Economics Prelims 2021 Social Issues

76% Rural India can’t afford nutritious diet

Why to Read ?

  • The recently published paper, titled “Affordability of nutritious diets in rural India”, by an economist of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • It will help in to asses the bottlenecks to “The road to zero hunger by 2030” of SDG.
  • In the recent Global Hunger Index 📇 (GHI), India ranks 94 out of 107 countries in the Index, lower than neighbours such as Bangladesh (75) and Pakistan (88).
    • As per GHI report, India has the highest prevalence of wasted children under five years in the world, which reflects acute undernutrition. (Falls under “Serious” Category

About the Report

Methodology of the study

  • The study used the wages of unskilled workers, and dietary items such as dairy, fruit and dark green leafy vegetables as the reference baseline for the study.
    • Unskilled workers account for a larger proportion of the total workers in the rural areas. The industrial workers are in a much smaller proportion.
    • The National Institute for Nutrition’s guidelines for a nutritionally adequate diet call for adult women to eat 330 gm of cereals and 75 gm of pulses a day, along with 300 gm of dairy, 100 gm of fruit, and 300 gm of vegetables, which should include at least 100 gm of dark green leafy vegetables.
  • The study used the latest available food price and wage information from the National Sample Survey’s 2011 dataset.
  • Selecting the cheapest options from actual Indian diets the study calculated that a day’s meals would cost ₹45 for a women and ₹51 for an adult man.

Salient observations

  • As per the benchmarks of the study, even if a person spent all his/her income on food, 63.3% of the rural population or more than 52 crore Indians would still not be able to afford a nutritious meal.
  • If a person sets aside just a third of his/her income for non-food expenses, in such a scenario around 76% of rural Indians would not be able to afford the recommended diet.
  • On indicators that simply measure calorie intake, India performs relatively better, but this metric does not account for the nutrition value of those calories, which provides a more comprehensive view of the nutrition quality.


  • Notably, the study does not account for the meals of non-earning members of a household, such as children or older adults implying that a larger number would be facing the issue of non-affordability of nutritious diet in rural areas.
  • The observations made in the study go against the observations made in the recent Economic Survey. This year’s Economic Survey’s ‘Thalinomics’, had noted that the affordability of meals had increased in India.

Way forward

  • Well implementation of POSHAN Abhiyan launched in 2018 by MoWCD is the way ahead to mitigate the challenges & this report act as the guiding principal where to hit to get desired outcome.

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