The methodology that was used to calculate the 2021 Global Hunger Index score is “unscientific”, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development claimed on Friday. The statement came a day after India was ranked 101st among 116 countries in this year’s Global Hunger Index.

India ranked behind its neighbours Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh this year. Last year, India had ranked 94th among 107 countries.

“It is shocking to find that the Global Hunger Report 2021 has lowered the rank of India on the basis of FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] estimate on proportion of undernourished population, which is found to be devoid of ground reality and facts and suffers from serious methodological issues,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Global Hunger Index score is calculated on four indicators – undernourishment, child wasting (the share of children under the age of five with low weight for their height), child stunting (children under the age of five with low height for their age) and mortality of children aged below five.

India’s global hunger index score this year was 27.5 – a slight improvement from last year’s 27.2. However, this still put India in the “serious” category along with 30 other countries, including Pakistan placed at the 92nd position. Nepal and Bangladesh were ranked 76th.

On Friday, the ministry questioned the assessment method of the report and said that it was based on a “four-question opinion poll” by an analytics company Gallup.

“There is no scientific methodology to measure undernourishment like availability of food grains per capita during the period,” it said. “The scientific measurement of undernourishment would require measurement of weight and height, whereas the methodology involved here is based on Gallup poll based on pure telephonic estimate of the population.”

The ministry added that the report disregarded the government initiatives to ensure food security to the country’s population during the coronavirus pandemic. It listed several measures undertaken by the central government, including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna, the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme and the PM Kisan scheme.

“The opinion poll does not have a single question on whether the respondent received any food support from the government or other sources,” the ministry said in its statement. “The representativeness of even this opinion poll is doubtful for India and other countries.”

The ministry also expressed surprise at the report’s statement that Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka have not been affected by job loss and reduction in income levels due to the pandemic but instead have managed to improve their ranks on the indicator for undernourishment.