India bashing, particularly on poverty or hunger, is passion. It earns you eminent awards and simultaneously Global Hunger Index (GHI) can be hyped or misinterpreted, it turns the ancient civilization into a morbid culture and “scholars” own the right to deride it.
It’s a wonder why such studies particularly by Amartya Sens or Abhijit Banerjees are not done on the US and European situations. Their own statistics suggest rise in poverty in the US or EU, particularly France, Germany and the UK. The Brexit itself is ascribed as a fall out of large immigration and fall in living standards ushering in high poverty.
Another wonder how could they miss the 2018 UN accolade on India. The UNDP heaped praises for India being the first country for which progress over time has been estimated in tackling poverty.
Being a critic of the government in India is fine. But overlooking reality for churning out easy theses should not be fashion. Eminent economist Prof AM Khusro, who charted out the planning path for many decades since the Nehruvian era, was concerned about absolute poverty and not mere percentage. India for its sheer rising population remains high on this score despite the number reducing in percentage terms.
It is easy to criticise governments but solutions are not that easy. Even the GHI has not been interpreted correctly. The article would discuss it.
Critics of India missed the headline in the Washington Post – Extreme Poverty Returns to America on December 21, 2017. This is about a UN report, obviously after the post-Lehman sub-prime crisis. Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, filed it after wrapping up a 15-day tour of the United States.
His team visited Alabama, California, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The findings documented homelessness, unsafe sanitation and sewage disposal practices, as well as police surveillance, criminalisation and harassment of the poor. The rise in poverty, they found, disproportionately affects people of colour and women, but also large swathes of white Americans. The report concluded that the pervasiveness of poverty and inequality “are shockingly at odds with immense wealth (of the US) and its founding commitment to human rights.”
The poverty in the US has risen from less than 10 per cent to 14.8 per cent, as per US census report, in 2014. It now claims to have reduced to 12.7 per cent in 2016 and 12.3 per cent in 2017.
Michael Dauderstaadt, former director of the Economic and Social Policy of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), basing his study on Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office, says, “National poverty rates in the EU vary between over 25 per cent in Romania and less than 10 per cent in the Czech Republic. For Germany, the figure is 16.5 per cent (2016). The official Eurostat figure for the EU as a whole is 17.3 per cent, which puts poverty in the EU only slightly higher than the level in Germany. However, if a proper EU-wide poverty threshold is calculated, the figure comes out significantly higher”. Indeed these studies on western poverty cannot win awards from the institutions in the West.
India making strides under Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to institute an award, more inclusive and superior than most western ones which have a tendency to deride India. They bash India as they fear if India rises in economy and esteem, the West may start tottering. And they choose poor Indians to glorify or deride Indian poverty. Despite lots of problems, in percentage terms poverty has come down.
Through different governments since the 2004, Atal Behari Vajpayee rule, over 270 million people in India moved out of poverty and the poverty rate nearly halved from 55 per cent to 28 per cent in a ten-year period, according to the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) of the UNDP. The MPI also mentioned that 1.3 billion, almost 46 per cent, are thought to be living in multi-dimensional poverty the world over.
The critics seeking headlines ignored the incongruous comparison between 2014 ranking of 55 among 76 nations and 2017 ranking of 102. The GHI report did not include 44 countries with “low hunger” scores (0-10). If these were included, India’s ranking in 2014 would have been 55+44 = 99. Data sources for calculating 2017 GHI scores are from 2012-17, of which NDA and Congress (UPA) share power for two-and-a-half years each.
Even the International Food Policy Research Institute says, “Concluding from this comparison that India slipped 45 places in the GHI ranking is not only erroneous but also a gross misrepresentation of facts”.
It is a different issue that a concerned society does not take pride in slippage. As per GHI, India has 14.5 per cent India’s population undernourished, 21 per cent of children are wasted – children with low weight against their height; 38.4 per cent children are stunted and 4.8 per cent die before the age of 5.
Everyone knows these are national concern since the First Plan. The UNDP has always expressed satisfaction at India’s progress. On the whole, the 2019 GHI report found that number of hungry people has risen 785 million in 2015 to 822 million. It further states that ‘multiple countries” have higher levels now than in 2010 – subtle way of stating the post-prime meltdown impact, and approximately 45 countries are set to fail to achieve “low” levels of hunger by 2030 UN sustainable development goal target.
The UNDP finds 46 per cent of the global population in abject poverty. It is concerned about falling standards in affluent US and Europe. It wonders why the Donald Trump’s US administration is so sensitive to criticism. The truth is the US administration is failing to check the misery of its people and US official Nick Haley saying UN has no right to look into it.
Hunger is a global issue. It increases as corporate globally are controlling governments. The exploitation has increased and the banks the world over are being looted leading to their failures and levying of high irrational charges and reduction of deposit interest rates.
India is no exception. Much of the present industrial slowdown is because of irrational incentives to corporate and allowing them to loot people’s bank deposits. Strong course correction is needed. Still the government remains pro-people in India despite occasional faltering. The country, however, need not be jittery by the ilk of Sens and Bannerjees.