Union Minister Smriti Irani, speaking at a FICCI event focused on the “Future Role of Women in India,” expressed her concerns about certain indices, particularly the Global Hunger Index, and suggested that they may be intentionally biased and not a true representation of India’s progress. A video of her speech has circulated on social media, drawing attention to her comments on these indices. Irani questioned the methodology used in constructing such indices, highlighting the relatively small sample size, with only 3,000 people out of a population of 1.4 billion receiving phone calls from organizations like Gallup and being asked about their hunger. Notably, the Global Hunger Index for 2023 ranked India 111th out of 125 countries.
Irani also shared a personal anecdote, explaining her hectic schedule and the challenges of finding time to eat, which led her to humorously remark that if someone had asked her if she was hungry during the day, her response would likely have been affirmative. In response to India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index, the Indian government swiftly rejected it, deeming it inaccurate and potentially driven by malicious intent. Congress leader Supriya Shrinate, however, criticized Irani’s comments, denouncing her for what she viewed as either ignorance or insensitivity displayed in her statements.
Shrinate emphasized, “Madam Minister, a country’s Global Hunger Index heavily relies on four crucial indicators: Undernourishment, Child Stunting, Child Wasting, and Child Mortality.” The recently unveiled Global Hunger Index for 2023 brought to light India’s highest global child wasting rate, a concerning 18.7%, which is an indicator of severe undernutrition. The index assigned India a score of 28.7, signifying a serious level of hunger, as highlighted in the accompanying report. Interestingly, India’s neighboring countries, including Pakistan (102nd), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th), and Sri Lanka (60th), outperformed India in this specific index.
As per a government release, the percentage of child wasting, as recorded in its Poshan tracker, has consistently remained below 7.2% on a month-to-month basis, in stark contrast to the 18.7% figure reported in the Global Hunger Index for 2023. The release also referenced the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which estimated India’s Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) at 16.6%. It clarified that the FAO’s estimate is derived from the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) survey, conducted through the Gallup World Poll, which is an opinion poll based on 8 questions with a sample size of 3,000 respondents.