The Wide Net of Hunger

Context: Since the lockdown, the Government of India (GoI) has announced Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) and Atmanirbhar Bharat. However, numerous studies have shown their inadequacy.

What is the hunger watch survey?

  • The Right to Food campaign in partnership with several civil society organisations initiated “Hunger Watch”, a rapid survey across 11 states from mid-September to mid-October.
  • The objective was to assess the situation of hunger among vulnerable groups, as well as to take immediate local action to support those in extreme need.
  • It focussed on the conditions among marginalised communities such as Dalit/Adivasi households, daily-wage workers, households with single women, aged or disabled and so on.
  • 41 per cent of sample reported having a monthly income of less than Rs 3,000 pre-lockdown compared to only 2.4 per cent more than Rs 15,000.
  • One-third of them were daily wage workers.

What are the key findings of the survey?

  • Widespread hunger continues to be a major issue irrespective of the income levels:
    • Households also face difficult conditions with 27 per cent saying that they had no income in the month before the survey (compared to 43 per cent with no income during April-May).
    • One in three respondents reported members having to skip meals “sometimes” or “often”.
  • Reduction in consumption to cope with food insecurity:
    • More than half the respondents said their current consumption of rice/wheat was less than what it was pre-lockdown.
    • Two-thirds of households reported that the quantity of food consumption either decreased somewhat or decreased a lot and 73 per cent reported that their consumption of green vegetables decreased.
  • Nutrition hunger:
    • Based on the 2011 National Sample Survey, a recent paper by Raghunathan, Headey, and Herforth, published in the Food Policy showed that between 63 and 76 per cent of rural Indians could not afford nutritious diets.
    • The statistics from the survey comparing the food situation before lockdown and in October indicate about 71 per cent of our respondents reported that the nutritional quality of food worsened.
  • Rural-Urban disparity:
    • Based on leaked consumption expenditure survey from 2017-18, S Subramanian, showed that consumption declined uniformly across rural India.

What need to be done?

  • Need a well-functioning Public Distribution System (PDS) along with cash-support measures through social security pensions.
  • Universalise PDS to prevent starvation.
  • MGNREGA needs to be strengthened along with an urban employment programme.
  • Effective implementation of Mid-day Meal scheme as only less than half the anganwadi children (47 per cent) and 63 per cent of school children said that they were getting some sort of dry rations and/or cash support in lieu of the meals.
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