Producing Under nutrition-talk by Dr. Veena Shatrugna on 18th June

he  nutritional  status  of  the  poor  in  India maybe  described  as  alarming.

Most  of  the  indicators  of  nutrition  status  such  as  adult weights,  heights  BMI,  percentage  of children who  are  severely malnourished, mean  birth weights,  infant mortality  rates,  dietary intakes and unacknowledged starvation deaths confirm this  fact.    is as widespread as  it is invisible to the scientific eye.  The question that must be asked is how did India get into this trap of under nutrition with such serious consequences?

Chronic hunger as it exists in India can be largely traced to the rapid scientific advances in the area of food and nutrition analysis, and classification. In addition, from 1940s, the dietary requirements of populations was laid out in terms of calories, with the assumption that foods which are culturally and regionally appropriate such as rice, eggs, milk, fowl, pulses, fish, greens, etc. would be consumed in quantities  which  would  provide  calories  and  all  the  other  nutrients.    Nutrition  research  in  the  50s  and  60s,  though  brilliantly innovative and deeply committed to the welfare of Indians, simplified the science of food further, with indices and correction factors, using concepts like consumption units, biological value of proteins, RDA based on calories, calorie needs of workers, vegetable sources of proteins etc., which then became subjects for scientific research and fed into nutritional policy. Over a short period, these concepts were recast and deployed in administrative initiatives that systematically transformed the diets of the poor in India to plain cereals as the major source, or perhaps the only source of calories, devoid of any other nutrient. The consequences of this cereal overload and nutritional depletion have been  far reaching, and are responsible  for a  large measure of  the profile of  ill health, and the epidemic of chronic diseases in India.

This presentation  is an attempt  to  trace  the steps  in scientific and administrative  thinking and policy that  led to  the nutritional and health impasse the people of this country are in.

The speaker is Dr. Veena Shatrugna who has spent 34 years at the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, doing research on the nutrition questions as they impact women and children in India.  She has also worked in the area of women’s health, and has authored “Savaa laksha Sandhehalu”, a self%help book for women in Telugu with a women’s collective called Stree Shakti Sangathana. She has also written “Taking charge  of  our Bodies”  in English with  the  same  group  of women.  She  is  a member  of Anveshi,  a Women’s  studies  organisation  based  in  Hyderabad.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *