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Malnutrition and poverty in India: does the use of public distribution system matter?
Authors: Basant Kumar Panda, Sanjay K. Mohanty, Itishree Nayak, Vishal Dev Shastri, and S. V. Subramanian
Source: BMC Nutrition, 6, Article number: 41
Topic(s): Child health
Wealth Index
Country: Asia
Published: OCT 2020
Abstract: Background: Large scale public investment in Public Distribution System (PDS) have aimed to reduce poverty and malnutrition in India. The PDS is the largest ever welfare programme which provides subsidised food grain to the poor households. This study attempt to examine the extent of stunting and underweight among the children from poor and non-poor households by use of public distribution system (PDS) in India. Methods: Data from the National Family and Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), was used for the analysis. A composite variable based on asset deprivation and possession of welfare card provided under PDS (BPL card), was computed for all households and categorised into four mutually exclusive groups, namely real poor, excluded poor, privileged non-poor and non-poor. Real poor are those economically poor and have a welfare card, excluded poor are those economically poor and do not have welfare card, privileged poor are those economically non-poor but have welfare card, and non-poor are those who are not economically poor and do not have welfare card. Estimates of stunting and underweight were provided by these four categories. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used for the analysis. Results: About half of the children from each real poor and excluded poor, two-fifths among privileged non-poor and less than one-third among non-poor households were stunted in India. Controlling for socio-economic and demographic covariates, the adjusted odds ratio of being stunted among real poor was 1.42 [95% CI: 1.38, 1.46], 1.43 [95% CI: 1.39, 1.47], among excluded poor and 1.15 [95% CI: 1.12, 1.18], among privileged non-poor. The pattern was similar for underweight and held true in most of the states of India. Conclusions: Undernutrition among children from poor households those excluded from PDS is highest, and it warrants inclusion in PDS. Improving the quality of food grains and widening food basket in PDS is recommended for reduction in level of malnutrition in India.