ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Food and Nutrition in India: Facts and Interpretations

This paper reviews recent evidence on food intake and nutrition in India. It attempts to make sense of various puzzles, particularly the decline of average calorie intake during the last 25 years. This decline has occurred across the distribution of real per capita expenditure, in spite of increases in real income and no long-term increase in the relative price of food. One hypothesis is that calorie requirements have declined due to lower levels of physical activity or improvements in the health environment. If correct, this does not imply that there are no calorie deficits in the Indian population - nothing could be further from the truth. These deficits are reflected in some of the worst anthropometric indicators in the world, and the sluggish rate of improvement of these indicators is of major concern. Yet recent trends remain confused and there is an urgent need for better nutrition monitoring.

Neglect of Children under Six

The following is an open letter to prime minister Manmohan Singh: We are writing to express our deep concern about the neglect of children under six in the Union Budget 2007-08. You may remember meeting some of us on December 19 last year (just after “Bal Adhikar Samvad”), when we discussed the...

Universalisation with Quality

India has some of the worst indicators of child well-being. About half of all Indian children are undernourished, more than half suffer from anaemia, and a similar proportion escape "full immunisation". There is therefore an urgent need to re-examine what India is doing for the survival, well-being and rights of children under the age of six years. Ultimately, this involves addressing the structural roots of child deprivation. However, there is also an immediate need to protect this age group by integrating it in an effective system of child development services that leaves no child behind. In this context, this paper, along with the collection of articles published in this issue, examines the role of the Integrated Child Development Services programme in protecting the rights of children under six.

Employment Guarantee in Jharkhand: Ground Realities

A recent survey in two districts of Jharkhand found many serious flaws in the implementation of the new National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. Some of them could be explained as teething problems. As the experience of Rajasthan shows, there is scope for better implementation. All said and done, NREGA has created a sense of hope amongst the rural poor. This sense of hope can be further strengthened if people understand that the act gives them employment as a matter of right, and that claiming this right is within the realm of possibility.

Mid-Day Meals and Children's Rights

the quality of education is based on a narrow view of what school education is Mid-Day Meals about. This outlook is apparent in the dramatic question posed by Singh at the beginning of his article:

Democracy and Right to Food

It is widely accepted that the right to food forms one of the basic economic and social rights essential to achieve 'economic democracy' in India. This right is nowhere near realisation in India, where undernutrition levels are among the lowest in the world. The right to food moreover, does not easily translate into well-defined entitlements and responsibilities. Though serious difficulties are involved in making the right to food fully justiciable, new interventions are possible in at least three ways - through legal action, through democratic practice and through changing public perceptions. More importantly, the right to food needs to be linked to other economic and social rights relating to education, work, health and information, which together hold the promise of radical change in public priorities and democratic politics.

Future of Mid-Day Meals

Spurred by a recent Supreme Court order, many Indian states have introduced cooked mid-day meals in primary schools. This article reports the findings of a recent survey which suggests that this initiative could have a major impact on child nutrition, school attendance and social equity. However, quality issues need urgent attention if mid-day meal programmes are to realise their full potential. Universal and nutritious mid-day meals would be a significant step towards the realisation of the right to food.

Poverty and Inequality in India

This paper presents a new set of integrated poverty and inequality estimates for India and Indian states for 1987-88, 1993-94 and 1999-2000. The poverty estimates are broadly consistent with independent evidence on per capita expenditure, state domestic product and real agricultural wages. They show that poverty decline in the 1990s proceeded more or less in line with earlier trends. Regional disparities increased in the 1990s, with the southern and western regions doing much better than the northern and eastern regions. Economic inequality also increased within states, especially within urban areas, and between urban and rural areas. We briefly examine other development indicators, relating for instance to health and education. Most indicators have continued to improve in the nineties, but social progress has followed very diverse patterns, ranging from accelerated progress in some fields to slow down and even regression in others. We find no support for sweeping claims that the nineties have been a period of 'unprecedented improvement' or 'widespread impoverishment'.

On Research and Action

The value of scientific research can, in many circumstances, be enhanced if it is combined with real-world involvement and action. This approach should be seen as an essential complement of, not a substitute for, research of a more 'detached' kind.

Militarism, Development and Democracy

Wars or rather militarism is the major obstacle to development in the contemporary world. The damage done by war far exceeds what is shown by standard statistical indicators. There is a dearth of probing research into the horrendous consequences of militarism. Democracy is one antidote to militarism. But for it to be effective, better public perception of the facts of the political economy of war and militarism is needed.

Victims of Development

on the part of the Bengali middle class to de-class their identity through the praxis of the stage has its thrills, even as the tragedy it triggered is deeply wounding.

Demographic Outcomes, Economic Development and Womens Agency

Demographic Outcomes, Economic Development and Women's Agency INDIA is a country of striking demographic diversity. Even broad comparisons between different states within the country bring out enormous variations in basic demographic indicators. At one end of the scale, Kerala has demographic features that are more typical of a middle-income country than of a poor developing economy, including a life expectancy at birth of 72 years, an infant mortality of only 17 per 1,000 live births, a total fertility rate below the replacement level (1.8 in 1991), and a female- male ratio well above unity (1.04 in 1991). At the other end, the large north Indian states find themselves in the same league as the least developed countries of the world in terms of the same indicators. In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, the infant mortality rate is six times as high as in Kerala, the total fertility rate is as high as 5.1, and the female-male ratio (879 in 1991) is lower than that of any country in the world.1 India is also a country of rapid demographic change. As in many other developing countries, mortality rates in fndia have significantly declined in recent decades, e g, the infant mortality rate has been reduced by about 50 per cent since 1961. The same period has seen a sustained decline in fertility, particularly in the south Indian states (in Tamil Nadu, for instance, the total fertility rate declined from 3.5 to 2.2 during the 1980s). There have also been significant changes in the relative survival chances of men and women.2 Apart from being of much interest in themselves, these inter-regional and intertemporal variations provide useful opportunities to study the determinants of demographic outcomes in India. This paper is an attempt to examine some of the relevant relationships based on a cross-section analysis of district-level data for 1981. A more detailed presentation and discussion of this analysis can be found in Guio (1994) and Murthi, Guio and Dreze (1995).' The reference year for this analysis is 1981. For that year, a fair amount of district- level information is available from the 1981 Census and related sources. Table 1 a presents a list of the variables used along with their definitions. The relevant information is available for 296 districts, all located in 14 of India's 15 largest states (these 14 states had a total of 326 districts in 1981, and accounted for 94 per cent of the total population of India). The sample averages of the variables used in the analysis are presentedinTablela,whilethestateaverages are in Table lb.


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