'Shameful, ignorant': Smriti Irani slammed for ridiculing India's hunger index score

Speaking at an event in Hyderabad, Smriti Irani said that the Global Hunger Index is built based on phone calls to people asking if they were hungry.
Union Minister Smriti Irani speaking at FICCI event
Union Minister Smriti Irani speaking at FICCI eventScreengrab | Twitter/Saravanan Annadurai
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Union Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani is facing severe flak from the opposition after her comment about the credibility of the Global Hunger Index (GHI). Speaking at an event by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) on 'Future Role Of Women In India' held at Taj Deccan in Hyderabad, she said that the index is based on phone calls asking if the call’s receiver was hungry. She dismissed the GHI-2023 report that was released on October 19, that gave rank 111 to India among 125 countries.

Speaking at the event, Smriti said that there were indices which did not project India’s story “deliberately”. “For instance, the Global Hunger Index… How do they build that indice? 3000 people from a country of 140 crore get a phone call from Gallup and they are asked, 'Are you hungry'? Now trust me, I left my house in Delhi in the morning at 4 today. I caught a flight at 5 to go to Kochi. I did a conclave there, caught a flight at 5 o'clock to come to this programme. By the time I get to anything called food, it will be 10 o'clock. If you called me anytime in the day today and asked from Gallup are you hungry, I'll say 'Oh yes, I am'. And that index says Pakistan is doing better than india. Can you imagine?” she said.

GHI scores are given on a 100-point scale reflecting the severity of hunger based on the values of four indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. Based on these scores, countries are categorised as low - GHI ≤ 9.9; Moderate - GHI 10.0 to 19.9; Serious - GHI 20.0 to 34.9; Alarming - GHI 35.0 to 49.9; and Extremely alarming GHI ≥ 50.0. According to GHI-2023, India has scored 28.7 and is categorised as ‘serious’ level of hunger. The report also states that India has the highest child wasting rate in the world at 18.7% “reflecting acute undernutrition”. However, India's neighbours Pakistan has been ranked 102 with a score of 26.6 , Bangladesh at 81 with a score of 19, Nepal has scored 15, stands at 69 and Sri Lanka at 60 with a score of 13.3.

The opposition Congress has condemned her statement by stating that she was “ignorant” of the reality. “I don’t know what’s more shameful - your level of ignorance or your insensitivity at display here? Do you honestly think the Global Hunger Index is calculated by calling up people and asking them if they are hungry!!??? You are the Women and Child Development Minister in the Government  of India - it’s appalling to hear you. Frankly, you are an embarrassment!,” Supriya Shrinate said. She further added, “And please don’t make a mockery of hunger - you are an extremely powerful and entitled woman, a minister in the Government of India for heaven’s sake! There are enough and more meals available on the flights you board and the places you visit.”

Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Hardly having the time to eat= Hardly having food to eat. If arrogance had a face, it would be Mantriji.”

However, this is not the first time the Minister is making a statement about GHI. In March this year, she tabled a written reply at the Rajya Sabha saying that the GHI should not be taken at face value as it was “neither appropriate nor representative of hunger prevalent in a country”.

Read: Global Hunger Index does not reflect India’s true picture: Smriti Irani in Rajya Sabha

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