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India's undernourished rise from 189.9 to 194.6 million in 2011-15; poor, hungry fail to benefit from growth: FAO

By Our Representative
A new report, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has made a startling revelation: During the first half of this decade, India’s undernourished population, in absolute terms, increased from 189.9 million in 2010-12 to 194.6 in 2014-16. Released to mark the World Food Day, which fell on October 16, the report is titled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World”.
While India can console itself that, in percentage terms, the undernourished population in the country went slightly down during the period in question (between 2010-12 and 2014-16) from 15.6 to 15.2 per cent, there is reason to worry.
China, which is the other most populous country in the world having a big undernourished population, experienced a higher fall in the percentage of undernourished from 11.7 to 9.3. In fact, in absolute terms, too, China’s undernourished population went down from 163.2 million to 133.8 million between 2010-12 and 2014-16.
Of course, there is a consolation: Pakistan’s undernourished population went up from 38.3 million to 41.4 million during this period. It simultaneously registered a rise the percentage of the undernourished – from 21.8 per cent in 2010-12 to 22.0 2014-16.
On the other hand, however, Bangladesh witnessed fall in absolute number of undernourished during the period from 26.5 million to 26.3 million during the period, with the percentage of undernourished falling from 17.3 to 16.4 during the period.
Overall, India witnessed a 36 per cent fall in the undernourished population since 1990-92, as against China’s 60.9 per cent, Bangladesh’s 49.9 per cent, and Pakistan’s just 12.4 per cent.
The FAO report notes, “Changes in large populous countries, notably China and India, play a large part in explaining the overall hunger reduction trends in the developing regions. Rapid progress was achieved during the 1990s, when the developing regions as a whole experienced a steady decline in both the number of undernourished and the proportion of undernourished (PoU).”
It adds, “This was followed by a slowdown in the PoU in the early 2000s before a renewed acceleration in the latter part of the decade, with the PoU falling from 17.3 percent in 2005–07 to 14.1 percent in 2010–12. Estimates for the most recent period, partly based on projections, have again seen a phase of slower progress, with the PoU declining to 12.9 percent by 2014–16.”
The report states that an evolution of hunger trends in India suggests, higher world food prices, observed since the late 2000s, may have not “entirely transmitted into domestic prices, especially in large countries such as India”, and “the extended food distribution programme also contributed to this positive outcome.”
Yet, the fact remains, the report underlines, “Higher economic growth (in India) has not been fully translated into higher food consumption, let alone better diets overall, suggesting that the poor and hungry may have failed to benefit much from overall growth.”
Pointing out that India still has “the second-highest estimated number of undernourished people in the world”, the report says, “India is home to a quarter of world’s 794.6 million hungry people, and it has more undernourished people than China.”

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