Nutritional Status Of India’s Rural Labour : A Discussion

The Discussion Map charts important debates from the pages of EPW.


Nupur Kataria’s Special Article An Assessment of the Nutritional Status of India’s Rural Labour since the Early 1980s,” published in December 2021, attempts to analyse changes in living standards of the rural poor, specifically rural labour, in terms of nutritional level since the 1980s at all-India and state levels so that correct policy measures may be initiated to improve their lives. The study uses data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) from 1983–84 to 2011–12 supplemented by information from the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB). In her paper, the author observes that overall nutritional intakes in rural labour have improved, however, they are still below the recommended levels implying poor living standards.

The study is further supplemented by Simantini Mukhopadhyay in her article Assessing the Nutritional Status of Rural Labour in which she uses the National Family Health Survey data to supplement Kataria’s analysis. Mukhopadhyay highlights the problems with only taking the NSSO data into consideration, she instead bases her study on the NFHS data as it helps assess the nutritional changes in the recent years that the NSSO data does not cover.

Alongside marking some of the key findings from Kataria’s analysis, Mukhopadhyay also highlights the advantages and disadvantages of Kataria’s study. Mukhopadhyay argues that by solely focusing on calorie and protein intakes, Kataria misses the comprehensive story of nutrition transition for rural labour in India. Mukhopadhyay  uses body mass index-based figures of undernutrition and overnutrition for rural labour in India as she points out that Kataria uses the terms “malnutrition” and “undernutrition” interchangeably. Both the authors believe that nutritional changes in rural labour is an area where further research will lead to important policy prescriptions both at national and subnational levels.


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