A total of 79% of Indian households across 14 states which responded to the second “Hunger Watch” survey reported some form of “food insecurity” in 2021. As much as 25% of the families said that that they faced “severe food insecurity”, the survey report released on Wednesday showed.

The survey was conducted between December 2021 and January 2022.

The survey, conducted by a group of organisations, including the Right to Food Campaign and the Centre for Equity Studies calculated “food insecurity” based on the Global Food Insecurity Experience Scale developed by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

In this method, respondents are asked eight questions such as if they were worried about not having enough food to eat or were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food due to lack of money or other resources.

The Hunger Watch survey then gave each response of “yes” a score of one and zero to “no”. An overall score of 1-3 on this scale meant that the household experienced “mild food insecurity”, 4-6 meant they experienced “moderate food insecurity”, and 7-8 showed that there was “severe food insecurity”.

The survey also showed that 31% of the respondents reported “mild food insecurity” and 23% experienced “moderate food insecurity”.

It said that over 60% of those surveyed were worried about not having enough food, were unable to eat healthy or nutritious food or could eat only a few food items.

“About 45% of the respondents reported that their household ran out of food in the month preceding the survey,” the report said. It also said that about 33% of the respondents said they or someone in their household had to skip a meal.

The survey was conducted on 6,697 respondents from 14 states – Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Delhi, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and West Bengal.

The report said that 41% of households surveyed, reported that the nutritional quality of their diet had deteriorated as compared to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

It also said that the income levels of 66% of the respondents had fallen as compared to that before the pandemic that broke out in January 2020. The survey said that 60% of families whose income had dropped, reported that their current earnings was less than half what it had been before the pandemic.

“Close to 45% of the households had some outstanding debt,” it said. “Among those with outstanding debt, 21% of the total respondents have a total amount of debt of more than Rs 50,000.”

The report also said that while 90% of the households that had a ration card said that they received some food grains, 25% of those eligible said they did not receive any benefits of the Midday Meal Scheme and Integrated Child Development Services programme.

It said that only 13% of eligible respondents reported to have received Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) maternity benefit entitlements regularly since pandemic began. The figure was 29% for pension payments among those households with an eligible member.

Impact on Covid-19 on children and health

The report showed that 3% of the respondents lost a family member to the coronavirus infection, but only 45% of them received a compensation. It said that 32% of the households reported that a member had stopped working or lost wages due to the pandemic.

The survey said that at least one child in six households dropped out of school and one in 16 entered the workforce.

A total of 23% of the households also incurred a major health expenditure, it said. “Among those households, 13% incurred an expenditure of more than Rs 50,000 and 35% of more than Rs 10,000.”

Also read:

  1. In 2020, one in 10 people on Earth was undernourished
  2. Harsh Mander: A lesson in how to end the mass suffering unleashed by India’s first lockdown

Hunger Watch demands

In view of the situation in the country, the Hunger Watch demanded that the Public Distribution System be universalised to provide ration to whoever demands it. It also said that the Public Distribution System should be expanded to include millets and other nutritious commodities such as pulses and oils while they are procured at the minimum support price.

The group said that Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana should be extended till the pandemic continues and distribution of edible oils and pulses be included in its provisions.

“Hot cooked meals under ICDS and midday meals should be revived immediately,” it said. “The budgets for these programmes should make adequate provisions for inclusion of eggs and nutrient dense diet in the meals. Hot cooked meals should extend to children under three years of age through crèches and to pregnant and lactating women through community kitchens.”

The group said that the central government contribution for social security pensions should be increase at least to Rs 2,000.

It also demanded that wages of all workers providing care work, such as Anganwadi workers should be increased and a decent working conditions for them is ensured.