India is the second largest food producing country in the world and ranks first in the production of milk, pulses, rice, fish, vegetables and wheat. Despite this, a large population of the country is suffering from malnutrition. According to the United Nations’ ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022’ report, people’s struggle for survival has increased sharply after the 2019 Corona period. In 2021, 768 million people in the world were found to be undernourished, of which 224 million (29%) were Indians. This is a quarter of the total number of undernourished people in the world.
Today, malnutrition is one of the most serious problems in India, yet it has received the least attention. Today, India has 4.66 million underweight and 2.55 million height-for-age children in the world. And this is very alarming as the data of National Family Health Survey-4 shows that the prevalence of malnutrition has reduced in the country, but still more than half 51% of children from the lowest income group families are stunted and stunted. And 49% are underweight
The Government of India’s own statistics on malnutrition show that India’s malnutrition crisis has deepened. According to these statistics, more than 33 lakh children are malnourished in India at present. More than half of these, 17.7 lakh children, are severely malnourished.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization presented a report titled ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022: Repurposing Food and Agriculture Policies to Make Healthy Diets More Affordable’. According to this report, more than 97 crore people in India i.e. about 71 percent of the country’s population cannot afford nutritious food.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the definition of a healthy diet includes minimally processed foods. For example, for a balanced diet, the plate should contain plenty of whole grains, nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables and a moderate amount of protein. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization states that approximately $2.97 per person per day (in 2020) is spent on a healthy diet in India. In terms of purchasing power parity, this means that a family of four spends Rs 7,600 per month on food. Purchasing power parity is a principle of international exchange that shows the difference in price of a good or service between two countries.
70.5% of Indians cannot eat a healthy diet
The report suggests that 70.5 percent of Indians are unable to eat a healthy diet, while China (12 percent), Brazil (19 percent) and Sri Lanka (49 percent) have lower percentages. The position of Nepal (84 percent) and Pakistan (83.5 percent) is lower than that of India.
According to the report, there has certainly been some slow progress in India on the anti-hunger front. But, on the other hand, the problem of obesity is increasing. 3.4 crore people in the age group of 15 to 49 fall under the ‘overweight’ category. Four years ago this number was two and a half crores.
The gap between male and female participation in food insecurity has also widened. 31.9 percent of the world’s women are moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6 percent of men. Similarly, the problem of anemia has increased among women. A total of 18.7 crore Indian women are found to be disabled in 2021. In 2019, this number was close to 17.2 crore. That is, the number of women suffering from anemia has increased by one and a half crore in two years.
According to this report, about 80 crores i.e. about 60 percent are dependent on subsidized ration provided by the Indian government. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, apart from the special epidemic assistance of free five kg of foodgrains, the beneficiaries are given five kg of foodgrains per month at only Rs 2-3 per kg per person. The food subsidy program has been criticized for being a food grain, that is, the scheme provides enough calories but does not take into account adequate nutrition.
Interestingly, India’s position in the Global Hunger Index has also fallen further. India was ranked 94th out of 116 countries in 2020, while in 2021 it has slipped to 101st. India is now lagging behind its neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. This is very worrying. During the Corona crisis, the rich got richer, while the wealth of ordinary Indians declined by 7%. Many lost their jobs and lost their earnings. In such a situation, it is obvious that the government’s policies and claims of development are far away from the reality on the ground.
The National Family Health Survey has revealed that there has been no significant progress in child nutrition in the last four to five years under the Central Government. This situation has become worse in the lockdown. Hunger-Watch surveys also show that more than 60 percent of people are not getting enough nutritious food and their health has worsened during the lockdown. Despite this, the present government of India has consistently neglected schemes like mid-day meal and ICDS in the budget. And not realizing that these schemes have been useful in fighting malnutrition and hunger.
According to the United Nations report ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022’, by 2020 there were 307.42 crore people worldwide who did not have access to a healthy diet. That means 42 percent of the world’s population cannot eat healthy food. At the same time, there are 97.33 crore people in India who do not have a healthy diet. According to this, 70 percent of Indians do not get healthy food. This report also says that if a person eats healthy food every day, how much will he have to spend? If he eats a healthy diet in India every day, he will have to spend 2.9 dollars i.e. 235 rupees more for this. Accordingly, every person will spend more than 7 thousand rupees per month to eat healthy food every day. Due to expensive food, people cannot have a healthy diet.
