With almost every second child stunted in the country, India is virtually a nutritional basket case…The stasis in India’s nutritional indicators owes to three key factors.
First, the double whammy of high population density and unsanitary
conditions in India stunts the growth of children, who bear a
disproportionate burden of infectious diseases and lose their ability to
absorb nutrients…Second, India’s lopsided food policy has made cereals widely available
at the cost of other foods. The so-called green revolution focused on
cereals, and met the needs of a hungry nation but the nutrient deficit
remained unaddressed. Consumption figures reported by the National
Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reflect this. Barely 1% of households
reported skipping two square meals a day in the latest NSSO survey. Even
the average cereal consumption across income classes is roughly equal.
But many families in the lower income deciles are unable to afford
pulses, fruits and vegetables…The third key reason for the high malnutrition burden is the
extraordinarily low social status of women in India. Within families,
women receive fewer nutrients than men and since a majority of women are
anaemic and under-nourished, they bear babies with low birth weights.
India has among the highest proportions of low birth-weight babies, who
face a nutritional disadvantage right at birth. This problem is a
civilizational challenge for the country, and one that is unlikely to be
solved by government action alone.