Despite India’s 50% increase in GDP since 1991, more than one third of the world’s malnourished children live in India. Among these, half of the children under three years old are underweight and a third of wealthiest children are over-nutriented.
One of the major causes for malnutrition in India is economic inequality. Due to the low social status of some population groups, their diet often lacks in both quality and quantity. Women who suffer malnutrition are less likely to have healthy babies. Deficiencies in nutrition inflict long-term damage to both individuals and society. Compared with their better-fed peers, nutrition-deficient individuals are more likely to have infectious diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, which lead to a higher mortality rate. In addition, nutrition-deficient individuals are less productive at work. Low productivity not only gives them low pay that traps them in a vicious circle of under-nutrition, but also brings inefficiency to the society, especially in India where labour is a major input factor for economic production. On the other hand, over-nutrition also has severe consequences. In India national obesity rates in 2010 were 14% for women and 18% for men with some urban areas having rates as high as 40%. Obesity causes several non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases.