Issue of Hunger in India

Issue of Hunger in India

This article deals with ‘Issue of Hunger in India.’ This is part of our series on ‘Governance’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What is Food Security? 

Issue of Hunger in India

It has three aspects wrt access

Physical There should be a presence of food  
Social There should be social access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food. Consider the following situations
1. Dalits aren’t given food or given food on the ground
2. Male child is given nutritious food than the girl child
Economic People should have money to buy safe, sufficient and nutritious food  


Malnutrition in India
  • It is a physiological condition due to an unbalanced intake of macro and micronutrients manifested in the form of 
    • Wasting, i.e. low weight: height ratio
    • Stunting, i.e. the height is lower wrt age.
    • Underweight, i.e. weight is lower wrt age. 
    • Anaemia, i.e. low Red Blood Cells 
  • Malnutrition at early stages reduces intelligence and affects the formation of cognitive and non-cognitive skills that affect long-term wellbeing. 
  • The cost of malnutrition is high both for individuals and nations. 


  • Anaemia is a condition of having a lower quantity of red blood cells or lower haemoglobin in the body. 
  • Its causes include 
    1. Inadequate intake of iron, folic acid or vitamin B12
    2. Infections such as malaria, hookworm infestation, and other parasitic diseases which cause blood loss, impairing nutrient absorption
    3. Women are vulnerable to Anaemia due to menstrual blood loss, pregnancy, and lactation

Sustainable Development Goals and Hunger

SDGs also deal with the issue of Hunger. For example,

Sustainable Development Goals and Hunger

IFPRI Global Hunger Index

  • Status of India on the Global Hunger Index (2022) released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
    • Rank = 107 (out of 121 countries)
    • According to the report, India is home to the largest number of hungry in the world.    
  • But they have also appreciated MGNREGA, NRHM & ICDS programs of the government and recognized their role in reducing Hunger, but even after that, the absolute number is very high. 

Concept of Hidden Hunger

  • 2014 Report has spoken about HIDDEN HUNGER 
  • If the person is just taking Carbohydrates in his diet, he willn’t die. But this isn’t enough for the overall development of the human body. Vitamins and other micronutrients are equally important. It is known as Hidden Hunger because it often goes unnoticed.
  • More than 50% of women & children in India suffer from Anaemia. 
  • To fight Hidden Hunger, one can use  
    • Iodized Salt
    • Fortified Flour
    • Biofortification of crops 
    • PDS Reforms
    • Education 

Causes of Malnutrition

The green revolution phase saw new, fast-growing varieties of staples, especially wheat and rice; the following decades saw a steady decline in the food basket diversity, especially of traditional grains such as bajra and millet, which have nutritional value.

  • Micronutrient Deficiencies / Hangover of Green Revolution: Green Revolution phase saw new and fast-growing varieties of staples, especially wheat and rice; the following decades saw a steady decline in the food basket diversity, especially of traditional grains such as bajra and millet, which have high nutritional value. Indians suffer deficiencies in vitamins and minerals- iron, vitamin A, zinc and iodine due to faulty diet. 
  • Breastfeeding Practices:  Lack of improvement in infant and young child feeding practices are also responsible for poor nutrition status.
  • Poor Sanitation: About half of Indians defecate outside without using toilets, and from here, children pick up parasites and chronic infections that impair the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrition.  
  • Problem with Public Distribution System (PDS) 
    • Leakages in PDS: In 2012, 46% of total grains released through PDS leaked 
    • Wastage: 62,000 tonnes of wheat & rice damaged in Food Corporation of India godowns
  • Social Causes: Women in the household and Girlchild don’t get proper food (compared to other members) 
  • Social and Cultural Factors: Social and cultural factors, such as traditional food practices, dietary beliefs, and taboos, can influence food choices and dietary patterns.
  • Climate Change and Agricultural Challenges: Climate change impacts agriculture, affecting crop yields and food production affecting food availability and affordability.


Implications of NFSA

What India is doing to fight Hunger / Malnutrition

  • National Food Security Act (NFSA):  Explained below
  • Mid-Day Meals in School: The Mid-Day Meal Scheme is a school feeding program providing free meals to students in government and government-aided schools to meet their dietary requirements.
  • POSHAN Scheme:  Explained below
  • National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM): NRLM aims to alleviate rural poverty by promoting livelihoods. 
  • MGNREGA: Provides guarantee of 100-day work and has increased income of poor. 
  • Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM): SBM aims to eliminate open defecation, thus contributing to reduced waterborne diseases, improving sanitation, and enhancing nutrition outcomes.
  • Integrated Child Development Program (ICDP): It focuses on the holistic development of children under six years by providing supplementary nutrition, healthcare, immunization, early childhood education, and other services through Anganwadi centres. 
  • Initiatives such as India Food Banking Network (IFBN) are promoting the concept of collaborative consumption with support from the private sector and civil society organizations. 
  • Other Schemes
    • National Iron Plus Initiative and Vitamin A Supplements 
    • Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding  

National Food Safety Act (NFSA)/ Public Distribution System

National Food Safety Act
  • Central government procures the produce from farmers at MSP, store and then supply it to states at Central Issue Price.
  • State Government identifies the beneficiaries using Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) in a way that it cover 67% of population and then distribute cereals /allowance to them at low price through Fair Price Shops.

Eligible Households

There are two types of eligible households under NFSA, 2013

Priority Household State Governments shall prepare guidelines to prepare the list of Priority Households (consisting of 67% of population).
Antyodaya Household Houses covered under Antyodaya Anna Yojana

Entitlements under NFSA

National Food Safety Act


  • Fiscal Deficit: There is no need to cover 67% population & it should have been a targeted scheme. Such a broad coverage leads to a Fiscal deficit.
  • The Hidden Hunger Problem remains because it doesn’t have pulses, edible oil, fruits, veggies and milk component in it. The present diet entitlement just provides carbohydrates.  
  • Nothing done to reduce leakage: GPS Truck tracking, CCTV etc., should have been used in this, but there isn’t any provision like this in the act.
  • Exclusion Errors: Deserving beneficiaries are excluded due to inaccurate identification of eligible households, ineffective ration card distribution, and corruption, thus limiting the reach of the program.
  • Quality of Food Grains: The quality of food grains provided through the PDS is often substandard due to poor quality, adulteration, and insect infestation.
  • Storage Issues: Large amount of grains rot in godowns because proper infrastructure is not present

Economic Survey is of the view that instead of this, Food Stamps should be given to target people who can buy the food of their choice from the market.  

Best Practices Introduced by States

Issue of Smart Card Haryana , Tamil Nadu, Punjab
Using GPS Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu
SMS based Monitoring Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, UP

One Nation One Ration Card

Issue: Currently, the ration card for accessing the benefits provided under National Food Safety Act (NFSA) is location specific. Hence, if a person migrates to another state or another place in the same state, the beneficiary can’t buy cheap grains.

Way out: The government has introduced the One Nation One Ration Card, under which all the ration cards have been connected to the central server. Beneficiaries can access their entitlement to cheaper food grains anywhere in the country. 


  • POSHAN, or PM’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment Abhiyaan, aims to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, mothers and children.
  • The mission’s target is to reduce stunting in children aged between 0-6 years. It also aims to reduce Anaemia among women and adolescent girls.
  • In 2021, Central Government merged schemes like the Supplementary Nutrition Programme under Anganwadi Services, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and POSHAN Abhiyaan, known as POSHAN 2.0.

2 thoughts on “Issue of Hunger in India”

  1. I really enjoyed the article. It is full of information , to the point and excellent if you are reading it for your Civil Service UPSC prepration.


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