Magazine 2012
Hunger- A Curse on Mankind  
Dr. Ritu Bhatia, Smt P. N Doshi Womenb s College Mumbai.  
Mr. Hitesh Bhatia, Navrachna University, Baroda.  
Ten million people die every year of hunger and hunger related diseases. More than 854 million people all over  
the world know what it means to go to bed hungry. About 24,000 people die from the effects of hunger each  
day. One person dies every 3.6 seconds due to hunger related causes. India ranks 66 out of 88 countries on  
Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2010. 200 million food insecure people are living in India. India is among 29 countries  
with the highest levels of hunger, stunted children and poverty fed women, according to the International Food  
Policy Research Instituteb s Global Hunger Index 2010.The present article focuses on Indiab s Hunger status,  
causes and policies and ways to protect future generation from this devastating crisis.  
Hunger is when a person does not get enough food to provide body the nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins,  
vitamins, minerals and water) for active and healthy live. Hunger is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by  
want of food; craving appetite. Chronic hunger reduces the bodyb s ability to function and leads to a weakened  
state, leaving a person more susceptible to disease. When hunger progresses into starvation, the body consumes  
all its reserves of protein and energy. Hunger is avertable illness that often leads to death. According to World  
food program (WFP) one in nearly seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life  
making hunger and malnutrition the major risk to health worldwide- greater than AIDS, malaria and TB combined.  
Yet there is plenty of food for everyone on earth. Abundance and not paucity best illustrates the worldb s food  
supply. The problem is that many people are too poor to buy food, miserably trapped in the clutches of  
poverty and Hunger. This increasingly makes them weaker, poorer and hungrier. The FAO defines hunger as the  
consumption of fewer than 1,800 kilocalories a day b  the minimum required to live a healthy and productive  
life b  which 200 million Indians lack. Hunger in India remains largely invisible because it is driven not by near  
death starvation but by sweeping malnourishment and calorie deficiency.  
The 4 things contribute to most of the worldb s Hunger b   
b "
b "
b "
Poverty- Poor people do not have the resources i.e. land, tools, money needed to grow or buy food on  
regular basis.  
War- War disturbs agricultural production and food storage, armed forces and terrorist often destroy  
farms and food leads to food shortage.  
Environmental overkill- Over consumption of food by wealthy nations, rapid population growth in poor  
nations makes it difficult for poor people to have food for them. Deforestation, over cropping, and  
overgrazing are exhausting the earthb s fertility to produce food.  
b "
Inequality- Lack of education and employment, ignorance, racial and religious conflicts, gender biases  
lead to discrimination resulting poverty and hunger.  
India has its own specific causes:  
b "
b "
Falling per capita food production  
Increasing inequality, from their scanty income the poor people are strained to spend money on medicines,  
transport, fuel, etc which reduces their share of their expenditure purchase of essential food products.  
b "
b "
Poor access of the lower income population to expensive food products like milk, oils, fruits, pulses,  
meat which provides essential nutrients like protein, fat and micronutrients.  
Low status of women in Indian society, early marriage, early pregnancy due to that, multiple pregnancies,  
low weight during reproductive age, deficiency diseases mainly iron deficient disease Anemia, illiteracy,  
lack of access to finance and power at home, leads to low birth weight babies, and prone women to  
maternal mortality.  
b "
Poor child rearing practices due to orthodoxy values and illiteracy of mothers such as, incorrect breast  
feeding practices, faulty weaning methods, insufficient supplementary diet to babies, lack of cleanliness  
like poor hygienic conditions at home and in cooking.  
b "
b "
Poor primary health care facilities, such as immunization, lack of access to health care in remote areas,  
lack of government will to enhance standard of health care facilities for average Indian.  
India cannot afford to let its food grains go to waste, but it is ironical that lack of enough storage space  
ensue tones of food grains to be stored in open space for putrefaction with no protection against the  
rats, damp air and disease droplets. These surplus food grains could have been used to feed millions of  
hungry people in various parts of county one square meal.  
b "
b "
The impact of Green Revolution was limited only to wheat and rice. Other crops like oilseeds, pulses  
have largely remained out its benefit. Even the staple food of poor like jowar and bajra remained no  
beneficial on account of green revolution.  
The 1991 Government policy of Trade liberalization which focus on export of luxury cash crops to rich  
countries instead of producing traditional food for its own people obliterate the countryb s food security  
base. Government encouraging farmers to switch to cash crops in place of customary food crops has  
resulted in an extraordinary increase in farm input costs, while market forces determined the price of the  
cash crop resulting in many numbers of farmersb  suicides across the country.  
