Hunger : the want or scarcity of food in a country

World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared that 2200 kilo calories is the per capita energy intake which is necessary to do the daily activities without depending upon the weight.

Based on the calorie intake, the hungry are classified as:

  • Subjugate Hungry: People who consume food which is equivalent to 1800-2000 kcal per day
  • Medial Hungry : People who consume food which is equivalent to 1600-1800 kcal per day
  • Ultra Hungry : People who consume food which gives less than 1600 kcal per day.
  • According to WHO, consumption of food which is less than or equivalent to 1600 kcal per day is Severe or life threatening hunger.

Indicators of Hunger in India:

  • Inadequate consumption of dietary energy by households.
  • Quality of diet
    • Hidden hunger
  • Inadequate absorption of food (According to WHO), which intensifies hunger further.
    • Open defecation causes Tropical Enteropathy. It is supposed to be caused by fecal bacteria. Open defecation also leads to diarrhea, intestinal worm infections and typhoid, by which the micro villa of the intestine are destroyed, which actually helps in the absorption and digestion of food.
    • This can further lead to malnutrition and stunted growth.

Causes of hunger in India:

  • Poverty
    • If poverty exists, then hunger and malnourishment, both follow it.
    • Hunger and malnutrition put enormous cost burden on the society.
    • People eating less than what they should because of poverty. If this situation continues for a long time, it is called Chronic or Persistent Hunger.
    • From their limited resources, the poor are forced to spend more on health, children’s education, transport and fuel than before. Food is still needed, but not demanded for their lack of resources. In the process, they get stunted and malnourished. Endemic Hunger continues to afflict a large proportion of Indian population.
  • Because of the collapse of agriculture, particularly after the neo-liberal reforms
    • Average farm size holdings have decreased.
    • Declining investment in agriculture in consequent five year plans worsened hunger even more.
    • Landlessness is an extremely important causative factor for hunger as well as poverty.
  • Harmful economic systems.
    • Because of high inflation. Food price inflation in India is a reality. More and more people, because of higher prices are becoming hunger.
  • Because of the failure of Public Distribution system, particularly because of high exclusion errors.

Consequences of Hunger:

  • Adults who were malnourished as children are less physically intellectual.
  • Child malnutrition can have permanent adverse consequences for physical and intellectual development which deprives them of their natural capabilities.
  • Hunger and poverty goes hand in hand.
  • Hunger and malnutrition leads to relatively lesser level of productivity and efficiency of people.
  • Child malnourishment can transmit poverty to next generation.

Global Hunger Index:

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally and by country and region. Calculated each year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the GHI highlights successes and failures in hunger reduction and provides insights into the drivers of hunger.

To reflect the multidimensional nature of hunger, the GHI combines three equally weighted indicators in one index number:

  • Undernourishment
  • Child underweight
  • Child mortality.

The GHI ranks countries on a 100 point scale. Zero is the best score (no hunger), and 100 is the worst.

  • If the score is greater than 10, the society has severe hunger.
  • If the score is greater than 20, the society has alarming levels of hunger.
  • If the score is greater than 30, the society has extremely alarming levels of hunger and death rates due to hunger.
  • If the score is 0, the society is a hunger free society.
  • India ranked 63 in GHI 2013.
  • India ranked 55 in 2014, better than Pakistan (57) and Bangladesh (57), but trails behind Nepal (44) and Sri Lanka (39).


  • Census 2011-12 states that almost 49% of Indian population doesn’t have access to toilets.
  • FAO declared that 28% of the children are underweight.
  • 38% of whole children of the world who are stunted are in India
  • 34% of all girls of the age group 15-19 years are stunted in India.
  • Bihar ranks first in anemia
  • It is anemia in pregnant women, which is responsible for 20% of infant mortality rate.
  • In India, 9 out of 10 women between age 15-40 are anemic as well as malnourished.
  • 6% of the world’s under 5 children death is because of malnutrition.
  • In India, 55% of children in age group 0-2 are not properly immunized.
  • 55% of malnutrition is seen in children of illiterate women.
  • 26% of malnutrition is seen in children of literate women.
  • 46% of malnutrition is because of lack of breast feeding.
  • South Asia is supposed to have large number of undernourished children than the Sub-Saharan areas.
  • 1 crore rupee of investment in agriculture can create 102 jobs directly and indirectly in India.
  • Food Security Act is a welcome step and will reduce hunger and malnutrition in especially the underprivileged class in urban and rural areas.
  • The cereal intake of the bottom 20% in rural India is only 10 kg/month as against 12kg for the top class of the population, though the poor need more food as they do more manual work and their access to fruits, vegetables and milk is negligible.
  • The calorie consumption of the poorest has been declining over the years.

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