Monday, 29 April 2024 11:19

Hunger and Nutrition: Promises, Claims and Reality

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"No person should go to bed hungry” – This PM NarendraModi’spromise on ensuring Food and Nutrition to all Indians.


The POSHAN abhiyaan and ‘Anaemia Mukt Bharat’ campaigns were launched with the characteristic fanfare by the Modi government in 2018. However, anaemia among children under five increased from 58.6% in 2015-16 to 67.1% in 2019-20. Prevalence of anaemia among adolescent girls increased from 54.1% to 59.15; among women of reproductive age, it increased from 53.3% to 57.2%. How did the Modi government respond? It has decided to remove anaemia from the NHFS -6 surveys.

As per the Family Health Survey for the period 2019-20 35.5%, i.e. more than one third of children under five in India are stunted, i.e. they are short for their age; 19.3%, i.e. around one fifth of children in the same age group are wasted, i.e. too thin for their height. In addition 32% of children under five are underweight.

Food Consumption:

The last Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) published by the National Sample Survey Office was conducted between August 2022 and July 2023.The aim was to calculate the Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) of Indian household. The per capita expenditure of the bottom 20 per cent of the total population was not more than Rs 2,112 in rural areas and Rs 3,157 in urban areas. It means a person can spend maximum Rs 70 per day in rural areas and Rs 100 per day in urban areas for his entire consumption starting from food, cloth, education, health, housing, transport, old-age expenses, electricity, fuel, communication, festival and all.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated that 23 crore people in India are poor, earning less than Rs 1268 in urban areasand Rs 1089 a month in rural areas.

With Parliament elections round the corner, we are bombarded with ‘Modi guarantees’. But what the Modi government has done during its ten years’ tenure, is curtail subsidies on many programmes and schemes that benefit the poor and deride whatever little subsidies to the poor as ‘revdies’.

Sharp decrease in food subsidy:

Food subsidy in the Central Budget in FY 2020-21 wasRs 5,41,330 crore. It has been curtailed down every year by the Modi government and in 2024-25 budget estimate, the allocation is Rs 2, 05,250 crore. At the same time the government advertisements boast of extending the PradhanMantriGaribKalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) of 5 kg free food grains to over 80 crore people up to 2028. Thus, indirectly the government acknowledges that over 80 crore, or more than 57% of our people are poor and need to be provided free food grains. It is also an indirect indication that it would be pursuing the same policies that would keep large number of our people poor and hungry for the next five years also. People are thus warned that the so called pre election ‘guarantees’ would be turned mere ‘jumlas’ once it crosses the bridge. 

Besides, food does not mean just rice or wheat. As per aCRISIL survey, the cost of a vegetarian thali was Rs 33.8, while that of a non-vegetarian thali was Rs 67.3 in August 2023. This means that two plates of vegetarian meal for one person, for lunch and dinner will cost Rs 2028 a month. As per the UNDP estimates of income, it is clear that more than 23 crore of our people are not in a position to have two meals a day, leave aside meet the other basic necessities of life.Oxfam India Report 2023 has exposed that yearly 17 lakh Indians die with diseases related to paucity of food intake.

Crores of poor in our country, most of them working poor, who produce the wealth of this country are compelled to go to bed hungry because of the policies pursued by this Modi led BJP government. They suffer hunger and malnutrition because the policies of this Modi government facilitate loot of the wealth produced by the workers and other sections of toiling people by a few big corporates, domestic and foreign. 

This Modi led BJP government must go to strengthen our united struggle for a hunger free and healthy country.

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