With 37.2 percent of its 1.2 billion citizens officially estimated to be living in poverty, India has the unenviable record of being home to a third of the world’s poor. And while the country has averted famines since independence, it has not been as successful at preventing chronic hunger. This article provides a broad overview of Indian democracy’s struggle with development and discusses the type of progress democratic India has made over the years in fighting poverty and inequality. Thereafter, it specifically examines undernutrition and starvation deaths in Orissa, one of India’s poorest states. It argues that instead of sustained commitment to long-term policies that aim to reduce vulnerability to hunger, the political-administrative response is typically short-term, ad hoc, populist, and clientelistic in character.