No starvation death reported in recent years: Centre to SC

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    • Recently, the Union government informed the Supreme Court (SC) that no starvation death has been reported by any state or Union territory (UT) in recent years.

    Model  Scheme

    • The court wants the Centre to frame a model scheme and circulate it to all the states and UTs for their consideration.
    • Every welfare state’s first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger.
    • The Attorney General agreed to convey to the Union government the court’s suggestion to provide the States with an additional two percent food grains.

    Starvation Deaths in India

    • Starvation deaths continue to eat into the right to life and dignity of social fabric and a radical new measure like community kitchens need to be set up across India to feed the poor and the hungry.
    • While there are statistics available for malnutrition deaths in children and adults in the country, there is no official data available for death of persons owing to starvation.
    • Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry. 
    • Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average.

    Hunger in India

    • According to a 2015 World Bank report, malnutrition in India is two to seven times higher than other BRICS member countries. 
    • The same result was indicated in the 2021 report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. 
      • Further adding that with the current rate of decline, India will not be able t0 achieve the target of ‘zero hunger by 2030’ given by the United Nations 
    • Serious Level: With a score of 27.5 in Global Hunger Report, India has a level of hunger that is serious.
    • Lagging Behind Neighbours: India was also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92, Nepal and Bangladesh at 76 and Sri Lanka at 65.
    • Declining Score: In fact, India’s score on the GHI in the recent two decades has declined by 10 points. It slipped to 28.8 in 2021, from 38.8 in 2000.
    • Poor Indicators:
      • Globally, India ranked among the worst in ‘child wasting’ or ‘weight for height’. Its performance was worse than Djibouti and Somalia.  
      • Some 17.3 per cent of children under five years of age in India were stunted during 2016-2020. This was an increase of 15.1 percent from 2010-2014.
      • However, India had progressed on other indicators including undernutrition, child stunting and child mortality.
      • India has shown promise over the past decade in reducing maternal and child mortality. But, much more needed to be done. 
    • Undernourishment: The share of the population that is undernourished (that is, whose caloric intake is insufficient);
    • Child Wasting: The share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
    • Child Stunting:  The share of children under the age of five who are stunted (that is, who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and
    • Child Mortality: The mortality rate of children under the age of five (in part, a reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).
    • COVID-19 and Nutrition:
      • The pandemic is worsening malnutrition not only through food insecurity but also through reductions in health care use, immunisation, treatment of malnutrition, and antenatal care.
      • The effects of the pandemic on child malnutrition have not yet been comprehensively measured given barriers to collecting anthropometric data, but estimates suggest sizable impacts. 
      • Child mortality is predicted to increase as a result of the pandemic, primarily due to the indirect effects of COVID-19.
      • The COVID-19 pandemic is worsening food security, with the full scope of the impacts still not fully known.

    Causes

    • Agriculture Output: The agriculture output from small and marginal holdings are either stagnant or declining due to reasons such as reduced soil fertility, fragmented lands or fluctuating market price of farm produce.
    • Low Income: Relative income of one section of people has been on the decline.
      • This has adverse effects on their capacity to buy adequate food, especially when food prices have been on the rise.
      • The kind of work a section of people have been doing are less remunerative or there is less opportunity to get remunerative work.
    • Public Distribution System: The public distribution system of the state is not functioning well or is not accessible to everyone.
    • Rural Unemployment: The emaciated rural livelihoods sector and lack of income opportunities other than the farm sector have contributed heavily to the growing joblessness in rural areas.

    Way Ahead

    • The governments need to focus on these priorities:
      • a flexible and agile approach that reflects local perceptions, aspirations, and concerns;
      • an emphasis on working in partnerships that bring together local, national, and international actors, with their diverse knowledge; and
      • commitment by major donors to get funds out of separate silos and focus them on integrative work to advance food security.

    Source: TH