Across the Aisle by P Chidambaram: Good, bad and doubtful


National Family Health Survey-5 was conducted during 2019-21. The last survey (NHFS-4) was conducted in 2015-16. Both were periods when the NDA government was in power; Hence the change between the two surveys reflects the impact of the policies of Shri Narendra Modi’s government along with the policies followed till 2014-15.

As in the previous survey, the key indicators of the NFHS-5 are on issues such as population and household profiles, literacy, marriage and fertility, maternal and child health, immunization, quality of medical treatment, anemia, women’s empowerment and access. from tobacco and alcohol. The numbers are statistical estimates based on two surveys separated by four years. Since the methodology adopted in the surveys was the same, the variation in numbers – what statisticians call deltas – provides very useful lessons. Some changes will make us proud, some will disappoint us and some will raise doubts and questions.

Good News

The big, ‘breaking’ news is that the total fertility rate has dropped from 2.2 (children per woman) to 2.0. The ‘replacement rate’ is 2.1. Number 2.0 has good as well as negative effects which require a separate essay. So, for now, we can rest easy that India’s population is not growing at an alarming rate and may stabilize earlier than expected.

First of all, good news. 88.6 percent of children were born in an institution (ie under some kind of medical care) – up from 78.9 percent. More girls are being welcomed into families, especially in rural India. The sex ratio (females per 1,000 males) has increased from 991 to 1020. While 88.0 percent of the population lived in homes with electricity in 2015-16, the Modi government added 8.8 percent to make the ratio 96.8 percent (Rome). Wasn’t built in a day, as claimed). Fewer women and men are married before the legal age of 18 and 21, respectively, but with 23.3% of women getting married before the age of 18, there is still a long way to go.

not-so-good news

The big, breaking, bad news is that more than half of India’s population has not completed 10 years of schooling – 59 percent of women and 49.8 percent of men. This means that 75 years after independence, half the population cannot engage in 21st century jobs and occupations that require higher education, advanced technology and improved skills.

India’s population is still young (26.5 percent are under the age of 15), but the proportion is declining – meaning the proportion of older people is increasing. The ‘demographic dividend’ we take pride in will not last forever. The majority of women were anemic: 57.0 percent in the 15-49 age group and, more worryingly, 59.1 percent in the 15-19 age group. Both the ratios have increased since NFHS-4. The other bitter news is that only 11.3% of babies aged 6-23 months got enough food. The result was that 32.1 percent of children under the age of 5 were underweight; 35.5 percent were underdeveloped; 19.3 percent were wasted; And 7.7 percent were severely wasted. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 35.2 per thousand and the Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) of 41.9 per thousand live births are still very high and among the lowest in the world.

questionable news

Some figures raise further questions on aspects they should clarify. The data claims that 95.9 per cent of the population lives in households with ‘better drinking water sources’. The footnote defines an ‘improved drinking water source’ which includes piped water, a public tap or a tubewell. These are fine, but when the definition includes ‘protected dug wells, a protected spring and rainwater’, it is clear that an elaborate effort was made to bring older, unsafe sources of water to an impressive ratio of 95.9 per cent. Was. Percentage I suspect that this will be the last step before the announcement is made to achieve the goal of providing individual household taps to all households by the target year of 2024!
The figures for using ‘better sanitation facilities’ are also questionable. Improved sanitation facilities include Flush to Pit Toilet, Flush to Pit Na Jaane Kahan, Pit Toilet with Slab and Twin Pit/Composting Toilet – i.e. everything except Open Defecation (OD) is an improved sanitation facility!

Despite the promotion of Ujjwala scheme, only 58.6 per cent households (up from 43.8 per cent) use clean fuel for cooking. The percentage is actually related to the LPG or piped gas connections and not the actual number of people regularly using LPG cylinders.

Due to the indifferent growth rate, millions of people are poor and many people are living in absolute poverty. Let’s take just one indicator, namely food consumption. Food is the first charge on a household’s income. If a large proportion of women are anemic and a large proportion of children are underweight or anemic, in addition many children are stunted or wasted, it is due to lack of adequate nutrition. In my view the lack of food is a decisive indicator of poverty. Those poor people – children of a small god – have been forgotten by the present government.

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