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

North Gujarat gram panchayat bars villagers from dealing with Muslim hawkers, traders

By Our Representative  A gram panchayat in North Gujarat has barred its residents not to buy anything from Muslim traders and hawkers. An order of the Waghasan group gram panchayat of Tharad taluka of Banaskantha district dated June 30 states that the decision has been taken in the wake of beheading of a Hindu tailor after he posted a derogatory writeup on Prophet Mohammad in Udaipur. The gram panchayat resolution says, anyone seen buying or selling any commodity from a Muslim hawker or trader would be fined Rs 5,100. Bringing this to light, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, says, the state government should take legal action against the panchayat chief who has signed the “unjust” order. The letter says, the act of the sarpanch and other signatories is a violation of rule of law of the state and threat to peace, pointing out, the move is in violation of Article 15 of the Constitution, which says that none

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Teesta treaty? Modi sends ball to Mamata's court amidst Hasina's mango diplomacy

By Samina Akhter*  Most Bangladeshi and India media reports say that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has received 600 kg of mangoes from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as part of her "mango-hilsa diplomacy." Hasina also delivered mangoes to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, according to the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in India. In all, 1,200 kg of Amrapali mangoes were delivered to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister of India. According to a Bangladesh's deputy high commission official in Kolkata, a few more chief ministers in the eastern region will likely receive similar gifts. Last year, not only President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, but also the chief ministers of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam also received mangoes from Prime Minister Hasina. Hasina delivered mangoes from Rajshahi, including kinds like Golapkhas and Amrapali, as it is the peak season for the delectable fruit in

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization

Majoritarian silence helping Hindutva forces 'handover' national resources to corporates

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The majority of Indian citizens are witnessing the persecution and everyday violence against their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities. The growing assaults on reason, science, secularism, Indian democracy and constitution are going to be landmarks in Indian history of diminishing democracy and citizenship rights. It is clear that Hindutva ideology is directly promoting sectarian politics of hate which is dangerous for the unity and integrity of India, peace and prosperity of Indians. The majoritarian silence helps in empowering Hindutva and their electoral dividends. From witnessing the persecution in the sidelines to the active participation and cheering loud or silence accelerates violence against our neighbours and our fellow citizens. How and why do majority of Indians stay silent and contribute to the persecution of their fellow citizens who are Muslims and religious minorities? The question baffles me as an Indian because I have gr