As polling in Uttar Pradesh is underway, BJP and its opponents were involved in attacks against each other. Recently BJP president Amit Shah likened his rivals in UP polls to the 26/11 Mumbai attack terrorist Ajmal Kasab by coining a potentially divisive acronym, he stepped up his attack saying a river of cattle blood had flowed in the state during Congress, SP and BSP regimes. Promising that a BJP government in UP will shut down all slaughterhouses in UP, we (BJP) will create a river of milk and ghee in the state. Anyway, this was a political statement, but Shah needs to realise that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth.
India is one of the fastest growing countries in terms of population and economics having a population of 1.2 billion and growing at 1.5%–1.7% annually. The nation’s Gross Domestic Product growth was 9.0% from 2007 to 2008; since Independence in 1947, its economic status has been classified as a low-income country with majority of the population at or below the poverty line. In 2017 nothing much has changed as the population too has surged. In such circumstances, Indian children really need milk, ghee and high protein diet. If Shah or BJP is really planning to flow milk rivers then India may get out of this malnutrition index one day.
Though most of the population is still living below the National Poverty Line, its economic growth indicates new opportunities and a movement towards increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases which is observed in at high rates in developing countries. The combination of people living in poverty and the recent economic growth of India has led to the co-emergence of two types of malnutrition. Malnutrition refers to the situation where there is an unbalanced diet in which some nutrients are in excess, lacking or wrong proportion. Simply put, we can categorise it to be under-nutrition and over-nutrition. Despite India’s 50 per cent increase in GDP since 1991 more than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in our nation. Among these, half of them under three are underweight and a third of wealthiest children are affected by over-nutrition even today in 2017.
Some of the major causes for malnutrition in India are Economic inequality. Due to the low social status of some population groups, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. Women who suffer malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. In India, mothers generally lack proper knowledge in feeding children. Consequently, new born infants are unable to get adequate amount of nutrition from their mothers. No government ever took this issue as election agenda or ever spoke about offering good food to mother and children, but what Amit Shah said is the need of the hour. I am not interested in what contest he said so, but wish he could seriously do something in this regard.
Insufficiencies in nutrition inflict long-term damage to both individuals and society. Compared with their better-fed peers, nutrition-deficient individuals are more likely to have infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which leads to a higher mortality rate. In addition, nutrition-deficient individuals are less productive at work. Low productivity not only gives them low pay that traps them in a vicious circle of under-nutrition, but also brings inefficiency to the society, especially in India where labour is a major input factor for economic production. On the other hand, over-nutrition also has severe consequences.
Global Hunger Index India is on place 67 among the 80 nations having the worst hunger situation which is worse than nations such as North Korea or Sudan. Twenty five per cent of all hungry people worldwide live in India. Since 1990 there have been some improvements for children but the proportion of hungry in the population has increased in the recent past. In India 44% of children under the age of five are underweight. 72% of infants and 52% of married women have anaemia. Research has conclusively shown that malnutrition during pregnancy causes the child to have increased risk of future diseases, physical retardation, and reduced cognitive abilities. In general, those who are poor are at risk for under-nutrition. Under-nutrition is more prevalent in rural areas, again mainly due to low socio-economic status. Anaemia for both men and women is only slightly higher in rural areas than in urban areas. For example, in 2005, 40% of women in rural areas, and 36% of women in urban areas were found to have mild anaemia.
In terms of geographical regions, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar Uttar, Pradesh and Gujarat have very high rates of under-nutrition. Further, anaemia is found in over 70% of individuals in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, and Jharkhand. Less than 50% of individuals in Goa, Manipur, Mizoram, and Kerala have anaemia. With one sixth of the global population residing in India, one third of about two billion people suffering from vitamin and micronutrient deficit are in India. Micronutrients are required in small quantities and responsible for vital functions of the human body. Hope government realises their responsibilities, and the jibes they gave to opponents comes true, and children of this country would be flooded with milk, ghee and better food.
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