India in past decade has witnessed accelerated economic growth, emerged as a global player with the worldb s  
fourth largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, and made progress towards achieving most of the  
Millennium Development Goals. However, poverty remains a major challenge though it is declining steadily but  
slowly. Based on the new official poverty lines, 42% of people in rural areas and 26% of people in urban areas  
lived below the poverty line in 2004-05. The World Bank (2011) however calculates all India poverty rates at  
2% for 2009-10.  
The Government of India took more than three decades of Economic Planning and Six Five Year Plans to  
identify Urban Poverty as a critical issue. In the Seventh Plan (1985-90) there was a serious attempt to address  
the problem of Urban Poverty. In the Ninth Plan (1997-2002), a special reference was made on Urban Poverty  
Alleviation. Table-7 presents rural, urban and total poverty figures in absolute and percentage terms for selected  
states. In terms of total number of poor persons, urban poverty has increased during the period 1993-94 and  
2004-05 in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Orissa and Delhi.  
There are nine states in 2004-05, where urban poverty in terms of percentage is more than rural poverty.  
Typically in Gujarat urban poverty has rapidly declined although, the rural poverty remains almost static in the  
two periods. In Maharashtra, rural poverty has declined sharply but the urban poverty still remains at a very  
high level. Tamilnadu and U P have witnessed rapid decline in both rural and urban poverty. The Table shows  
that the percentage decline in urban poverty has been considerably low from 32.4% in 1993-94 to 25.7% in  
004-05. Actually, there has been a rise in absolute number of urban poor from 76 million in 1993-94 to nearly  
1 million in 2004-05.  
Table b  1  
Urban Poverty  
79.49 15.92 74.47 38.33 153.97 22.19 64.70 11.2 61.0  
450.86 58.21 42.49 34.50 493.35 54.96 336.72 42.1 32.42 34.6 369.15 41.4  
62.16 22.18 43.02 27.89 105.19 24.21 63.49 19.1 27.19 13.0 90.69 16.8  
22.0 126.10 15.8  
Karnataka 95.99 29.88 60.46 40.14 156.46 33.16 75.05 20.8 63.83 32.6 130.89 25.0  
MP 216.19 40.64 82.33 48.38 298.52 42.52 175.65 36.9 74.03 42.1 249.68 38.3  
Maharashtra 193.33 37.93 111.90 35.15 305.22 36.86 171.13 29.6 146.25 32.2 317.38 30.7  
140.90 49.72 19.70 41.64 160.60 48.56 151.75 46.8 26.74 44.3 178.49 46.4  
94.68 26.46 33.82 30.49 128.50 27.41 87.88 18.7 47.51 32.9 134.89 22.1  
Tamilnadu 121.70 32.48 80.40 39.77 202.10 35.03 76.50 22.8 69.13 22.2 145.60 22.15  
496.17 42.28 108.28 35.39 604.46 40.85 473.00 33.4 117.03 30.6 590.03 32.8  
0.19 1.90 15.32 16.03 15.51 14.69 0.63 6.9 22.30 16.2 22.93 14.7  
Indian Planning Experience b  a statistical profile, Planning Commission.  
(Nob s in Lakhs)  
The Table reveals not only widening rural-urban divide for most of the states but also points out regional  
disparities within urban India. According to National Strategy for Urban Poor (NSUP) the share of UP, Maharashtra,  
WB, MP and Andhra Pradesh in Urban Poverty rose from 56% in 1993-94 to 60% in 1999-00. This suggests  
alarming concentration of urban poor in fewer states.  
Economic reforms threaten to bring more structural changes in rural-urban poverty. Infect the whole urban  
setting is likely to change dramatically. More than a decade and half to economic reforms the debate still  
continues; if India is a better place to live in. The reforms process has changed the urban setting drastically.  
Employment opportunities (or lack of it), inflation, consumption and income patterns, growth of manufacturing  
and service industries coupled with stagnant or deteriorating agriculture are crucial variables which would  
affect the migration trends and fate of urban and rural poor in the country. Rising investments in technob   
intensive production and informalized service sector may further lead to insecure livelihoods in the urban areas.  
It is also a fact that the formal sector in urban India does not welcome the poor migrants due to their illiteracy  
and inferior skills. Informal sector gives low wages and part employment. Such casualization of workforce has  
limited the earning opportunities of poor. Privatization of public services like water, electricity and health has  
increased the cost of living in urban areas.  
A fairly good percentage of population nearly 70% residing in urban area are above the poverty line, determined  
on the basis of income calories-intake approach. Does this means that they have access to pure drinking  
water, shelter other then slums, proper education, and minimum health facilities? According to the Report of  
National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector, 2007 (NCEUS) majority of urban poor are  
those living in b miserable conditionsb  belong to lower castes and minorities and more importantly women and  
Needless to say that transformation of urban cities in to jungle of concrete and cement has taken out all  
possibilities of living a decent life. Metros like Delhi regularly face shortage of electricity during peak hours.  
