Hyderabad: In poll-bound Chattisgarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, November 4, said his government will extend Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which provides 5 kg of free food rations every month to about 80 crore (8 billion) poor, by another five years. The scheme was rolled out during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. “The free ration scheme’s tenure is going to be completed in December, but it will be extended for the next five years. This is Modi’s guarantee that the stoves will keep burning in the homes of my 80 crore (8 billion) countrymen, Modi said while addressing a rally in Durg in Chhattisgarh. The statement by Modi is also an admission of prevailing hunger in the country, which was also captured by the Global Hunger Index 2023. The index ranked India 111 out of 125 countries, which is worse than its neighbours; Pakistan was at 102, Bangladesh 81, Nepal 69, and Sri Lanka at 60. While the rate of undernourishment in India, according to the index, stood at 16.6% and under-five mortality at 3.1%, the prevalence of anemia in women aged between 15 and 24 years stood at 58.1%. After the release of the index, in the second week of October, the Modi government had rejected the index on the grounds of ‘methodological issues’. It had described the ranking given to India as “erroneous and having malafide intent”. Union women and child development minister, Smriti Irani, had dismissed the index by making remarks which opposition parties described as a “mockery of hunger” and called out her “insensitivity”. “For instance, the Global Hunger Index that makes headlines now, many a people have said it’s all hogwash. How do they build that indice? 3,000 people in a country of 140 crore get a phone call from Gallup and they are asked, ‘Are you hungry?’ She then went on to say, “Now trust me, I have left my house in Delhi in the morning at 4 today. I got a flight at 5 to go to Kochi. I did a conclave there. Got a flight at 5 o’clock to come to this programme. By the time I get to anything called food, it will be 10 o’clock. If you would have called me anytime during the day today and asked from Gallup, “Are you hungry?” I’ll say, “Oh yes, I am.” The Wire , in this piece , explains why Irani’s assertions on the hunger index are misleading. PM Modi has been attacking Opposition parties on what he has termed ‘revdi culture’ but Opposition parties have hit back, with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal saying, “Some people are talking about revdi. When revdi is distributed among the public for free, then it’s called ‘prasad’ [devotional offering]. He added, “is given for free to your own friends, ministers, then it is ‘paap’ [sin]”.

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