Under-nutrition in India – A Forgotten National Nutrition Policy without a National Programme

  • Veena S Rao Advisor, Karnataka Nutrition Mission, State Institute of Health and Family Welfare Building, Room No. 4 & 5, 1st Cross, Magadi Road, Bangalore 560 023
Keywords: Bhore Committee Report, Inter-generational Malnutrition, Five Year Plans, National Nutrition Policy, Niti Aayog


This Paper analyses why and for how long high levels of malnutrition have afflicted India’s population. It does a historical analysis of how two centuries of colonial rule created the enabling environment for perpetuation of chronic malnutrition through interplay of increasing poverty, decreasing literacy, de-industrialization, an increased agricultural labour force, low wages, deteriorating health and nutritional status. The paper discusses the James Bhore Committee Report, 1946, first Health and Nutrition Survey in India, and the alarming nutrition data it reveals. It examines independent India’s responses- Article 47 of the Constitution, the beginnings of nutrition governance in India, development of nutrition strategies and interventions in the Five Year Plans, the announcement of the Minimum Needs Programme in 1974, launch of the ICDS in 1975, and adoption of the National Nutrition Policy (NNP) in 1993, and evaluates their impact. The paper concludes that the problem of under-nutrition in India could decrease faster if its structural causes are programmatically addressed, namely, protein-calorie-micronutrient deficit in about 50% of the people’s diet; its inter-generational character; the information and awareness deficit in the community about proper nutritional care of infants, children, adolescent girls, and pregnant women. Important prescriptions of the National Nutrition Policy, 1993, were never implemented, and India has no national
programme to eradicate malnutrition. The paper concludes with recommendations that the Niti Aayog take charge of this multi-sectoral subject, and constitute a High Power Committee to revise the NNP and draft the National Nutrition Mission within a given time frame.