People in Mumbai have to bear with pollution and spend hours fighting traffic jams. The city of Bangalore is  
one of most expensive cities in the world, Kolkata and Hyderabad struggles for adequate supplies of food  
grains. Rising crime rate, growing law and order problems and rise in the frequency of terrorist attacks have  
made the life in big urban cities miserable.  
Thus instead of a simple calorie- intake approach b the basic issues in defining the poverty specifically urban  
poverty should be availability of housing, access to basic civic amenities, healthy and clean living environment,  
safe drinking water, public health and education facilities, food security, gainful employment opportunities,  
freedom from violence and social negligenceb  (Archana Sinha, Vikalp, 2005).  
The state of wellbeing is strongly correlated with the quality of life (Thorbecke, Erik 2005). The income approach  
to calculate poverty does not consider the imputed value of social goods like education, and health. It is  
impossible for the traditional approach to counter essential attributes of poverty like low life expectancy,  
illiteracy, economic and social insecurity, lack of freedom and empowerment etc. This brings out the first major  
limitation of income-centric approach. Secondly there stands no guarantee on the part of the person, that he  
would spend his income on the consumption of given food items for himself and family. Infect, most of the poor  
and those marginally poor are found spending their minimum income on consumption of alcohol, tobacco,  
and on gambling, sacrificing standard minimum calorie intake. These people are potentially vulnerable to  
poverty in future. b Poverty is concerned with not having enough now; whereas vulnerability is about having a  
high probability now of suffering a future shortfallb  (Thorbecke, Erik 2005). Many of those who are non-poor  
now, are at risk of failure to attain minimum well being in future. Such vulnerability is reflected from the fact that  
about 50% of Indiab s population is deprived of proper housing and nearly 24.1% of urban populations are  
forced to live in slums (Global report on Human Settlement, 2005). High infant mortality and child mortality  
rates are countered by higher birth rate and enhancing further deprivations.  
Table - II  
Health Indicators  
of Childrenb s  
Tenth Five Year Plan, 2002-2007  
*socially discriminated groups  
Childrenb s undernourished in their young age often remain unhealthy with low productivity for rest of their life.  
About more than 50% of children were found to be undernourished in all the backward groups. This deprivation  
was not specifically due to unavailability of food supplies but denial of adequate health care, clean drinking  
water, infections, etc. Health conditions are concerns not only for poor states, but also for rich states for  
example, in Karnataka about 10% of populations suffered due to malaria in 2001 compare to 21% in Orissa and  
% in Madhya Pradesh. Only 20% of Indians are covered by public health care system while rest of India  
depends upon private sector (Ramadoss, 2004). According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food  
security refers to condition when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe,  
and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.  
Per Capita Availability of Food Grains  
Source-Dept of Agriculture and Co-operation, ministry of Agriculture, GOI  
Rising population and falling agricultural growth rate in the last decades has already forced country towards a  
probable food crisis in future. This has again made a mockery of income-calorie approach to measure poverty;  
in the sense that net availability of food grains has increased marginally from 1951 to 1991 and considerably  
fallen thereafter (Kumar Jayant and Hitesh Bhatia, 2008). There has been considerable fall in production of  
pulses and food grains in the last decade.  
Facts on Hungry Nations b B7  
World Hunger and Poverty:  
b "
According to Food and Agriculture Organization  
b "
854 million people across the world are hungry-  
more than the populations of USA,Canada and  
FAO) 2006 Statistics,820 million people are  
hungry in developing countries where--  
Sub-Saharan Africa: 204 million-  
Asia /Pacific: 156 million-  
India: 221 million-  
China: 142 million-  
b "
b "
Hunger and poverty claim 24,000 lives every day.  
Hunger is the most extreme form of poverty,  
where individuals and families cannot afford to  
meet their need for food.  
Latin America/Caribbean: 53 million-  
Near East/North Africa: 44 million  
b "
b "
Today worldb s population is 7 billion people.  
b "
In the Asia and Pacific region 525 million or 17%  
of the total population of 3 billion suffer from  
undernourishment and the worst hit countries are  
North Korea, Mongolia, Cambodia, and  
Approximately 5.1 billion people live in the  
developing countries.  
b "
b "
820 million people in the developing countries  
alone are hungry.B7  
Among this group of poor people, many have  
problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for  
b " The worst conditions continue to be largely; in  
Africa one out of every three people in Sub-  
themselves and their families. They consume Saharan Africa is undernourished. The worst hit  
less than the minimum amount of calories  
essential for sound health and growth.  
countries are Angola, Burundi, Sierra Leone,  
Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In the north  
East the worst affected country is Afghanistan.B7  
In the Latin America and Caribbean region the  
worst hit countries are Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and  
b "
The number of chronically hungry people  
worldwide is growing by an average of 4  
millionper year at current trends.  
