Daily Current Affairs 16.10.2021 (Hunger Index: poor ranking devoid of ground reality and facts, says Govt, Fall in stubble burning incidents in Punjab & Haryana, says panel)

Daily Current Affairs 16.10.2021 (Hunger Index: poor ranking devoid of ground reality and facts, says Govt, Fall in stubble burning incidents in Punjab & Haryana, says panel)


1.Hunger Index: poor ranking devoid of ground reality and facts, says Govt.

Ranked at 101, India is behind neighbours like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka

The Government on Friday challenged India’s poor ranking in the the Global Hunger Index 2021 and the methodology used calling it “devoid of ground reality and facts”.

The Index launched on Thursday ranked India at 101 position of 116 countries. India is also among the 31 countries where hunger has been identified as serious. India ranked 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) released last year.

‘Unscientific method’

“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 methodology used by FAO is unscientific. They have based their assessment on the results of a ‘four question’ opinion poll, which was conducted telephonically by Gallup,” the Ministry of Women and Child Development said in a statement.

According to the Index, only 15 countries fare worse than India. They are Papua New Guinea (102), Afghanistan and Nigeria (103), Congo (105), Mozambique and Sierra Leone (106), Timor-Leste (108), Haiti (109), Liberia (110), Madagascar (111), Democratic Republic of Congo (112), Chad (113), Central African Republic (114), Yemen (115) and Somalia (116).

India was also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92, Nepal and Bangladesh at 76 and Sri Lanka at 65.

The Government has contested the performance of these neighbouring countries on the Index.

“It is noted with surprise, from the FAO report ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021’, that other 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’ by 4.3%, 3.3%, 1.3% and 0.8% points respectively during the period 2018-20 over 2017-19,” the statement adds.

The GHI scores are based on the values of four component indicators — undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. Each country’s GHI score is classified by severity, from low to extremely alarming.

Undernourishment data are provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and child mortality data are sourced from the U.N. Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. Child wasting and stunting data are drawn from the joint database of UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, among others.

It is the FAO report used for assessing undernourishment that the Government has questioned. This is also the only indicator in the report that has shown deterioration in India, the other three either show an improvement or have remained unchanged.

Figures on the rise

The Government has questioned the poll-based assessment that “has increased the value of ‘proportion of population undernourished’ from 14.0% for the previous period 2017-19 to 15.3% for the latest period 2018-20,” according to an official.

According to the FAO report, prevalence of undernourishment in a population is calculated in a very scientific manner that includes habitual dietary energy intake levels, information on the population structure and median height in each sex and age.


India has slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries, from its 2020 position of 94th.

Key Points

  • About the Global Hunger Index:
    • Annual Report: Jointly published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
      • It was first produced in 2006. It is published every October. The 2021 edition marks the 16th edition of the GHI.
    • Aim: To comprehensively measure and track hunger at the global, regional, and country levels.
    • Calculation: It is calculated on the basis of four indicators:
      • Undernourishment: Share of the population with insufficient caloric intake.
      • Child Wasting: Share of children under age five who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
      • Child Stunting: Share of children under age five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
      • Child Mortality: The mortality rate of children under the age of five.
    • Scoring:
      • Based on the values of the four indicators, the GHI determines hunger on a 100-point scale where 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.
      • Each country’s GHI score is classified by severity, from low to extremely alarming.
    • Data Collection:
      • Undernourishment data are provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and child mortality data are sourced from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).
      • Child wasting and stunting data are drawn from the joint database of UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, among others.
  • Global Scenario:
    • The fight against hunger is dangerously off track.
      • Based on current GHI projections, the world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve a low level of hunger by 2030.
    • Food security is under assault on multiple fronts.
      • Worsening conflict, weather extremes associated with global climate change, and the economic and health challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic are all driving hunger.
    • After decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment – a component of the Global Hunger Index – is increasing.
      • This shift may be a leading indicator of reversals in other measures of hunger.
    • Inequality – between regions, countries, districts, and communities – is pervasive and, left unchecked, will keep the world from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mandate to “leave no one behind”.
    • Africa, South of the Sahara and South Asia are the world regions where hunger levels are highest. Hunger in both regions is considered serious.
  • Indian Scenario
    • Since 2000, India has made substantial progress, but there are still areas of concern, particularly regarding child nutrition.
    • India’s GHI score has decreased from a 2000 GHI score of 38.8 points – considered alarming – to a 2021 GHI score of 27.5 – considered serious.
    • The proportion of undernourished in the population and the under-five child mortality rate are now at relatively low levels.
    • While child stunting has seen a significant decrease – from 54.2% in 1998-1999 to 34.7% in 2016-2018 – it is still considered very high.
    • At 17.3%, India has the highest child wasting rate of all countries covered in the GHI. This rate is slightly higher than it was in 1998-1999, when it was 17.1%.
    • According to the Index, only 15 countries fare worse than India.
    • India was also behind most of the neighbouring countries. Pakistan was placed at 92, Nepal and Bangladesh at 76 and Sri Lanka at 65.
  • Government of India Stand:
    • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has criticised the report claiming that the methodology used by FAO is unscientific.
    • According to the Government, the Global Hunger Index Report 2021 and FAO report on ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021’ have completely ignored the following facts:
      • 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 a Gallup poll, based on a 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 such as Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY) and Atmanirbhar Bharat Scheme (ANBS).

