Rural India Getting Less To Eat Than 40 Years Ago, Finds Study

Rural kitchen
On an average, compared to 1975-1979, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories.

By Pavitra Mohan

New Delhi: It’s been 70 years since India got Independence, but still, 70 per cent of its population live in the villages, struggling to get basic facilities.

According to a National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau survey, the rural population, comprising of 883 million Indians, is consuming fewer nutrients than are required to stay healthy.

On an average, compared to 1975-1979, a rural Indian now consumes 550 fewer calories. The intake of protein, iron, calcium and Vitamin A has also gone down.

The daily requirement of milk for a child below 3 years should be 300 ml, but a rural child gets only 80 ml a day.

The data is a key indicator on why rural men and women are undernourished and children are underweight in rural India.

In 2014, 500 mothers were surveyed in South Rajasthan by Aajeevika Bureau, a not-for-profit organisation. The findings were shocking.

Almost 50 per cent of mothers had not eaten pulses the previous day while one third had not eaten vegetables. None of them consumed fruit, egg or meat.

This, thus, doesn’t come as a surprise that 50 per cent mothers and their children under 3, were undernourished.

While growth of gross domestic product is estimated every six months, using different methods, nutrition levels are estimated once every 10 years, leading to data gaps, points IndiaSpend study in July 2016.

As Inflation rises, rural India stops buying food

Food inflation increased at a faster rate than overall inflation in India, the survey revealed.

As the price of pulses, fats and vegetables rose, fewer people bought and consumed them.

While malnutrition has reduced in India, it is still 13 times worse than Brazil, nine times worse than China and three times worse than South Africa, indicates a study conducted by IndiaSpend.

Access to facts ceases with the shutdown of National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau

The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau was set up in 1972 to monitor the status of nutrition in rural India across 10 states.

In 2015, the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau, the only source of longitudinal data on nutrition levels and food intake across 10 states of India, was shut down.

The shutdown may not reveal what we need to know, but it will make sure that we do not encounter such uncomfortable facts in future.

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Pavitra Mohan formerly coordinated health and nutrition programmes for UNICEF’s country office in India. He is also Director, Health Services, of Aajevika Bureau, a nonprofit that provides services to labour-migrants. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at Read the report here: