and department of food and public distribution under the
ministry of Consumer affairs, Food and public distribution works in close coordination to
extirpate all the preconditions leading to hunger and malnutrition in a healthy society.
A major initiative in this process was the implementation of the National Food Security
Act, 2013 which aims to provide subsidized food grains to poor families. In this due
process, the Union government procures food grains from farmers at a minimum support
price and sells the grains to states. States ultimately sell grains to the beneficiaries through
Fair price shops/Ration shops at much cheaper rates than
the market prices. States can also take their way of Direct Benefit Transfer or food security
allowance if they are unable to provide the beneficiaries with adequate food grains.
One Nation-One Ration card scheme mainly for the migrant workers so that they could
avail its benefit from anywhere in the country. It will connect all ration cards to a central
server and give an e-point of sale machine to all PDS shops, so that a beneficiary can buy
food grains from anywhere in the country.
E-portals launched by the government such as Integrated Management of Public
Distribution System and Annavitran portal help to achieve better portability and
efficiency in the whole process. At the time of covid pandemic, Pradhan Mantri Garib
Kalyan Anna Yojana was launched in order to provide 80 crore poor people with free food-
grains for a certain time limit.
India still faces a long road ahead in its quest to achieve zero hunger. Now, planners are
turning their focus back to agriculture from the service sector and recognizing its central
role of providing food security, reducing poverty and generating employment. Hunger
elimination/ Nutritional security is fundamental to ensure Human Development.
Malnutrition in women increases the vulnerability of infant mortality rate and maternal
mortality rate. A malnourished person cannot absorb quality education, pursue economic
opportunities or have a long-life expectancy. Therefore, Sustainable Development Goal 2
requires India to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.