Some Related Initiatives by India

  • Eat Right India Movement: An outreach activity organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for citizens to nudge them towards eating right.
  • POSHAN Abhiyan: Launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2018, it targets to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls).
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: A centrally sponsored scheme executed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is a maternity benefit programme being implemented in all districts of the country with effect from 1st January, 2017.
  • Food Fortification: Food Fortification or Food Enrichment is the addition of key vitamins and minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A & D to staple foods such as rice, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013: It legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • Mission Indradhanush: It targets children under 2 years of age and pregnant women for immunization against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPD).
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme: Launched on 2nd October, 1975, the ICDS Scheme offers a package of six services (Supplementary Nutrition, Pre-school non-formal education, Nutrition & health education, Immunization, Health check-up and Referral services) to children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

2.Fall in stubble burning incidents in Punjab & Haryana, says panel

This, however, is a preliminary analysis as harvesting is still on, says CAQM

There is a 70% reduction so far in instances of stubble burning in Punjab and 18% in Haryana from last year, according to a report on Friday by the Commission for Air Quality Management.

Last year in Punjab, there were 4,216 instances of stubble burning from September 15 to October 14. This dropped to 1,286 in the corresponding period this year. There were 487 incidents this year compared with 596 last year, a press statement by the commission claimed.

In eight districts of Uttar Pradesh, there were 22 instances of burning this year compared with 42 last year.

This, however, is a preliminary analysis as harvesting is still under way and the day-to-day variation in the number of fires is extremely high.

Ravinder Khaiwal, who closely tracks pollution trends and its impact on health at PGIMER, Chandigarh, and monitors data from a NASA satellite that can detect thermal radiation, told The Hindu that when comparing data till October 15 in Haryana, there’s an increase in fires by 24% and till October 13 — a 30% decrease in fires. Similarly, in Punjab, a comparison till October 15 shows a reduction by 5%, whereas till October 13 it was a reduction of 67%. “Because we are far from the peak of harvesting there will be a significant variation every day and we will have to wait for a few weeks to know if there are fewer fires this year than in previous years,” he told The Hindu.

Dr. Khaiwal added that he was optimistic there would be a decrease in fires this year because of a decrease in the area allotted to paddy sowing this year.

“There are several initiatives taken such as the increased use of happy seeder [harvesting equipment] and the use of bio-decomposers but this will take time for results to show. Also, it is important to underline that meteorological conditions play a significant role in worsening pollution.”

The CAQM made a similar observation last week reporting that a 7% decrease in the area allotted to paddy and moving crops away from the popular variety PUSA 44 (that leaves behind more stubble in its wake) along with measures by the governments of Punjab and Haryana were likely to reduce fire count instances.

