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Focus: GS-II Social Justice  


  • New analysis from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that hundreds of millions of people in India above the international poverty line of $1.90 purchasing power parity (PPP) per person per day cannot afford a healthy or nutritious diet.
  • This analysis confirms the fact that the problem of poor nutrition in India is largely on account of the unaffordability of good diets, and not on account of lack of information on nutrition or tastes or cultural preferences.
  • The large majority of Indians cannot afford a balanced diet.

Three Types of diets

Basic Energy Sufficient Diet

  • In a basic energy sufficient diet, the required calorie intake is met by consuming only the cheapest starchy cereal available.

Nutrient Adequate Diet

  • In a nutrient adequate diet, the required calorie norms and the stipulated requirement of 23 macro- and micro-nutrients are met.
  • This diet includes least cost items from different food groups.

Healthy Diet

  • In a healthy diet, the calorie norm and the macro- and micro-nutrient norm are met and it also allows for consumption of a diverse diet, from several food groups.
  • Defining a healthy diet is more complex than the other two diets, and the FAO uses actual recommendations for selected countries.
  • The Indian recommendation includes consumption of items from six groups: starchy staples, protein-rich food (legumes, meat and eggs), dairy, vegetables, fruits, and fats.

Affordability of these diets

  • The energy-sufficient diet or eating only cereals to meet your calorie requirement costs around 80 cents a day in South Asia, and is thus affordable to a poor person or one defined as having an income of $1.9 a day.
  • In short, the poor in India and other South Asian countries can get their calories by sticking to rice or wheat alone (Energy-Sufficient diet).
  • The nutrient-adequate diet costs $2.12 a day which is more than the international poverty line.
  • If a person with income just above the poverty line spent her entire daily expenditure on food even then she would not be able to afford the nutrient-adequate diet. (Note that the report assumes that a person cannot spend more than 63% of total expenditure on food).
  • The healthy diet costs $4.07 a day, or more than twice the international poverty line, and hence, a healthy diet is totally unaffordable for those with incomes at even twice the poverty line.
  • The SOFI Report estimates that almost 20% of South Asians cannot afford the nutrient-adequate diet and almost 60% of South Asians cannot afford the healthy diet.

Current Scenario and issue

  • The number of people who cannot afford a healthy diet will have risen in the lockdown months.
  • That the Indian poverty line of 2011-12, as defined by the Tendulkar Committee, amounted to ₹33 per day in urban areas and ₹27 per day in rural areas, and corresponded roughly to $1 a day at international PPP prices.
  • The Indian poverty line (there has been no redefinition in the last decade) is thus lower than the international poverty line used in the SOFI Report.


  1. Those we officially count as poor in India – with a cut-off that is lower than the international norm of $1.9 a day – cannot afford a nutrient-adequate diet let alone a healthy diet.
  2. Even those with incomes of twice the international poverty line cannot afford a healthy diet, hence, if we want to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity, we have to address the problem of affordability of healthy diets.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024