We may be the 4th fastest growing economy in the world, but something as basic as food is still a source of worry for a majority of our people.
A survey by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau reports that in our villages, which are home to 70% of our population (almost 833 million Indians), people consume nutrients in much smaller amounts than is the required minimum.
The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau was set up in 1972 to study the status of nutrition in rural homes in the country across ten states. Surveys conducted for the same over three time-periods of 1975-79, 1996-97 and 2011-12 reveal that our eating habits have slowly been growing worse, with lesser health food being consumed in rural pockets.
On an average, compared to 1975-79, a rural citizen consumes 550 calories, 13 gm protein, 5mg iron, 250 mg calcium and 500mg vitamin A less than before. Children below 3 get to have approximately 80ml milk, compared to the 300ml that they require. This data explains the reason behind the severe undernourishment of our rural men and women (35%) and underweight children (42%). The situation in poor areas is worse, as Aajeevika Bureau, a not-for-profit-organisation noted; half of 500 mothers monitored in some parts of Rajasthan had had deplorable amounts of food, as a result of which half of the mothers and their children (under 3) were undernourished.
This data has an economic impact as well- supporting an ailing populace cuts into the pockets of the government. A 2015 World Bank report noted that "The consequences of child undernutrition for morbidity and mortality are enormous – and there is, in addition, an appreciable impact of undernutrition on productivity so that a failure to invest in combating nutrition reduces potential economic growth." A lack of healthy working citizens then has direct implications on PM Modi's Make in India and Skill-development programs.
India's economy has been growing steadily, surviving even the bears that shook the markets a few years ago. However, it makes opposite sense that more than half of our nation has less food on its plate today than fifty years ago.
The NNMB carried out another survey, which revealed that in over forty years, the number of landless people grew in our country, while the number of owners and cultivators decreased by almost half, and food inflation rose at a rapid rate (10%). The result was that less people had the monetary ability to buy foodstuffs that increasingly fewer people were growing.
All of this contributed to the state India is in today- we rank much below several other second world nations in terms of nutrition levels, 13 times worse than Brazil, nine times worse than China, and three times as compared to South Africa. And yet, no appropriate policy action is seen being taken- in 2015, the National Nutritional Monitoring Bureau was shut down.