Over the years it has been observed that fire counts increase when there is too little time between the paddy being ready for harvesting and the right time to sow wheat. This year, excessive moisture in northern India due to an overhanging monsoon and a delay in the markets opening for trading, may further squeeze the time available for farmers to harvest and sow, further forcing them to set their fields alight.

This year the major districts in Punjab that reported instances of burning were Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Patiala and Ludhiana that accounted for 72% of burning events. In Haryana, Kaithal, Karnal and Kurukshetra accounted for 80% of the instances.

Of the total 1,795 sites where burning had been reported, 663 fields had been inspected by officials and fines, or “environmental compensation” as they are called, were imposed on 252.

Recently, the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to prepare a comprehensive national scheme, in consultation with the States, within three months to wean small and marginal farmers away from stubble burning. Air pollution in Delhi NCR has now become a familiar story, repeated with minor variations every year, mainly aggravated by stubble burning in Punjab and Harayana.

Why Stubble Burning?

Stubble (parali) burning is the act of setting fire to crop residue to remove them from the field to sow the next crop.

  • In order to plant next winter crop (Rabi crop), farmers in Haryana and Punjab have to move in a very short interval and if they are late, due to short winters these days, they might face considerable losses. Therefore, burning is the cheapest and fastest way to get rid of the stubble.
    • If parali is left in the field, pests like termites may attack the upcoming crop.
    • The precarious economic condition of farmers doesn’t allow them to use expensive mechanised methods to remove stubble.

Causes of the Stubble Burning

  • Technology: The problem arises due to the use of mechanised harvesting which leaves several inches of stubble in the fields.
    • Earlier, this excess crop was used by farmers for cooking, as hay to keep their animals warm or even as extra insulation for homes.
    • But, now the stubble use for such purposes has become outdated.
  • Adverse Impact of Laws: Implementation of the Punjab Preservation of Subsoil Water Act (2009) made the time period of stubble burning coincident with the onset of winter in Northern India.
    • Late transplanting of paddy during Kharif season to prevent water loss as directed by PPSW Act (2009) had left farmers with little time between harvesting and preparing the field for the next crop and hence farmers are resorting to the burning of stubble.
  • High Silica Content: Rice straw is considered useless as fodder in the case of non-basmati rice, because of its high silica content.

Effects of Stubble Burning

  • Pollution: Open stubble burning emits large amounts of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
    • After the release in the atmosphere, these pollutants disperse in the surroundings, may undergo a physical and chemical transformation and eventually adversely affect human health by causing a thick blanket of smog.
  • Soil Fertility: Burning husk on ground destroys the nutrients in the soil, making it less fertile.
  • Heat Penetration: Heat generated by stubble burning penetrates into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes.

Wealth From Stubble

  • From parali (stubble), high-grade organic fertilizers can be prepared by mixing with cow dung and few natural enzymes.
    • The total amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulphur in the parali burnt annually in Northwest India is about seven lakh tonnes, valued at Rs 1,000 crore.
    • Along with the above mentioned nutrients, organic carbon is also destroyed during stubble burning.
    • These nutrients, if successfully utilized in organic manures, can also reduce the risk of cancer in Punjab by reducing the levels of carcinogens caused by chemical fertilizers in soil.
  • Using straw for electricity generation is another productive way of generating wealth from residue.
    • USA-based New Generation Power International has proposed to set up 1000 MW biomass energy generating plants in Punjab to address stubble burning.
    • The company plans to set up 200 plants, each having 5 MW capacity, which will use the stubble as raw material.

Chhattisgarh Model

  • An innovative experiment has been undertaken by the Chhattisgarh government by setting up gauthans.
    • A gauthan is a dedicated five-acre plot, held in common by each village, where all the unused parali is collected through parali daan (people’s donations) and is converted into organic fertiliser by mixing with cow dung and few natural enzymes.
  • The scheme also generates employment among rural youth.
  • The government supports the transportation of parali from the farm to the nearest gauthan.
  • The state has successfully developed 2,000 gauthans.
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