India ranks 102 out of 117 countries on this year's the Global Hunger Index (GHI). The annual index is designed to measure and track hunger at the global, national and regional levels, and to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger.
Many users of social media and political leaders have taken to social media to compare India's 2014 score, where it ranked 55 to its current score on the list. They are lamenting India's fall in rankings, and are blaming India's fall in rankings on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.
Among them is Rahul Gandhi, former president of the Congress Party.
Even the finance minister of Kerala, Thomas Isaac, tweeted this; whose archived version can be found here.
Popular writers and online influencers too have written about this.
BOOM answers questions regarding the index and queries around its comparability.
What is the GHI?
The 'GHI' is a tool to measure progress made by countries in reducing hunger. The report detailing the rankings is published annually by the Concern Worldwide, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Welthungerhilfe, a German non-governmental organisation.
The indicator includes four indicators spread among three dimensions.
All countries are given a score between 0 and 100, with 0 being the best score and 100 the worst.
How has India performed on the GHI 2019?
India has scored 30.3 points on this years GHI, falling within the 'serious' category. The report says that:
- India's child stunting is extremely high, at 37.9%, with respect to public health significance
- India's child wasting is extremely high at 20.8% - the highest wasting rate of any country in the available data for 2019
- Just 9.6% of children between 6 - 23 months are fed a minimum acceptable diet
- As of 2015 - 2016, 90% of Indian households had an improved source of drinking water
Can values across years be compared?
No, values across years cannot be compared. The makers of the index have clarified this at multiple points within the index documentation. In 2014, India ranked 55 out of 76 countries. In 2018, India ranked 103 out of 119 countries.
The introduction to the index, that lists out the scores and the 2019 ranking of the countries carries the following notification.
Rankings and index scores from this table cannot be accurately compared to ranking and index scores from previous reports.
Moreover, the report states:
GHI scores are comparable within each year’s report, but not between different years’ reports
This is attributed to the constant revision by the United Nations of its data tables, which forms the underlying data to the GHI. The report then goes on to say, "Comparing scores between reports may create the impression that hunger has changed positively or negatively in a specific country from year to year, whereas in some cases the change may be partly or fully a reflection of a data revision." This notification can been seen here.
Further, the GHI also cautions against revisions in the methodology that was undertaken in 2015. Instead of the 'child wasting' and 'child stunting' indicators that are being used right now, a 'child overweight' indicator was used. The report further says that revisions are routine with the reports, and should be taken into account when taken
However, scores of a GHI for a focus year (in this case 2019) can be compared with 3 reference years - in this case 2000, 2005 and 2010, which has been given as an appendix to the GHI documentation. This enables the comparison of the GHI data over time. Data series' for a bracket of years are aggregated to a particular reference point.
For example, based on the screenshot below from the report, data available from 1998 - 2002 is aggregated to the 2000 reference point, and so on.
This can be seen here.
According to the appendix, India's GHI over time is:
India's score has fallen 8.5 points since 2000, a fall of 21.9%, which signals an improvement.
Has this confusion been seen before?
Yes. In 2017, users of social media and opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi had used this index to attack the government on its supposedly dismal performance on eradicating hunger.
IFPRI, one of the makers of the GHI, then had to come out with a press statement on how to interpret India's GHI data. Even then, they discouraged comparisons across years.
BOOM has written comprehensively on this issues.
For more coverage on India's performance on international indices,
This story has been updated with Rahul Gandhi's tweet