The Diwali festival this year is back in full swing. Diwali will see a 27 Billion USD worth of sales this year despite high inflation rates. The dairy industry has also increased the milk prices for the fourth time in this year ( three times for milk and once for fresh dairy products).

Global Hunger Index is out and it has put India in the serious category at rank 107. All of our neighbouring countries except Afghanistan are in a better position than us in this index.

About World Hunger Index

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at global, regional, and national levels. GHI scores are based on the values of four component indicators – undernourishment,child stunting, child wasting and child mortality. There are five categories of hunger on the basis of their score, which are ‘low’, ‘moderate’, ‘serious’, ‘alarming’ and ‘extremely alarming’.

India’s score of 29.1 places it in the ‘serious’ category. India also ranks below Sri Lanka (64),Nepal (81), Bangladesh (84), and Pakistan (99). Afghanistan (109) is the only country in South Asia that performs worse than India on the index. Before I tell you about the reaction of the Indian government to this grim situation, let me share two more rankings with you.

Global rankings on Ease of doing business and Global Innovation Index improved Indian rank greatly. India leap frogged its ranking upward and the government took all the applause and shared it publicly on media as well as social media. We all feel proud of India’s development and achievements in these areas. No one questioned the basis of ranking even when The ease of doing business ranking has been found highly controversial and discontinued for the time being.

Government’s reaction to WHI

As per the Ministry for Women and Child Development-the report lowers India’s rank based on the estimates of the Proportion-of-Undernourished-(PoU)-population. It elaborates that the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate is based on the ‘Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)’ survey module. It was conducted using the Gallup World Poll that bears a sample size of 3,000 respondents being asked eight questions. It stated that the data represented a miniscule proportion for a country of India’s size.

WHI considered the following data while computing India’s score in the index. 1. India’s child wasting rate (low weight for height) at 19.3%; is worse than the levels recorded in 2014 (15.1%). And even 2000 (17.15). It is the highest for any country in the world and drives up the region’s average owing to India’s-large-population. 2. Prevalence of undernourishment, which is a measure of the proportion of the population facing chronic deficiency of dietary energy intake, has also risen in the country from 14.6% in 2018-2020 to 16.3% in 2019-2021. This translates into 224.3 million people in India considered undernourished. 3. But India has shown improvement in child stunting, which has declined from 38.7% to 35.5% between 2014 and 2022, as well as child mortality which has also dropped from 4.6% to 3.3% in the same comparative period.

India Key Indicators as per NHFS 2019-2021

Overall, India has shown a slight worsening with its GHI score increasing from 28.2 in 2014 to 29.1 in 2022. Now let us look at the government data on these parameters from the National Health and Family Survey (2019-2020)

NFHS 2019-2021

Majority of our population is Anaemic as per the survey conducted by the government from 2019-2020 irrespective of social or economic class. This is a serious concern. These are no good signs of a healthy nation. In order to become the 3rd largest economy by 2028 as per the latest IMF forecast, all of us will have to really work hard. How could a nation of more than 50 % of its anaemic kids, women ,pregnant women and over one fourth of anaemic males could develop such a great economy. Prematurity and low birth weight is the top reason for one third of child mortality in India. Our child mortality rate has slightly reduced during the last assessment of WHI. We need to  address stunting and wasting problems so as to permanently control the child mortality rates.

Two cups of milk is all what an Indian kid wants

The World Hunger Index may be considered as an eye opener. There is no need to bury it under the carpet. Even our own NFHS 2019-2020 report corroborates well with WHI 2022 data. I am leaving the macro issue of hunger or poverty with the government to handle. As a dairy fraternity, how can we celebrate this Diwali after knowing that one in three children in India is unable to gain his height as per the age and one fifth are unable to gain weight for their height. I am still not repeating the fact that the majority of our population is anaemic.

We are 32nd nation amongst the most anaemic countries and 155th if I change the order and make it the least anaemic countries in 2019. This ranking is on the basis of the above data given under NHFS only.

The way forward

On this Diwali we must pledge to work as an industrial fraternity rather than depending upon the government to improve this situation of malnutrition in India. There are close to 12 crores kids under 5 years in India. Out of these around one fourth are attending Anganwadis as part of pre-school education. The government also has a plan to supply milk under the school milk program. However, going beyond two cups of milk per day may also lead to reduction of iron absorption by these kids and thus exorbitant cases of aanemia in our country. This calls for evaluating the possibilities of adding iron under the fortification program at least under the school milk program. The policy makers are doing their best to build a better India but we can’t have a strong nation with a biologically weaker population.

5 Trillion CL of milk for 120 million kids below 5years

Let us celebrate this Diwali by doing our bit to ensure 2 cups of milk (or 400 ml) for every child in the country. I request the government to ensure 0.5 Trillion ml of milk per day to our kids below 5 years if they really want to become a 5 Trillion Dollar economy.

Suggestions from all of you to make it happen will be appreciated.

Wishing all of your near and dear ones a wonderful festival time and peaceful, purposeful and prosperous Diwali.

Source : Dairy Blog by Kuldeep Sharma Chief editor Dairynews7x7