India is a populous country wherein economic disparities exist on a massive scale. The widening gap between the have and have-nots and the rich and the poor has lead to a number of inequalities amongst which malnutrition takes the top position. In India alone, 20% of the children below the age of 5 years suffer from malnutrition. In India Malnutrition is predominant in children amongst 5 years of age, almost every third child out of 10 is malnourished. Malnutrition in India is identified as protein energy malnutrition which when detected early can be treated in a better way.

The factors which can be considered when studying malnutrition in India are –

Gender – Women face a higher risk of being malnourished as compared to men. Almost 50% of females belonging to the age of 15 – 19 years face under nutrition while a still lesser percentage are over nourished. This trend is known to reverse as women get older they are likely to get over nourished or likely to develop anemia as compared to men.

Socio-economic status – Poor people are likely to become malnourished for they cannot afford two square meals a day while in the case of rich people, they are likely to be over nourished.

Region -People in rural areas and who do not enjoy good socio economic status are likely to suffer from malnutrition as compared to people living in urban areas where they enjoy comparatively better socio economic status and more access to better food provisions. However anaemia is prevalent in both men and women in rural areas as compared to those in urban areas.

The states of Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar have revealed high rates of under nutrition while states of Punjab, Kerala, and Delhi have a high number of obese and overweight people,

Religion and Caste – In India, Hindus and Muslims are more malnourished than those belonging to Sikhism, Christianity and Jainism. At the same time children of scheduled tribes and castes are highly malnourished.

The Government of India has initiated several programmes to tackle condition of malnutrition in India such as Integrated Child Development scheme (ICDS), National Children’s Fund (NCF), National Plan of Action for Children and United Nations Children’s Fund

Integrated Child Development scheme (ICDS) is a government programme which was started in 1975 and is aimed at improving the health of mother and children below the age of 6 years of providing supplementary food, preschool education, nutrition education and related health services. It is considered as one of the most widespread programmes in the world for it looks after 34 million children in age group of below 6 years and almost 7 million pregnant and lactating mothers. Other similar schemes include the National Mid-day Meal Scheme, the National Rural Health Mission, and the Public Distribution System (PDS)

National Children’s Fund (NCF) was set up in 1979 under the Charitable Endowment Fund Act, 1890 for supporting voluntary organizations which are willing to take up activities for children’s welfare. On the other hand the National Plan of Action for Children is designed to meet the goals laid down by the World Summit held in 1990 wherein India and 15 states have developed plans of action for holistic child development.

The United Nations Children’s Fund is committed to provide support and assistance for improving the conditions of underprivileged children and their mothers. You can also check out the National Rural Health Mission whose goal is to “improve the availability of and access to quality health care by people, especially for those residing in rural areas, the poor, women, and children.”

Lastly but not in the least, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister recently stated that “We are committed to soon bring before parliament a Right to Food Act. Malnutrition remains a serious problem in India and many developing countries”. By putting forth this bill, his government aims to subsidize the food grains even further especially to the poor and weaker sections of our society.