- India’s ranking has NOT slipped 45 places from rank 55 in 2014 to rank 100 in 2016. India’s rank was 55 out of 76 countries in 2014. Top performing 44 countries that were anyway above India, and were not even listed in 2014, have been added in 2017. Due to this addition of 44 countries above India, it ranks 100 now. If these countries were listed in the rankings in 2014, then India’s ranking in 2014 would be 99 out of 120 countries.
- India has improved the GHI score from 35.6 in 2008 to 31.4 in 2017. In the 4 important parameters that are part of the GHI study, India has improved itself in all except one parameter ‘Prevalence of wasting in children under 5 years’. This parameter too was improving from 1994 to 2002. But India’s condition drastically worsened between 2002 and 2016 (which contained a decade of Congress rule).
- Reference period for the 2017 scores is 2012-2016. This period had 2.5 years of the Congress rule, preceded by about 8 years of their rule.
The Global Hunger Index is an index that depicts the hunger situation in various countries. It ranks countries on a 100-point scale with 0 being the best score and 100 being the worst.
Recently, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) released the latest GHI report for 2017. Many media outlets covered this. For example, here’s Business Standard covering it with a story titled “India slips 3 notches to 100 on Global Hunger Index; trails N Korea, Iraq”, and The Quint covered it with “India 100th on Global Hunger Index: Rahul Takes a Jibe at Modi” and also played up the Rahul Gandhi angle.
Social media reactions to this too were not far away. From political parties like Congress to many other journalists and commentators, everyone was plugging various facets of this news.
The BS piece says, “Over three-year duration, the country has seen a slide of 45 positions from 55 in 2014”. The Quint quotes BS and says, “According to Business Standard Analysis, in between 2014 and 2017, India dropped below 45 points in this index” and also says “Its ranking in 2014 was 55, but has now reached 100, although the ranking cannot be compared because the new deciding method was implemented in 2015.”
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram and CPIM’s Sitaram Yechury were among the politicians who criticised the Narendra Modi government over this.
In their hunger to run down the government of the day, there were a few basic facts most of these reports or tweets missed or deliberately suppressed. Let us look at the true picture.
“India slid by 45 ranks” – Did it?
On the face of it, if one looks at the 2014 report, it shows India is ranked 55 and the 2017 report shows India at rank 100. The devil, as always, lies in the details.
In 2014, India was ranked 55 out of 76 countries. But there were 44 nations better than India that were not even listed in the rankings. If these 44 countries were there in the list, they would have been above India and India would be ranked 99 in 2014 – 99 out of 120 countries.
In 2017, IFPRI decided to include 44 more countries in the ranking list. In other words, 44 nations were added above India, which finds itself at rank 100 in 2017 — 100 out of 119 countries.
So, India was effectively 99 out of 120 countries in 2014 and 100 out of 119 in 2017.
In fact, in terms of absolute scores, India has improved its position relative to previous rounds of the survey. Consider the below chart. As it shows, India’s overall score has improved in every round of the survey.
Perhaps, media outlets, politicians and ‘factcheckers’ should understand first the actual details of the report and its methodology before concluding that India saw a ‘slide of 45 positions’. In their efforts to damn the government of the day (which we shall see later is not even responsible for this), they forgot to do even fact-check!
Reference period? Who is responsible for the ‘slide’?
Most such comprehensive reports, even if they are released in a specific year, rarely refer to the situation in the same year. Their reference period often ends much prior to the time of release.
The IFPRI GHI 2017 report that is being spoken about says, “In case of the 2017 scores, data are included from the most recent reference period (2012-2016) and therefore reflect hunger and under-nutrition in this period”.
To break it down, the reference period for the 2017 scores, 2012-2016,had only 1.5 years of overlap with the NDA government and had a greater overlap with 2.5 years of the UPA government at the helm, especially with the UPA having been at the helm for 8 years before the reference period! So, who does this report indict? And who should media and assorted ‘factcheckers’ be asking questions of?
Consider it this way. India’s overall score has improved in each round of the survey. The overall score comprises many underlying parameters, such as – A) Proportion of undernourished children in the population (%); B) Prevalence of wasting in children under age 5 years (%); C) Prevalence of stunting in children under 5 years; D) Under 5 mortality rate (%). Here are the scores on each of these of various past surveys.
India has improved the score in each of these parameters except one – prevalence of wasting in children under 5 years. This parameter was also improving from 1994 to 2002 (out of this period there was a non-Congress government 6 out of 8 years). But there has been drastic worsening between 2002 and 2016. A decade out of this period was ruled by UPA led by Dr Manmohan Singh.
Feeding the hungry is important. Not feeding propaganda to others too is important. While hunger is an issue that needs to be tackled, data illiteracy, lack of comprehension, malice and spreading fake propaganda too need to be addressed.
Since much of the old media and entrenched voices seem to have abandoned facts and data, it has fallen upon alert tweeters (who actively debunked the propaganda) and portals like The True Picture to point out fallacies in media reports.