New Delhi: If it is intended to launch a vicious campaign against India and give satisfaction to those who take pleasure in spewing venom on the country's achievements, the latest report of the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) appears a fallacy.
"It is shocking to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO estimate on proportion of undernourished population," a strongly worded statement from the Ministry of Women and Child Development said.
It also said that the methodology used by FAO is "unscientific" and based on telephonic surveys. This is "found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues."
The statement came close on the heels of a report of FAO that India has slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th. Worse, the report has placed India behind its neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
"The publishing agencies of the Global Hunger Report, Concern Worldwide and Welt Hunger Hilfe, have not done their due diligence before releasing the report," the ministry said in its statement.
The methodology, they have based their assessment on the results of a 'four question' opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup.
"The scientific measurement of undernourishment would require measurement of weight and Height, whereas the methodology involved here is based on Gallup poll based on pure telephonic estimate of the population. The report completely disregards Government's massive effort to ensure food security of the entire population during the covid period, verifiable data on which are available."
The opinion poll does not have a single question on whether the respondent received any food support from the Government or other sources.
"The representativeness of even this opinion poll is doubtful for India and other countries," it said.
The Ministry statement expressed surprise that it shows – four countries of this region–Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have not been affected at all by Covid-19 pandemic induced loss of job/business and reduction in income levels, "rather they have been able to improve their position on the indicator 'proportion of undernourished population".
Perhaps on this score, the report's credibility comes into question as on-ground experience would easily reveal much worse conditions in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal.
The Global Hunger Report 2021 and FAO report on 'The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021' has completely ignored the following facts available in the public domain. The ministry said adding, the Government of India has implemented additional nationwide schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY) and Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme (ANBS).
"Under PMGKAY, Government of India has made allocation of food grains @ 5 kg per person per month free of cost for around 80 Crore (800 million) beneficiaries of the 36 States/UTs covered under National Food Security Act (Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Priority Households) including those covered under Direct Benefit Transfer for the period April to November 2O2O and again for the period May to November 2021," the ministry stated.
In fact, during FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu's election in June 2019, several doubts were expressed. Qu was the Chinese vice-minister for agriculture and rural areas.
The US and some other countries had strongly opposed a Chinese candidate saying, "Chinese leaders at INTERPOL, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have (in the past) demonstrated a bias towards Chinese foreign policy and a lack of transparency and accountability". In fact, Meng Hongwei, who was elected Interpol's president, later quit under "mysterious circumstances".
India's candidate at FAO in 2019, NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, had withdrawn from the contest at the last moment. China has also been the third-largest contributor to the FAO, with an assessed contribution of $21 million for 2019-20.