Skip to main content

Whither India's 'goal' of brighter future? NHFS-5 data: child malnutrition goes up

By Dr Gurinder Kaur*

The data of the first round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 (2019-20) has recently been released by Union Health Minister Harshvardhan. According to the released data, the rate of malnutrition in the country has increased as compared to the NFHS, which is a matter of great concern. Malnutrition means that food is in short supply and lacks essential nutrients.
Before the commencement of Covid-19, data for this round of survey were collected from 17 states and five union territories of the country. Major states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, West Bengal,Gujarat, Telangana,Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and some other states are included in the first round.
But the data collection for the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some other states was resumed from November 2020, which had to be discontinued in March 2020 due to Covid-19.
The fact that the rate of malnutrition among children in the states surveyed in the first round exceeds NFHS-4 indicates a bleak future for the country. Children are the future of the country, but how will they contribute to the development of the country if they do not get the required adequate and nutritious food?
According to NFHS-5, in 13 out of 22 states and union territories, the percentage of children with stunted growth has increased. In the first round of the survey, Gujarat had 39 percent of these children which is higher as compared to all other states and union territories. This percentage is 35 for Maharashtra, 33.8 for West Bengal, 33.1 for Telangana and 23.4 for Kerala.
Gujarat is a state whose model has been propagated across the country. These figures show that except Kerala in all these states around one-third of the children do not get required food. Even in a state like Kerala, every fifth child has stunted growth and 15.3 per cent of children are underweight, while it is leading in terms of other human development indicators such as literacy and sex ratio.
NFHS-5 has revealed that out of 22 states and 12 union territories, in 12 children are underweight for their height while in 16 children are underweight for their age. In the current survey there is also an increase in the percentage of anemic children.
Malnutrition among children is on rise in most of the states and union territories. India has a higher percentage of underweight children in South Asia. Even in terms of malnutrition, India still stands out as one of the most undernourished country of a dozen countries such as Ethiopia, Congo and other countries.
Malnutrition has devastating effects on children's health and all other aspects of their growth. As many as 60 per cent of child deaths in India due to malnutrition as weaker children have very low immunity and as a result these weak children are unable to fight with diseases.
In addition, in the early years of life, they lag behind other children in schooling and other activities. An increase in the rate of malnutrition not only increases the infant mortality rate but also has a negative impact on the overall development of the country.
Gujarat is a state whose model has been propagated across the country. Figures show that except Kerala in other states around one-third of the children do not get required food
One fact that deserves special attention is that these figures relate to the pre-pandemic period. During Covid-19, millions of people lost their jobs and migrant workers across the country faced severe food shortages that left pregnant women and children without access to adequate food with required nutrition, making later figures more alarming.
A survey by Hunger Watch has revealed that members of poor families have reported they now eat less nutritious food than before the lockdown.These malnutrition figures also highlight the weakness of those claims which indicates that the government has much more food than the requirement of the population of the country and provides food to the poor as required.
The abundance of food and other essential commodities in the market or the country alone cannot fill the stomachs of the people unless they have required purchasing power. Unemployment in the country is rising day by day. According to the government's own figures, the present unemployment rate in the country is highest during the last 45 years. 
On the one hand unemployment is on rise while on the other the prices of essential commodities are also rising due to which nutrients in the diet of the common man are declining. The politics on cheap meat in recent years may also have reduced the amount of nutrients in the diet of the poor.
Malnutrition has deep roots in our country. Being a patriarchal society, in most cases girls are being discriminated against by boys in the availability of food as well as other aspects. Girls are given less nutritious food which makes them anemic and weak.As a result, these girls give birth to vulnerable children when they become mothers.
NFHS-5 clearly depicts a picture of the government's indifference to children. This survey captures data of the first five years of NDA government. In 2014-15, Rs 13,000 crore were provided for mid-day meal which has been reduced to Rs 11,000 crore in 2019-20 which is likely to increase the rate of malnutrition.
The health sector's share in the country's budget is not in the line with the needs of the people.During the period 2008-09 to 2019-20 ,only 1.2 to 1.6 per cent of the GDP has been spent on health services by the Central and State Governments which needs to be increased. Instead of reducing this amount in every successive budget,it should be increased because the population of the country is increasing every year.
Nutritious food items such as eggs, milk,fruits etc. should be included in the mid-day meal. Anganwadi workers should be paid in full so that can take good care of the children. If they are not paid enough to meet their needs, they will not be able to pay full attention to the anganwadi children.
To make the health services efficient the government should appoint sufficient number of doctors, nurses and para-medical staff. Required medicine should be properly provided to the pregnant women so that they can give birth to healthy babies.
The government should pay proper attention to the upbringing of children and make a foresighted plan for it and implement it seriously. Children are the foundations of a country. The development of a country can happen only if the children are healthy and fit. In order to create a better future for children of the country, a prerequisite for the government is to adopt a pro-people economic model instead of the pro-corporate model.
---
*Professor, department of geography, Punjabi University,Patiala

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w