Malnutrition has remained at stubbornly high levels in the last 20 years, despite the period seeing rapid economic growth of about 7 per cent, according to Jairam Ramesh, Rural Development Minister.

“The nature of service delivery through public expenditures will play an important role in human development index (HDI). There is a collapse of public expenditures in some of the tribal areas in India, which needs to be looked at,” Ramesh said.

In large parts of central India, particularly the tribal belt, malnutrition level measured by any international index remains at a stubbornly high 42-45 per cent, he said. He further said that judged in a regional context “Bangladesh has superior HDI at lower economic and GDP growth”.

Rich and high growth States such as Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have shown worsening human development indications in terms of health, education, nutrition and sanitation.

Neglect of sanitation

Moreover, he said there is also a complete neglect of sanitation in some parts of the country. This has not yet percolated amongst economists who write on human development or even in the Planning Commission which allocates money across the sectors.

“This is a very significant medical finding that high levels of malnutrition have been caused due to neglect of sanitation and hygiene,” the Minister said.