Across the Isle by P. Chidambaram: Good, Bad and Suspicious

The National Family Health Survey-5 was conducted in 2019-21. The previous survey (NHFS-4) was conducted in 2015-16. There were times when the NDA government was in power; Therefore, the changes in the two studies reflect the impact of the policies pursued by 2014-15 as well as the policies of the Narendra Modi government.

As with previous studies, the main indicators of NFHS-5 are on population and family profile, literacy, marriage and fertility, maternal and child health, vaccines, treatment standards, anemia, women’s empowerment and use. Tobacco and alcohol. The numbers are based on statistical estimates based on two separate studies over four years. Since the method adopted in the survey was the same, the change in numbers – which statisticians call delta – is very useful. Some changes will make us proud, some will disappoint us and some will raise doubts and questions.

Good news

The big, ‘breaking’ news is that the total fertility rate has dropped from 2.2 (female per child) to 2.0. The ‘replacement rate’ is 2.1. Number 2.0 has good as well as negative effects that require a separate article. Therefore, for the time being, we can take comfort in the fact that India’s population is not growing at an alarming rate and may stabilize earlier than expected.

First, the good news. 88.6 percent of babies were born in an institution (i.e. under some kind of medical service) – which increased from 78.9 percent. More girls are being welcomed into the family, especially in rural India. The sex ratio (females per 1000 males) has increased from 991 to 1020. Where 88.0 per cent of the population lived in electrified households in 2015-16, the Modi government has added 8.8 per cent to reduce that proportion to 96.8 per cent (Rome was not built in one day, as claimed). Fewer women and men get married before the age of 18 and 21, respectively, but 23.3 percent of women get married before the age of 18, still a long way to go.

Not very good news

The big, breaking, bad news is that more than half of India’s population has not completed 10 years of schooling – 59 percent female and 49.8 percent male. This means that after 75 years of independence, one half of the population cannot be employed in the 21st century jobs and businesses that require higher education, advanced technology and higher skills.

India’s population is still young (26.5 percent under the age of 15), but the proportion is declining – which means the proportion of older people is increasing. The ‘demographic dividend’ we are proud of will not last forever. Most women were anemic: 57.0 percent between the ages of 15-49 and, more worryingly, 59.1 percent between the ages of 15-19. Both ratios increased from NFHS-4. Another bitter news is that only 11.3 percent of children aged 6-23 months have received adequate food. The results showed that 32.1 percent of children under 5 were underweight; 35.5 percent were stunted; 19.3 percent was lost; And 7.7 percent was severely damaged. The infant mortality rate (IMR) is 35.2 per thousand and the under-5 mortality rate (U5MR) is 41.9 per thousand live births.

News that raises questions

Some of the information raises further questions about the aspects they are supposed to clarify The data claims that 95.9 percent of the population lives in households with ‘improved drinking water sources’. The footnote defines an ‘advanced drinking water source’ such as piped water, including a public tap or a tube well. These are true, but when the definition includes ‘a safe digging well, a protected spring and rainwater’, it is clear that there is a broader effort to include old, unprotected water sources to reach an impressive ratio of 95.9 per 95.9. Was done. Century I doubt it will be the final step before announcing that the target of providing individual household taps to all households has been achieved by the target year 2024!
Data on the use of an ‘advanced sanitation facility’ is also questionable. Advanced sanitation facilities include flush-to-pit latrines, pit latrines with no-frills, slab-pit latrines and twin pit / composting toilets – that is, everything except open defecation (OD) is an advanced sanitation facility!

Only 58.6 percent of households (over 43.8 percent) use clean fuels for cooking, despite publicity about the Ujjwala scheme. Percentage is actually related to LPG or piped gas connection, not the actual number using regular LPG cylinders.

Thanks to the sluggish growth rate, millions of the poor and many may be living in extreme poverty. Let’s just take an indicator, namely, food consumption. The first charge of a family’s income is food. If a large proportion of women suffer from anemia and a significant portion of the child is underweight or many children are stunted or lost in addition to anemia, it is due to lack of adequate nutrition. Lack of food is, in my opinion, a determining indicator of poverty. Those poor people সন্তান the children of a trivial God — have been forgotten by the present government.

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