There has been an explosion of outrage in India over the scandalous Hunger Index rankings shoved into the public domain yet again by a pair of clueless but motivated NGOs from Germany and Ireland.
When India protested last year at their ridiculous findings, these two NGOs did nothing about it. They have produced an even more inaccurate offering this year. They dwell on child malnutrition, child wasting, stunting, mortality, all based on a sample of 3,000 correspondent in a country of 1.44 billion people.
The two NGOs have been publishing this low-budget report annually since 2000 using narrow data and miniscule sample size of correspondents. This is their 15th.
However, they claim that they use UN, UNICEF, World Bank and other such data. If they did truly, and with due diligence, they would not turn out such stunted rubbish.
The culprit NGOs apparently cannot be bothered to source and research enough of the correct data, let alone draw sensible conclusions from it. Even as an exercise in malicious propaganda, it is extremely low grade.
It flies in the face of widely known facts, this year at least, such as India’s food surplus status. India has had the ability to export both wheat and rice in large quantities during the disruptions caused by the Russo-Ukraine War. This after feeding 1.44 billion people without runaway food inflation.
It is, in fact, pulling millions of its citizens out of the clutches of extreme poverty all the while and picking up the pace at it.
Almost simultaneously, an United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) report says India has rescued 140 million people out of ‘multidimensional poverty’ (MPI), between 2015-16 and 2019-21.
In the fifteen years from 2005-06 to 2020-21, the incidence of poverty and deprivations amongst poor people against 10 MPI indicators such as health, education, and standard of living, has more than halved.
The report goes on to say ‘There have been visible investments in boosting access to sanitation, cooking fuel, electricity- indicators that have seen large improvements. A policy emphasis on universal coverage-for example in education, nutrition, water, sanitation, employment, housing-likely contributed to these results’.
So not everybody from the West makes bogus assessments or puts out inflammatory reports. The UNDP report and another from the IMF called India the one ‘bright spot’ amongst the darkness of a global gloom.
India distributed free rations to 800 million of its citizens throughout the Covid lockdowns, and continues to do so now in a limited manner, in the recovery phase back to an economy operating at full strength. This is not because 800 million people are in dire poverty, but to just help many households along at a difficult and unprecedented time.
There is an extensive lactating mothers and infant/ child nutrition welfare programme. In addition, there are other very successful welfare programmes such as the Garib Kalyan Yojana and MNREGA.
Indian temples and Gurdwaras are in the habit of feeding hundreds of thousands of people free, this activity is financed by philanthropists and their own funds, on a daily basis, for aeons. Guests are never sent away hungry even from the poorest households. This is a cultural matter for Indians, extant for the ages.
Meanwhile, these problems are not unique to India. In America the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), states that 34 million people including 9 million children are currently ‘food insecure’. During the Covid pandemic, unemployment soared, and 53 million Americans turned to food banks and community programmes to put food on their tables. This is a significant percentage of people in the richest country in the world.
India is already at 5th position as regards its economy, with $3.5 trillion in GDP, having overtaken much less populous Britain, and is poised to surpass the economies of both Germany and Japan by 2028, according to the IMF. It is estimated to be growing at between 6.1% and 7.2% over 2022, 2023 and 2024. It will continue to do so at a similar pace for at least a decade going forward, if not three.
In 2030, Indian GDP is expected to be at or around $ 10 trillion. Per capita income though will be under pressure for decades to come. We have a rising population, growing to an estimated 1.70 billion by 2070, before it begins to decline. However, growth in GDP of this order, and more, to an estimated $ 30 trillion by 2047, will go a long way to ameliorate the plight of the poorest.
Part of being the most populous country in the world, is a young work capable population to the extent of 65%, between the ages of 15 and 35. With proper skilling, this will be a great asset for three decades going forward, before this nation begins to age as population growth declines.
All this institutional optimism from the World Bank, the IMF, the ADB and international rating agencies may be another factor occasioning the malignant propaganda against India from Germany, Britain, America, Spain, China and other parts, who are seeing a steady decline in their own prospects and no way out of it.
The attacks on India, with little data to support it, encompass spurious narratives on religious freedom persecutions and human rights violations. The prospect of not only being economically overtaken or challenged, but losing dominance over an erstwhile third world country like India is proving hard to digest in the West.
Whatever be the dark motive, treating the convoluted nonsense from these two negligible NGOs seriously is an affront to common-sense and intelligence. And yet, many learned interpreters, perhaps out of a sense of inherent reasonableness, have tried.
Of course, such Indian commentary, well-reasoned as it may be, from the government, the RSS, other analysts and economists, media pundits, is going to fall on deaf ears. The objective of this survey and several others like it, that keep cropping up, may well be to dissuade those who want to move their manufacturing from China to India in order to diversify their supply chains.
China cannot like the prospect, even as it is happening, and is still in cahoots with Germany, more so than any other country in the EU.
The Germans know their engineering. The whole world acknowledges that. And they sell a lot of their top-end cars in India as a consequence.
But are these poison-pen indexes from Welt Hunger Hilfe worth the adverse reaction from India? Have they written off Indian business to put all their eggs in the China basket? It may have more to do with Germany extensive investment and trade with China which hit an all-time high in the first half of 2022, despite the Ukraine War.
The new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced he is going to China soon, the first Western leader scheduled to do so after Covid. He is not keen on ‘decoupling from China’ as suggested by America. The German ambassador
to America is busy putting it in the context of the ravages of the Ukraine war, and how Scholz does not want to rock the boat at this time. But, in effect, Germany is sticking with China in continuation of the policies of previous Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Meanwhile the German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, has suggested, and retracted, after strong Indian protest, that Kashmir should go through a referendum conducted by the UN.
It is easy to see the hand of not just Pakistan but China too in this. Even the American ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, recently visited PoK and called it ‘Azad Kashmir’.
Another reason for the hostility from the broad Western alliance including America, NATO, EU, Britain and Australia towards India may well be occasioned by India’s neutrality with regard to Russia. They understand our position but that doesn’t mean they like it. An exception, discreet as it is, may be QUAD ally Japan.
Is India then really receiving some old fashioned Cold War stick, just because it is perceived to be siding with Russia?
WHO, prominent during the Covid pandemic, has also played a very partisan role in terms of shielding China as the originator of the virus. In addition, it has thrown many obstacles in the way of Indian made vaccines being used internationally. It is part of the ecosystem China has assiduously built at several UN bodies.
The problem is, one strong ally in Germany will not restore China’s export fortunes. Others are determined to delink and stay away, and Germany too may find it difficult to withstand American pressure.
America is already uncomfortable with France’s traditionally independent attitude. And these two countries together are the dominant European economies in the EU and NATO.
The Irish, as in EIRE, are also part of the EU, and are probably acting in solidarity with the Germans as far as this survey goes.
Nevertheless, the Welt Hunger Hilfe survey is not doing Germany’s image any good. And Concern Worldwide, the Irish outfit, which sounds quite Church really, may like to rethink their career at spreading malicious misinformation too. But who is funding both?
(The author is a well-known columnist and policy and political analyst. The views expressed are his own.)