New Delhi: A paper published by the International Food Policy Research Institute and reported by the media including Hindu has observed that three in four Indians living in villages do not have the opportunity to maintain a diet which can be considered nutritious.
India is ranked 94th out of 107 nations in the 2020 Global Hunger Index and is in the ‘serious’ hunger category. Experts have blamed poor implementation processes, a lack of effective monitoring, a determined approach to treating malnutrition and poor performance by large states.
Published in peer-reviewed journal Food Policy, this last work, entitled Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India, was written by Kalyani Raghunathan Institute economist and researcher Derek D. Headey, along with senior researcher Anna Herforth.
The paper concludes that ‘malnutrition is endemic in India’, based on information on rural food prices and wages collected from the 2011 National Model Survey. The authors use this data to achieve “the lowest cost means for satisfy the specific dietary recommendations in India … and to assess the affordability of this diet compared to the male and female wages for unskilled workers ”.
Despite the fact that, “in 2015-16 about 38% of preschool children were deficient and 21% were wasted, while more than half of Indian mothers and children were anemic”, the paper reveals that “surprisingly few” discuss the role of diets, especially the affordability of nutritious diets in India.
Last year, India ranked 102th out of 117 countries in the Global Hunger Index.
Neighbors Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan were also in the ‘serious’ category but ranked higher than India in this year’s hunger index. While Bangladesh was ranked 75th, Myanmar and Pakistan were ranked 78th and 88th, respectively.
Nepal at 73 and Sri Lanka at 64th were in the ‘moderate’ hunger category, the report showed.
Among the solid problems lending themselves to the dire diet scenario in rural India are low wages and significant structural problems facing India’s agricultural sector, the paper presents.
Despite rising dietary costs between 2001 and 2011, the authors of the paper write that rural wages have also increased at that time. “However, in absolute terms nutritional diets in 2011 were still expensive compared to unskilled wages, accounting for approximately 50-60% of men and about 70-80% of the daily wages of women” of MGNREGA workers.
The paper finds that given the number of dependents in the average rural household and other non-food expenditures, “45-64% of rural poor cannot afford a nutritious diet that meets India’s national dietary guidelines”.
Significantly, the document calls for raising awareness of nutritional requirements in policy-making “and to shift India’s existing food policies from their severe bias towards cereals”.
According to Hindu, writers ’approach and their decision to focus on food items like milk, fruits and vegetables and their availability among unskilled workers helps provide a clearer picture of India’s food realities, unlike Economic Surveys Thalinomics, “Which provided a more rosy view of meal costs.”
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