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India’s Poverty Reduction and Challenges

GS-3 Mains Exam : Economy 

Revision Notes


“India’s achievements in poverty reduction are commendable, yet the persistence of malnutrition poses significant challenges.” Critically evaluate this statement, discussing the factors contributing to malnutrition and assessing the effectiveness of government interventions in addressing this issue.


  • Poverty Reduction:
    • 135 million lifted out of poverty (2015-16 to 2019-21) based on NITI Aayog’s Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MDPI).
    • Extreme poverty significantly reduced: from over 80% at independence to around 15% (MDPI) or 11% (income criterion).
    • UNDP estimates 415 million lifted out of poverty (MDPI) between 2005-06 and 2019-21.
    • On track to nearly eliminate poverty in the next 5-10 years.
  • Food Availability: India has achieved good progress in terms of food availability.
  • Agricultural Revolutions:
    • Green Revolution: Transformed India into a major rice exporter.
    • White Revolution: Made India the world’s largest milk producer.
    • Gene Revolution: Led to India becoming the top cotton producer.


  • Malnutrition: Remains a major concern, especially among children under five:
    • 32% underweight, 35% stunted, 19% wasted (NFHS-5).
    • Progress on reducing malnutrition indicators slower than infant mortality reduction.
  • Climate Change: Increasing frequency of extreme weather events threatens food security and poverty reduction gains.
  • Non-communicable Diseases: Rising burden of cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases linked to diet and nutrition.

Causes of Malnutrition in India

  • Calorie Deficiency:
    • Despite surplus foodgrains, improper allocation and distribution lead to insufficient calorie intake.
    • Yearly allocated budget for food security is not fully utilized.
  • Protein Deficiency:
    • Pulses are a major source of protein, but lack of budgetary allocation for their inclusion in Public Distribution System (PDS) limits access.
    • Exclusion of Eggs from Mid-day Meal menus in some states further reduces protein intake opportunities.
  • Micronutrient Deficiency (Hidden Hunger):
    • Widespread deficiency of essential micronutrients due to:
      • Poor diet
      • Prevalent diseases
      • Unfulfilled micronutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation

Suggestions for Improvement

  • Prioritizing Child Nutrition:
    • Policies and guidelines related to maternal, infant, and young child nutrition should prioritize adequate access to nutritious food for young children, not just consider it “complementary.”
    • Mothers also need access to adequate and affordable nutritious food for healthy breastfeeding.
  • Enhanced Food Security Assessments:
    • Adapt household-level food insecurity modules developed by the FAO to better understand food security across all Indian populations.
  • Evidence-based Policymaking:
    • Measuring the availability, accessibility, and affordability of nutritious food, especially for vulnerable populations like young children, is crucial for evidence-based policies aimed at ending hunger and improving nutritional security in India.
  • Strategic Initiative to End Hunger:
    • Building on the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, India needs a Prime Minister’s Office-led strategic initiative to eliminate food insecurity and ensure affordable access to sufficient quantity and quality of diverse, nutritious food, with a special focus on India’s youngest children, to achieve the SDG of zero hunger.

Government Interventions

  • Eat Right India Movement: FSSAI’s outreach program promoting healthy eating habits among citizens.
  • POSHAN Abhiyan: Launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to reduce stunting, undernutrition, and anemia.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana: Maternity benefit program implemented nationwide since 2017.
  • Food Fortification: Addition of key vitamins and minerals to staple foods like rice, milk, and salt to improve their nutritional content.
  • National Food Security Act, 2013: Provides subsidized food grains to up to 75% of rural and 50% of urban populations under the Targeted Public Distribution System.
  • Mission Indradhanush: Immunizes children under 2 and pregnant women against 12 Vaccine-Preventable Diseases.
  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme: Offers a package of six services to children (aged 0-6), pregnant, and lactating mothers since 1975.

Way Ahead

  • Accelerated Inclusive Economic Growth:
    • Maintaining focus on accelerating economic growth and making it more inclusive is crucial.
  • Fixing Existing Schemes:
    • Addressing India’s multi-dimensional nutrition challenge requires fixing existing schemes.
    • Greater involvement of local government and communities in designing and delivering tailored nutrition interventions is essential.



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