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Why MP is India’s Ethiopia

Human development indicators suggest that Madhya Pradesh (MP) has descended to a state similar to that of Ethiopia, the global yardstick for hunger and deprivation, reports Chetan Chauhan.

delhi Updated: Aug 10, 2009 00:31 IST

Human development indicators suggest that Madhya Pradesh (MP) has descended to a state similar to that of Ethiopia, the global yardstick for hunger and deprivation.

The state’s annual plan document, cleared by the Planning Commission on Friday, reveals that the nutritional levels of women and children in MP have been steadily sliding over the past 10 years. MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan attributed poor health indicators to low industrialisation of the state.

At a meeting with plan panel officials, he sought a special package from the Centre for industrial development in tribal areas, which he thinks will improve the per capita income of the population.

The percentage of under-weight children less than three years old has increased from 53.5 per cent in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2) report concluded in 1996 to 60.3 per cent in the latest NFHS-3.

The latest survey on health indicators was conducted between 1996 and 2006.

MP’s record stands in stark contrast to the national average that has fallen from 47 per cent to 45.90 per cent over decade ending in 2006.

Similarly, the percentage of anaemic children has increased from 71.3 per cent to 82.6 per cent between the two surveys. The percentage of anaemic pregnant children, too, has increased from 49.9 per cent to 57.9 per cent.

The infant mortality rate has, however, witnessed a fall from 88 per cent to 57 per cent. But it is much higher than the national average of 55 per cent.

A senior Planning Comm-ission official, requesting anonymity, attributed poor nutritional standards to increasing hunger in the state.

“It may be because of leakages in the public distribution system,” he remarked.

Madhya Pradesh was one of the first states in India to distribute foodgrains to 32.4 per cent of its poor population at Rs 3 per kilo.

According to the Indian State Hunger Index released in 2008, however, Madhya Pradesh, with a score of 30.9, had the largest number of hungry people in the country. The state was put in the “extremely alarming” bracket.

In the International Hunger Index chart the same year, Ethiopia scored 31.06. Both indices are prepared on the basis of similar parameters by the International Food Policy Research Institute. A higher score on the chart indicates more hunger.

The planners are worried to find that MP’s hunger record has worsened between 1994 and 2008, the years of two hunger indices for India.

The per capita income of the state has increased slightly from Rs 12,384 in 1999-2000 to Rs 15,346 in 2007-08. In comparison, the national average has almost doubled from Rs 16,258 to Rs 33,000 in the same period.