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India's hunger index rank: Whither pro-Modi economist Panagariya's percolation theory?

By Rajiv Shah 
Following the news that India ranks 94th among 107 nations in Global Hunger Index (GHI), I got interested in the study, a joint exercise by institutes in Ireland and Germany (Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe). Scanning through the report, I found that it does not take into account the serious situation arising in India (or for that matter in other countries) because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It admits, “While the 2020 GHI does not yet reflect the impacts of Covid-19, it shows that the situation is already worrying in many contexts and is likely to worsen in the years to come.”
Indeed, India requires special scrutiny as lakhs, perhaps crores (Government of India has no data), migrated from top metropolitan cities to their respective towns and villages out of sheer desperation because of the unplanned lockdown, which led to major issues vis-a-vis food security, one of the three major dimensions (inadequate food supply leading to undernourishment) analysed while working out GHI, the other two being child mortality and child undernourishment.
India’s ranking is poor even though, to quote from the study, “Despite declines in recent years, child mortality in South Asia is still unacceptably high, with improvements in child nutrition needed. The mortality rate of children under age five in South Asia as of 2018 was 4.1 percent, compared with 9.2 percent in 2000. India – the region’s most populous country – experienced a decline in under-five mortality in this period, driven largely by decreases in deaths from birth asphyxia or trauma, neonatal infections, pneumonia, and diarrhea.”
The report also regrets, “However, child mortality caused by prematurity and low birthweight increased, particularly in poorer states and rural areas. Prevention of prematurity and low birthweight is identified as a key factor with the potential to reduce under-five mortality in India, through actions such as better antenatal care, education, and nutrition as well as reductions in anemia and oral tobacco use.” 
The report no doubt suggests that the neighbouring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan too, like India, are in the 'serious' category, but all of them ranked higher than India in this year's hunger index. While Bangladesh ranked 75, Myanmar and Pakistan are in the 78th and 88th position. Nepal is ranked 73rd and Sri Lanka 64th. As for China, it ranks among the five top countries of the world! 
Scanning through the India part of the score, one finds that the hunger index of India was 38.9 (on a scale of 100) in the year 2000, hunger index went down to 37.5 in 2006; it went down further to 29.3 in 2012; and now, in 2020 (sans Covid impact) it is 27.2, a very little “improvement” over the last eight years – a direct commentary on the Modi government’s much criticised view that economic growth would automatically lead to reduced poverty – the well-known percolation theory of Columbia University’s pro-Modi economist Arvind Panagariya.

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