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Dalits, Adivasis disproportionately affected by poverty, pushing India's Global Hunger Index to 97th rank: Report

Undernourished population (%) among BRICS nations
By Rajiv Shah
An India case study, supplementing the report “2016 Global Hunger Index (GHI)”, which ranks India 97th in GHI among 118 countries, has regretted that “by contrast, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, all of whom share the BRICS high table with India, have a single-digit score” in undernourishment.
While the 2016 GHI report has been prepared by  prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the case study has been published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
Worse, the case study says, “India’s neighbours, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, have better GHI scores as well.” The GHI report shows, Bangladesh ranks 90th, Sri Lanka 84th, Myanmar 75th, and Nepal 72nd.
“Although the country has managed to reduce instances of stunting among children by nearly half in the past decade compared to the previous one, India remains home to one-third of the world´s stunted children. It therefore falls into the ‘serious’ category in this year’s GHI”, the case study notes.
Pointing out that rainfed agriculture supports nearly 40% of India’s population, the case study notes, “These farmers are highly sensitive to drought, which can cause crops to fail and lead to spiralling debt.”
“In total, 22% of its population lives below the poverty line”, the case study says, adding, “At the same time, it is home to 84 of the world’s billionaires. India’s top 1% own more than 50% of the country’s wealth.”
“It is the world’s second largest food producer and yet is also home to the second-highest population of undernourished people in the world”, the case study points out.
Referring to the recent National Food Security Act (NFSA) in 2013, a law seeking to “provide for food and nutritional security by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity”, the case study says, it has “changed the nature of discourse on food, making it a human right and putting the onus on the state to guarantee basic entitlements.”
Under five mortality rate (%) among BRICS nations
“However”, wonders the case study, “the question is whether the quality of life has actually improved for everyone… ", adding, the system has altered the food habits of large sections, making them “dependent on rice and wheat and eliminated traditional diet diversity, thereby reducing the micronutrient content of the food on their plates.”
Those who have suffering the most, the case study says, are “the poorest people in India”, especially those who belong to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – “traditionally oppressed classes for whom the Indian constitution provides special affirmative provisions to promote and protect their social, educational and economic interests.”
“Dalits and Adivasis are overproportionally affected by poverty”, it says, adding, “47% of the rural tribal population lives below the national poverty line, compared to the national average for rural areas of 28%.”
“The level of poverty and food and nutrition insecurity of the tribal people continues to be a major issue, despite the affirmative action put in place by the architects of India’s Constitution for their protection and welfare”, the case study says.
In case, the case study notes, “The Adivasis have borne witness to the appropriation of their lands, destruction of their environment and commoditisation of their traditional knowledge – a lopsided bargain which has come at the cost of their way of life and well-being, beginning with their health and the security of resources for future generations.”
“Safeguards such as informed consent have been thrown to the winds in the rush to acquire and trade forest produce and land on a large scale”, it further points out, adding, “Covering 11 states, it shows that every second Adivasi child is stunted, 68% of Adivasi mothers are less than 20 years old, 48% are undernourished and 76% are anaemic.”
The case study says, “The risk of severe stunting is nearly twice as high among girls aged 6-23 months compared to boys. This may be due to food distribution practices within households and gender discrimination, resulting in woman receiving less food or men being served the best portions.”

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