Through Millennium Development Goals, United Nation  
specifically intends to address the problem of extreme  
poverty or what is popularly called as b Hunger Povertyb . A  
poverty line of $1 a day has been estimated for low income  
countries and $2 a day for middle income countries. Hunger  
poverty is more invasive than income poverty in India, as  
the proportion of people suffering from hunger was nearly  
double the proportion below income poverty in 1999-00  
i.e. 53 % vs. 26 % (Bajpai Nirupam, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Nicole  
Volavika, 2005). Still as per this measure 35% of population  
is suffering from extreme poverty, this is nowhere close to  
even the latest estimates of poverty by planning  
commission. According to the latest report of NCEUS  
National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganized  
Sector) nearly 77% of India lives on less than half a dollar  
a day. Most of these living with Rs 20 per day are from  
informal sector.  
This again brings us to the fact that present official poverty  
line has only allowed government an opportunity to gain  
success in reducing percentage of poverty on paper.  
However a more realistic approach will show that large  
numbers of Indians are still deprived and are not recognized  
as poor.  
India ranks 66 out of 88 countries in Global Hunger Index 2010. Similarly the India State Hunger Index (ISHI) is  
prepared as a tool to calculate hunger and malnutrition at the regional level in India. It calculated for 17 states  
in India, covering more than 95 percent of the population. According to the index even the rich states like that  
of Punjab ranks far below in comparisons to other 33 countries ranked under GHI. Other poor states of India  
like Bihar, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh have index scores similar to countries like Zimbabwe, Haiti, Ethiopia  
and Chad. India also ranks below several Sub-Saharan nations, such as Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, and  
Sudan, even though per capita income in these countries is much lower than Indiab s.  
Conclusive Policies - Combating the demon of Hunger  
In view of the large scale problem of hunger the following recommendations are made to combat the problem-  
The solutions for eradicating the problem of hunger can view in following manner-  
Availability of required quantity of nutritional food. Can be provided through charity, public distribution  
etc. This will include the age structure, growing population, change in food habits as per work and living  
Timely and Economical access to food. This will include the buying capacity of people, economic  
security and sustainable growth of people. This can be provided through market regulation, government  
support, public private partnership etc.  
Government Support  
b "
Proper execution of PDS for distribution of subsidized food grains to the poor; this requires identification  
of people living under below poverty line and collaborating with NGOs to reach the poorest sections of  
the community.  
b "
Government involvement is also required for peace keeping, easing civil unrest, maintaining diplomatic  
relations with the neighboring nations, control extremist movements, , effective mobilization of media for  
generating awareness among people and for activating state agencies to solve Hunger.  
b "
b "
Following are some major government schemes addressing the issue of Hunger albeit; the fruits of these  
schemes are yet to be reaped.  
Nutrition education is delivered through multiple venues and involves activities at the individual, community,  
and policy levels.Nutrition education makes a significant difference which needs to be provided consistently  
to poor and illiterate people at village, urban slums and with the poor communities. Family level health  
counseling for prevention of different diseases and malnutrition and for the better utilization of available  
natural resources helps the poorest communities. Nutrition education to communities helps to solve the  
problem of chronic persistent hunger.  
b "
Bhalla Surjit and Tirthatanmay das (2005), Pre and Post Reforms in India: A Revised Look at Emplyment,  
Wages and Inequality, India Policy Forum.  
b "
b "
Five Year Plans, Various, Planning Commission, Government of India.  
Guruswamy Mohan and Ronald Abrham (Feb, 2006), Redefining Poverty: A New Poverty Line for a New  
India, Centre for Policy Alternatives, New Delhi  
b "
b "
Indian Planning Experience, a Statistical Profile (1999), Planning Commission, Government of India.  
Kumar Jayant and Hitesh Bhatia 2008, Poverty Beyond Poverty: The Changing Perspectives, Conference  
Volume, 38th-Gujarat Economic Conference, Gujarat Economic Association, SPIESR Ahmedabad.  
b "
b "
National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS, 2007),  
National Strategy for Urban Poor (NSUP, 2007), Urban Poverty: an Overview, http:/  
b "
Sinha Archana (Dec, 2005), Book review, Urban Poverty in India, Vikalp.  
b "
b "
b "
The National Medical Journal Of India (2007), Health Care in Urban Slums in India, Vol 20, No 3,  
Thorbecke Erik (Aug, 2005), Multi-dimensional Poverty: Conceptual and Measurement Issue, UNDP  
International Poverty Centre.  
b "
Virmani Arvind (Feb, 2006), Poverty and Hunger in India: what is needed to eliminate them, Working  
paper no 1/2006, Planning Commission, Government of India.  
b "
b "
b "
World Bank (2011), India Country Overview, September 2011  
b "