Sunday, November 25, 2012

Modi's 'beauty' argument hollow

Subodh Varma TIG

    Whichever way you slice and dice the data, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi's statement about causes of malnutrition in the state he has been ruling for over a decade is wrong. Talking to the Wall Street Journal, Modi had said malnutrition exists in Gujarat because it is “by and large a vegetarian state” and as a middle-class state, it is “more beauty conscious than health conscious”.
    He was implying that vegetarians are more likely to be undernourished, and pursuit of beauty leads to undernourishment. Here are some facts from the 2009-10 NSSO survey report, published earlier this year.
    It shows that 60% of urban Gujarat's population spends less than the state average of Rs 1,909 per month per head, which is itself lower than the national average.
    In rural Gujarat too, 60% of the population spends less than the state average of Rs 1,110 per capita, which is slightly higher than the national average.
    With about two of three Gujaratis spending less than the state norm, it is a far stretch to call Gujarat a middle-class state. Another NSSO report on nutritional intake shows that Gujaratis are eating worse than before, and it is poverty that is causing this.
    It shows the average food intake in Gujarat is declining steadily, and in rural areas it is considerably lower than even the national average of 2,020 Kcal. It further shows a whopping 62% of rural Gujarati households have below the recommended norm of 2,700 Kcal intake per day-- worse than the 52% national average. In urban areas too, 56% of households in Gujarat have below the norm intake compared to 54% at the national level.
    Average daily intake in urban Gujarat is shockingly low for the poorest 10% of households at just 1,484 Kcal per person, while in the richest 10% households it is more than double at 2,971 Kcal per person.
    Going by Modi's logic, it would seem the poorest are most beauty conscious, not the richest. It is true Gujarat is largely vegetarian. But here's the catch: Consumption of non-vegetarian food is higher among richer sections than among the poorer ones. What this means is that Gujaratis are making up their protein needs from higher consumption of milk and pulses. But contrary to Modi's claim, the “beauty conscious” richer section has fewer vegetarians than the poor.
    Incidentally, Haryana, which has a larger vegetarian population, has better nutritional figures.
    Modi's claims about vegetarianism and dieting fads being responsible for nutritional indices do not match data. Whether they will wash with his target audience is another matter.
Govt report itself admits lapses
Ahmedabad:A report by a Gujarat's health & family welfare department official itself has admitted that the state lagged in improving the lot of undernourished children. The report, presented to the CM at the February 2011 Chintan Shibir meet, said every second child under five years of age in Gujarat was underweight. TNN