NFHS-5 data on New Welfarism
The release of the second and final phase of NFHS-5, which covered 11 states (including Uttar Pradesh (UP), Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Jharkhand, Haryana, and Chhattisgarh) and about 49 per cent of the population.
Success of New Welfarism
- Household access to improved sanitation, cooking gas and bank accounts used by women. The improvements are as striking as they were based on the performance of the phase 1 states.
- In all cases, access has increased significantly, although claims of India being 100 per cent open defecation-free still remain excessive.
Child Related Outcomes
- Earlier child stunting had stagnated between 2015 and 2019 after decades of progress.
- In Phase-2, India-wide, stunting has declined although the pace of improvement has slowed down post-2015 compared with the previous decade.
- For example, stunting improved by 0.7 percentage points per year between 2005 and 2015 compared to 0.3 percentage points between 2015 and 2021.
- On diarrhoea too, adding the new data reverses the earlier finding.
- However, on anaemia and acute respiratory illness, there seems to have been deterioration as we had found earlier.
- The new child stunting results are significant but also surprising because of the sharply divergent outcomes between the phase 1 and phase 2 states.
- For example, the data for Tamil Nadu shows a dramatic deterioration in the sex ratio at birth from 954 females to males in 2015 to 878 in 2020, indicating a sharp increase in selective abortion, despite an improvement in the sex ratio of the overall population from 1,033 to 1,088 females per males.
- Apparently, Madhya Pradesh now has fewer stunted children than Gujarat; Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand are almost at par with Gujarat; Chhattisgarh fares better than Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra; and Rajasthan and Odisha fare better than Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh.
- On child stunting, the old BIMARU states (excepting Bihar) are no longer the laggards; the laggards are Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, and to a lesser extent, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- If true, on the key child stunting metric, what we are seeing is not catch-up but the great switch between some of the BIMARU states and the mid-peninsular/western states. Indeed, the decline in stunting achieved by the poorer states such as UP, MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would be all the more remarkable given the overall weakness in the economy between 2015 and 2021.
- Finally, insofar as health and nutrition are determined by actions of the states, stunting outcomes reflect on their performance.
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