If we talk about a healthy diet, 3 out of every 10 malnourished Indians in the world are so expensive that 97 crore people cannot afford a healthy diet. Although it is true that India is the second largest producer of wheat and rice in the world, it is unfortunate that more than 70 percent of the population does not have access to a healthy diet.
However, the report also said that the situation in India was improving, but the Corona epidemic put a brake on it. In 2017, 75% of Indians did not have access to a healthy diet. The number dropped to 71.5% in 2018 and 69.4% in 2019, but in 2020 the figure rose again to over 70%.
We can understand how big this problem is in India, China has more population than us, but the number of people who do not eat healthy food there is 5 times less than that of Indians. There are no fewer than 170 million people in China who cannot eat a healthy diet.
A United Nations report shows that the number of undernourished people in India has definitely decreased in 15 years, while the number of undernourished Indians in the world has increased.
According to the report, 24.78 crore people were malnourished in 2004-06, which declined to 22.43 crore in 2019-21. But in 2004-06 Indians accounted for 31% of the total undernourished Indians, while in 2019-21 the number of Indians increased to 32%.
Not only this, India still has more than 2 crore children under 5 years of age who are underweight for height. More than 3.6 crore children under 5 years of age are stunted.
The National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) report came out in November last year. The report states that only 11.3% of children aged 6 to 23 months are getting enough food.
According to the US Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), India is the largest producer of rice and wheat in the world, followed by China. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, India produced 130 million tonnes of rice and 110 million tonnes of wheat in 2021-22.
In India, under the National Food Security Act, food grains are available at affordable rates to the poor. From March 2020, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, the central government is giving free 5 kg food grains to 80 crore poor people every month. This scheme is applicable till September 2022. The government has spent 3.40 lakh crore rupees for this.
Children in class 1 to 8 or 6 to 14 are provided free meals in all government schools. Now the name of this scheme has been changed from midday meal scheme to PM-poshan scheme. Under PM-POSHAN, Rs 1.31 lakh crore will be spent from 2021-22 to 2025-26.
As news of looting of public welfare schemes of the government make headlines every day, we see how these public welfare schemes are being sabotaged with the connivance of administrative, political and middlemen.
The recently published Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report showed that the country’s unemployment rate rose by 0.68% to 7.80% on a monthly basis, as against the level of 7.12% in May. This increase in the unemployment rate is mainly due to the increase in the rural unemployment rate which has increased by 1.41% to 8.03% on a monthly basis.
At the same time, according to the United Nations report, more than 22 crore people are malnourished in India. More than 97 crore people do not have access to healthy food. In China, the number of people who do not get a healthy diet is 5 times less than that of Indians.
Talking about unemployment in 2022, the urban unemployment rate increased by 0.91% on a monthly basis to 7.30% in June and was at a level of 8.21% in May. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy said around 1.3 crore jobs were lost in June, leaving the rest out of the labor market, with the number of unemployed rising by only 3 million. This brought the labor force participation rate to a June low of 38.8%. In the last two months (April-May) it was 40%.
This sharp decline in employment is alarming. In the agriculture sector, around 8 million people lost their jobs in June, as rainfall fell below normal in many parts of the country in June. Therefore, the work of sowing crops in rural areas has not been speeded up. Unemployment in the rural areas has increased due to the delay in the employment of agricultural labourers.
According to Center for Monitoring Indian Economy data, Haryana had the highest unemployment rate at 30.6 percent. It is followed by Rajasthan 29.8 percent, Assam 17.2 percent, Jammu and Kashmir 17.2 percent and Bihar 14 percent. It is worrying that such a large number of workers are affected by the monsoon. Another worrisome factor is the loss of 2.5 lakh salaried jobs in June 2022. A cut in salaried jobs in June also added to the concern. The government reduced demand for the armed forces and opportunities in private equity-funded jobs began to dwindle. These jobs cannot be saved by good rains alone. To save and create these kinds of jobs, the economy needs to grow rapidly in the near future.
On the other hand, there is a severe lack of any kind of strong employment structure in the government’s policies. Every kind of undemocratic game has become the government’s priority just to stay in power.
Vikas Parashram Meshram