We reiterate that pulses play an important role in reducing the undernutrition and malnutrition in the surveyed region. Furthermore, the share of all items available through PDS in calorie and protein intake is 31.03% and 28.33% respectively.
By Bal Krishan Negi & Seema Bathla
As per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) (2015-16), the nutritional status of children and adults has shown improvement over the preceding survey (2005-06). Ironically, the proportion of children who are underweight and are suffering from stunting/wasting continues to be high at 35.8%, 38.4% and 21%, respectively. While there is an increasing evidence of a shift away from cereals to high-value products, including milk in India, the puzzling issue is that the dietary diversification is not associated with an increase in the nutrient intake.The nutritional outcome of a person depends on micro and macronutrient intake such as mineral, vitamins, calorie and protein besides safe drinking water, sanitation, health and environment.As per the NSSO consumption surveys, the per capita per day calorie intake has declined both in urban and rural areas since 1970s, except during 2011-12 (68th round) when some improvement was reported over the previous survey. Two divergent arguments are given to explain this. The first is that, due to growing income levels, a dietary diversification has taken place, and the second is, people are not able to access cereals due to agrarian distress and inflationary pressure.
Consumption is still a major source of calorie and protein by the households (HHs), especially among the poor ones. The pace of shift towards high-value food items tends to be slow in rural areas as compared to the urban areas. Moreover, the calorie and protein intake of poor people is much lower than the stipulated level proposed by the ICMR-NIN (2010). This is despite their high dependence on the subsidised foodgrain available under PDS.
Research shows that cereal may not be a constant source of nutrition. Qualitative dietary improvements under the governmant’s flagship programme—National Nutrition Mission (NNM), also known as the Rashtriya Poshan Mission—is also an imperative. We feel that the programme can be made successful if it is integrated with the PDS. In doing so, the PDS has to expand its food basket by adding and distributing quality proteins such as pulses, milk, meat and eggs. The latest NSS survey (2011-12) shows that pulse consumption barely contributes 10% of protein intake in rural areas and the share of other suggested commodities in energy intake is way below 10%.
Results from our primary survey done in district Kullu in Himachal Pradesh where pulses, edible oil and salt are distributed to people through the PDS show positive outcomes. Based on a pilot survey of 50 households, we find that the proportion of population suffering from undernutrition and malnutrition, based on age, sex and work adjusted ICMR-NIN (2010) recommended dietary allowance, have significantly declined over time. A comparison of nutritional standards of HHs taking pulses from PDS with those who don’t avail shows higher nutrient value(calorie and protein) of the former category of HHs and hence reduction in their level of undernutrition (calorie deficiency). The undernutrition among HHs above poverty line (APL) is much higher, at 66.66% against 47.33% who take pulses. Similarly, the difference is higher at 39.02% for below poverty line households (BPL) HHs, 16.28% for priority households (PH) and 20.75% for all card holders. Similarly, malnutrition (i.e. protein deficiency) among HHs taking pulses from PDS is lower by 24.67% for APL households, 12.19% for BPL households, 13.95% for priority households and 19.37% for all card holders.
We reiterate that pulses play an important role in reducing the undernutrition and malnutrition in the surveyed region. Furthermore, the share of all items available through PDS in calorie and protein intake is 31.03% and 28.33% respectively. Out of this, the contribution of pulses in calorie intake is 11.71%, and protein intake is much higher at 22.79%. Besides Himachal Pradesh, the pulses are distributed under the PDS in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh in addition to cereals.This can be an effective way to combat the problem of undernourishment among the poor, particularly in poor districts where the problem of deficiency of calorie and protein is relentless.