Trends across time
Since the India State Hunger Index has not been estimated over two points in time, it is difficult to examine changes in the values of the state Indices over time. However, the similarity in construction of the India State Hunger Index to a state level Nutrition Index6 calculated using data for 1994 (Wiesmann, 2004) gives us the ability to examine, at a minimum, the changes in rankings of the different states over the last 14 years.
Table 5 presents the rankings of states within India using the India State Hunger Index in 2008 and the Nutrition Index in 1994. We note some distinct changes in ranking over time. Particularly striking is the poor performance of the states of Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. In 1994, Madhya Pradesh ranked 11th out of the 15 states, while it ranked last (17th) in 2008. Given the large contribution of child underweight to the ISHI scores, the decline in ranking could be due to the lack of improvement in child undernutrition rates in Madhya Pradesh over the last seven years7. Similarly, Orissa, which ranked 5th on the Nutrition Index in 1994, now ranks 12th on the ISHI 2008. Haryana, despite its impressive economic performance, also seems to have performed poorly in terms of reduction of hunger; while it was ahead of all other states in 1994, it now ranks 5th on the ISHI 2008.
There are a few states which have outperformed others in enhancing food and nutrition security, and this is apparent in upward changes in the ranks between the NI and the ISHI 2008. Noteworthy among these is the increase in ranking of Assam. The state was one of the poorest performers and ranked 14th on the Nutrition Index in 1994 but became one of the best performers in 2008, in spite of having had the lowest growth rate of per capita income over the past 14 years among all states. Tamil Nadu is another state which has performed well and improved its ranking from 12th in 1994 to 6th in 2008.
Overall, the changes in rankings are somewhat sobering. The trends in few states that have improved despite the economic odds underscore the importance of investments in social protection, health and nutrition services to ensure progress on poverty and hunger alleviation. Continued monitoring of trends using indicators like the India State Hunger Index is essential to monitor progress and sustain attention to the issue of hunger and undernutrition.
6 The Nutrition Index estimated by Wiesmann (2004) uses the same variables as the India State Hunger Index, i.e., child nutrition, child mortality and calorie undernourishment. The Nutrition Index differs in that it uses FAO dietary energy supply data for estimating calorie undernourishment, and it uses prevalence of underweight among children under four years of age, rather than children under five years of age. While index scores cannot be compared between the Nutrition Index and the ISHI, the comparisons are still valid from the point of view of comparing rankings across time.
Authors’ calculations based on the NFHS data show that the underweight rate among children under three years
of age increased from 55.1 percent in 1998‐99 to 57.7 percent in 2005‐06.