Over 38 per cent of Gujarat's population remains 'undernourished': NITI Aayog report

Nearly half of the rural population is deprived of nutrition, according to the government think-tank’s National Multidimensional Poverty Index.
Image used for illustrative purposes only. (Express illustrations)
Image used for illustrative purposes only. (Express illustrations)

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat still has a long way to go on the nutrition front as 38.09 per cent of the population in the state is undernourished, according to the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report, released by Niti Aayog in July this year. Nearly half of the rural Gujarat population is deprived of nutrition (44.45 per cent), while the figure for urban areas is 28.97 per cent.

According to the Niti Aayog report, backward states such as Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have fared comparatively better than Gujarat on the nutrition front. Gujarat ranked fourth in terms of stunted children, according to data from NFHS 5 (National Family Health Survey). Thirty-nine per cent of children in the state are underweight for their age.

Furthermore, Gujarat ranked second in terms of wasted and underweight children, at 25.1 per cent and 39.7 per cent, respectively.  This reflects the state’s poor performance in terms of health metrics.

Analysing the MPI numbers, Atman Shah, Professor of Economics at St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, said, “Nutrition is a serious cause for concern. In 2016, around 33.6 per cent of West Bengal families and 41.37 per cent of Gujarat households had at least one malnourished member. By 2021, this figure has dropped to 27.3 per cent in West Bengal and 38.9 per cent in Gujarat.”

Data clearly shows that three out of every 100 individuals in Gujarat were suffering from malnutrition during this time period, whilst West Bengal fared better with less than six out of every 100 people suffering from the condition, Shah added. Gujarat’s performance in housing also leaves room for improvement when compared to other states.

According to NITI Aayog, 23.30 per cent of the population is deprived of housing in Gujarat. Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu have performed better than Gujarat.  The scenario is worse for rural areas as 35.52 per cent of the rural population is deprived of housing, which is higher than in other major states such as Haryana, Punjab, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

When it comes to poverty, the number of multidimensional poor in Gujarat has come down significantly to 11.66 per cent in 2019-21 (NFHS-5 )from 18.47 per cent during 2015-16 (NFHS-4). Though Gujarat is not on the list of 10 states at the bottom, other states such as Maharashtra (7.81 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (6.06 per cent), Punjab (4.75 per cent), Tamil Nadu (2.20  per cent), Kerala (0.55 per cent) and Karnataka (7.58 per cent) have performed better than Gujarat as far as headcount ratio is concerned.

Dahod has the highest poverty headcount ratio at 38.27 per cent, while the lowest recorded for Navsari is 4.84 per cent. “Multidimensional poor shows that economic development is scattered in Gujarat and concentrated in urban areas or cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot. States with lower urbanisation have higher poverty headcount ratio,” said Atman Shah.

The intensity of poverty makes it possible to see how far the living standards of the poor population are from the poverty line. It shows how poor are remaining poor, he added. Again, the intensity has come down in Gujarat. But it is higher in Gujarat than in Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This indicates that the poor are poorer in Gujarat compared major states mentioned above. 

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