Daily Editorial Analysis for 17th December 2020

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Discouraging Numbers


Mains: G.S. I, II & III Indian Society, Social Justice and Issues related to Economy


  • MoHFW released the NFHS recently.
  • The findings of the survey are worrisome.
  • It is important to know the possible repercussions of the findings on the human development, child health, economy, etc.
  • Malnutrition is a big issue and comes under the Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3 as well.

Dealing with the basics

  • NFHS is a large-scale multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.
  • All NFHSs have been conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) Mumbai, serving as the nodal agency.
  • It is the 5th round of NFHS data.
  • The survey provides state and national information for India on fertility, infant and child mortality, the practice of family planning, maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition, etc.

Key Findings

  • The latest data pertains to 17 states — including Maharashtra, Bihar, and West Bengal — and five UTs (including J&K) and, crucially, captures the state of health in these states before the Covid pandemic.
  • Phase 2 of the survey, which will cover other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh, was delayed due to the pandemic and its results are expected to be made available in May 2021.
  • There is anecdotal evidence that the pandemic and lockdown measures have led to new complications related to food consumption and food security for impoverished Indians.
  • Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal recorded an increase in the percentage of anaemic and wasted (low weight for height) children compared to even the 2005-06 survey.
  • There has been an increase in stunting and wasting among children in several states, a rise in obesity in women and children, and an increase in spousal violence.
  • In several other development indicators, the needle has hardly moved since the last NFHS-4.
  • Hunger Alarm – Share of stunted children has risen which puts India at risk of reversing gains in child nutrition.
  • The share of underweight and wasted children has also gone up in the majority of the states.
  • Fertility Rate – The total fertility rate (TFR) is defined as the average number of children that would be born to a woman by the time she ends childbearing.
  • The TFR across most Indian states declined in the past half-a-decade, more so among urban women, according to the latest NFHS-5.
  • Sikkim recorded the lowest TFR, with one woman bearing 1.1 children on average; Bihar recorded the highest TFR of three children per woman.
  • The Under 5 and infant mortality rate (IMR) has come down but in parallel recorded an increase in underweight and severely wasted under 5 children among 22 states that were surveyed.
  • These states are Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Telangana, Tripura, West Bengal, Lakshadweep and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
  • For the first time gaps in internet usage – In 2019, for the first time, the NFHS-5, which collects data on key indicators on population health, family planning and nutrition, sought details on two specific indicators: Percentage of women and men who have ever used the Internet.
  • On average, less than 3 out of 10 women in rural India and 4 out of 10 women in urban India ever used the Internet, according to the survey.
  • In urban India, average 56.81 per cent women ever used the Internet compared to an average of 73.76 per cent among the men.
  • Dismal 33.94 per cent women in rural India ever used the Internet as against 55.6 per cent among men.
  • The five states reporting the lowest percentage of women, whoever used the Internet in urban India were Andhra Pradesh (33.9%), Bihar (38.4%), Tripura (36.6%), Telangana (43.9%) and Gujarat (48.9%).
  • In urban India, 10 states and three union territories reported more than 50 per cent women who had ever used the Internet: Goa (78.1%), Himachal Pradesh (78.9%), Kerala (64.9%), and Maharashtra (54.3%).

Way Forward

  • The persistence of poor anthropometric measures related to hunger and nutrition suggests that existing programmes to address them, such as POSHAN Abhiyaan, will need a push and focus to meet targets.
  • More importantly, the complications arising out of the pandemic should make the Centre and state to refocus on welfare delivery as a concerted strategy to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty.
  • This is an imperative that would not just meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal targets but will also ensure the well-being of citizens in a country that showed significant promise in combining economic growth and general welfare.
  • Rather than focusing over the means, we shall be more vocal about the end. That is to say, promotion of EoDB, promoting Digital India is all good but we also have to make policies in synchronization with these which would be focusing on human development as India has got downgraded on HDI.

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