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Failure of 'trickle down theory' behind India's poor Global Hunger Index rating

By Dr Gian Singh* 

On October 14, 2021, two organisations, Concern Worldwide (An Irish aid agency) and WeltHungerHilfe (a German organization that researches the problem of global hunger), jointly published the Global Hunger Index (GHI) for 2021. These organizations have included 116 countries in the world hunger rankings.
India ranks 101st in this ranking. This means that 100 out of 116 countries have less hunger than India and only 15 countries have more hunger. In this 2021 ranking, India's position is even worse than the 2020 ranking as at that time India was ranked 94th out of 107 countries. Our neighbours and countries much smaller than us are in a less worse position than us.
For example, Myanmar ranks 71st, Nepal 76th, Bangladesh 76th and Pakistan 92nd. Reacting sharply to the GHI rankings, the Women and Child Development Ministry termed it devoid of ground reality and facts and suffering from serious methodological issues. Even then, our government should put maximum efforts to control hunger in the country.
The Global Hunger Index is created to raise awareness and understanding against hunger in the world. To understand the multidimensional nature of hunger, its classification is based on four indicators. 
The first indicator relates to people who are malnourished. Incomplete diet means the diet that contains less calories than required. The second indicator relates to children under the age of five who are underweight according to their height. The third indicator is for children under five years of age who are shorter in height according to their age. The fourth and final indicator relates to the deaths of children under five years of age.
The rulers of India never tire of seeing and propagating the country as an international superpower in the near future. When the economic growth rate of the country is increasing, our rulers leave no stone unturned to pat themselves on the back. While the rulers of our country propagate the size of our GDP as an achievement, they forget that in terms of population, we are currently approaching China, and if this is not overcome, then in near future India will be the most populous country in the world.
Considering the relationship between the size of GDP of the country and its population, the per capita income of our country is very low. However, per capita income is average income and often the average is far more hidden than what it shows. When the country’s economic growth rate stagnates or starts declining, our rulers do not take the slightest time in formulating and implementing anti-people economic policies in the name of economic reforms.
The government and its various agencies are full of economists, but in addition to these economists, many outside economists have gone to great lengths to confuse the public by fabricating data for conclusion-oriented studies, so that the people do not know that the rulers are formulating and implementing anti-people economic policies in the name of economic reforms, these people also propagate that such policies are in favour of the country as well as the marginalized people who are repeatedly displaced due to these policies.
In this regard, they propagate the ‘trickle down theory’ according to which when these policies make the richest people richer, a portion of their increased income gradually goes into the pockets of the poor. This policy has failed miserably in all countries of the world, especially in the developed world.
Such economists fabricate data and conduct conclusion-oriented studies in the hope of getting petty meaningless concessions/ benefits from the government and the capitalist/ corporate world such as high paid and 'high status' positions in commissions, committees and other high level institutions.
They propagate these activities as their achievement. In fact, the challenge is to find solutions to the problems of the society, especially the working class, with the help of proper analysis of the data collected properly to achieve pro-people objectives. Lack of good intentions, sound basis, and proper analysis of data, rhetoric/ propaganda and weak and anti-working class arguments further complicate rather than solve the problems of any economy/society.
Proper analysis of the data collected in earnest on the basis of pro-people objectives helps in solving the problems of the economy/ society. On the other hand, conclusions drawn from fabricated data, and inaccurate and incomplete information have the same deadly/ dangerous effects as incorrect test reports of patients lying on the surgeon's desk.
The important causes of hunger in India are the socio-economic inequalities, unemployment, and abject poverty caused by the 'new economic policies' of liberalization, privatization, and globalization adopted since 1991 to accelerate the country's economic growth. After the adoption of the 'new economic policies', many claims by the government and the capitalist/ corporate world have come to the fore in the fields of education and healthcare.
Undoubtedly, the number of high quality private schools, colleges, universities and other institutions and hospitals in the country is increasing rapidly, but the common people of the country cannot even dream of getting these services as only affluent Indian residents and in some cases, the residents of foreign countries have access.
Socio-economic inequalities have been present in India since time immemorial. After the independence of the country in 1947, planning started in 1951. Establishment and expansion of public sector undertakings remained a top priority during the Five Year Plans, which led to the emergence of a mixed economy.
Although there were some shortcomings in the functioning of public sector undertakings, there were many significant achievements which were brought to light by various research studies. The period 1951-80 is considered as the era of planning in the country and during this period socio-economic inequalities in the country decreased. After 1980, planning was put into reverse gear, new economic policies were introduced in 1991, and in 2015, the Planning Commission was replaced by a pro-capitalist/ corporate world NITI Aayog.
Due to these and some other reasons, socio-economic inequalities in the country are increasing rapidly. Studies by Oxfam and other international and national organizations have found that since 1991, socio-economic disparities between the country's richest 1 per cent and the remaining 99 per cent have been growing rapidly. The richest 1 per cent of the people in the country are using the country's resources, both legally and illegally, to increase their profits and wealth.
Important causes of hunger in India are ocio-economic inequalities, unemployment and abject poverty caused by new economic policies
With the adoption of these 'new economic policies', our country was divided into two countries, 'India' and 'Bharat'. India consists of the extremely rich people who have all the comforts of life as well as more and more wealth is being created for them here and Bharat has been made a country of a very large number of people who are unable to meet even basic needs.
A clear example of this was the Covid-19 pandemic period, during which the wealth of the ultra-rich increased exponentially, while the working class people were being harassed for just two meals a day.
According to the latest available official data (NSSO 2010-11), 84 per cent of India's total labour force is in the unorganized sector and only 16 per cent in the organized sector. Even more tragic is the fact that 93 per cent of the workers are in informal employment and seven per cent in formal employment.
Due to the pro-capitalist and pro-corporate economic policies, the percentage of workers in the unorganized sector and in informal employment has been steadily increasing. There is no guarantee of permanent employment and other facilities to these workers due to which their income level and consequently living standard is very low.
Among the different categories of farmers, marginal, and small farmers are constituting a major proportion (88 per cent). These marginal,and small farmers are suffering from huge debt and abject poverty.
Rapid growth in the country can only be significant if its benefits reach the working class and reduce socio-economic inequalities in the country. Therefore, the poverty line should be redefined as those who are unable to meet the basic needs of food, clothing, housing, education, health care, clean environment, and social security.
At the same time, the 'line of prosperity' has to be defined. By raising taxes on the extremely affluent, the income from them has to be used for the welfare of the working class. This would become possible only if the ruling people of the country adopt a pro-people and pro-nature economic development model. This is essential to control hunger in India.
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* Former Professor, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, Patiala

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