26th June 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. Discuss the various reasons for malnutrition in tribals in India.
- A comparison of nutrition indicators for children under five years, using the third and fourth rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015–2016 and 2005-06, shows this: though stunting has declined from 46.3% to 34.4%, wasting rates have increased from 16.5% to 25.6%. Further, the underweight rate (36%) has remained static in the last 10 years. This is worse than in some of the world’s poorest countries — Bangladesh (33%), Afghanistan (25%) or Mozambique (15%). This level of poor nutrition security disproportionately affects the poorest segment of the population.
- According to NFHS 2015-16, every second tribal child suffers from growth restricting malnutrition due to chronic hunger. In 2005, child malnutrition claimed as many as 718 lives in Maharashtra’s Palghar district alone. Even after a decade of double digit economic growth (2004-05 to 2014-15), Palghar’s malnutrition status has barely improved.
- Stunting is caused by an insufficient intake of macro- and micro-nutrients. It is generally accepted that recovery from growth retardation after two years is only possible if the affected child is put on a diet that is adequate in nutrient requirements. A critical aspect of nutrient adequacy is diet diversity, calculated by different groupings of foods consumed with the reference period ranging from one to 15 days.
- The eight food groups include: cereals, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh foods; eggs; fish; dark green leafy vegetables; and other fruits and vegetables. And 26% and 57% of the children (83% put together) had a dietary diversity score of two and three, respectively, implying that they had had food from only two/three of the eight food groups.
- In most households it is rice and dal which was cooked most often and eaten thrice a day. There isno milk, milk product or fruit in their daily diets. Even the adults drank black tea as milk is unaffordable. Very few children achieve a minimum level of diet diversity — they receive four or more of the eight food groups. This low dietary diversity is a proxy indicator for the household’s food security too as the children ate the same food cooked for adult members.
- Such acute food insecurity in tribal households is due to a loss of their traditional dependence on forest livelihood and the State’s deepening agrarian crisis. Besides these, systemic issues and a weakening of public nutrition programmes have aggravated the problem. For example, 20% of tribal families did not receive rations (public distribution system) in Vikramgad (in Palghar) as they did not have a card.
- It is time the government looks at the root cause of the issue and finds a sustainable solution for tackling malnutrition. This is possible only when the state focusses on inclusive development by creating employment opportunities for the marginalised which would improve their purchasing power and, in turn, reduce malnutrition.
Q2. Discuss the need to give differential treatment to Northeastern states of India while making allocations through the Finance Commission.
- The Northeast represents a distinct entity for developmental planning and has a special category status. Low levels of human development indices, a low resource base, and poor connectivity and infrastructure pose a different challenge which must be taken into account in the devolution formula.
- Central Ministries earmark 10% of their allocations for the Northeast. By the same logic, 10% of tax proceeds could be earmarked for vertical devolution to the region. A number of centrally sponsored schemes have been rolled out where the obligation of State share is huge, adding to revenue expenditure. Sometimes the real burden (as in the case of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) is far more than the mandated 10%. Many centrally sponsored schemes are discontinued midway, and the burden of employee salaries falls on the States. Maintenance of assets, such as rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, require huge expenditure, especially in hilly States. A 20% cost disability was allowed by the 13th FC while allocating grants for road maintenance.
- The revision of the base year to 2011-12 by the Central Statistics Office from 2004-05 also created complications.Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, saw a sudden spike in per capita GSDP. This was primarily on account of the fact that 73% of the GSDP was calculated on the allocation method as compared to 34% earlier. This saw a jump in gross value added in mining, construction, electricity, etc., even with a negligible industrial base.
- The Northeast also bears a disproportionate burden of natural disasters every year on account of rainfall. The Energy and Resources Institute has computed an index of vulnerability of all States. The disaster vulnerability index is highest for the Northeast; this needs to be factored in while allocating grants. The region also has the highest forest cover and represents the largest carbon sink nationally. Allocating 10% for forest cover would encourage States to preserve the forests.
- The Terms of Reference of the 15th FC also mention performance-based incentives based on improvements in GST collection, Direct Benefit Transfer rollout, etc. This would definitely infuse a spirit of competition. However, the performance of the Northeastern States must be benchmarked with other Northeastern States so that apples are not compared with oranges.