[Solved There is a growing divergence in the relationship between poverty and hunger in India. The shrinking of social expenditure by the government is forcing the poor to spend more on Non- Food essential items squeezing their food – budget. Elucidate ( UPSC GS-2 Mains 2019)

Growing divergence in the relationship between poverty and hunger in India: India is among those countries which spend the least on social sector services such as health and education. The government spends only 2.3 % of GDP on health which is very far away from the world’s average of 10.02%. Where as in the education sector it is 3.4% against the world’s average of 4.815%. This endangers India’s prospects which currently hold the world’s largest young population to reap its demographic dividend by human capital formation. This further has led Indian society to divert its resources from food items to non-food items.

Reasons behind Growing divergence in relationship with poverty and Hunger

 • India is currently in the third stage of demographic transition with average life expectancy of 68.5 years. Increase in life expectancy from 61 years in 2001 to 67 years in 2011 and further to 68.5 years in 2019. Further, neonatal mortality, under five mortality and maternal mortality has also decreased considerably which indicates that citizens have considerably spent on health.

 • Further, India’s literacy rate has grown from 18.33 per cent in 1951 to 74.04 per cent in 2011. Apart from it, number of schools, teacher pupil’s ratio and other indicators has improved over time.

 • But budget allocation in both the sectors have decreased over time since independence which indicates the dependence of people more on their private purse for these expenditure than government.

 • Poor state of public health and education has led to diversion of India’s middle class towards private facilities which are sucking their money.

 • Diversion of citizen’s money from food items to non-food items have led to increase in malnutrition and hunger.

 • Eating behavior of the country reflects these facts as Indians are more prone to low cost carbohydrate based food than high cost protein based food as they have least to spend on food.

 • Further, increased expenditure on modern day essentials such as electricity, internet services, telecom services e.t.c has increased burden on private purse of individuals.

Growing divergence and  Initiatives by government

 • Although government has increased the budget allocation on health and education considerably in last couple of years but both are far from the world’s average expenditure as the proportion of GDP.

 • However, schemes such as Ayushman Bharat have helped citizens to preserve their hard earned savings from being exhausted at the time of illness.

 • Further, modernization of public health care and education system on the lines of developed countries as done in NCT of Delhi has brought hope to citizens.

 • Social security schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Vayo Vandana yojana to provide insurance benefits to older citizens have helped Indian households to protect financial health of Indian households by decreasing dependents.

This will decrease hunger and malnutrition considerably and help India to attain sustainable development goals such as No poverty (Goal 1), Zero Hunger (Goal 2), Good health and wellbeing (Goal 3) and Quality Education (Goal 4) by 2030.

 It is the responsibility of a welfare state to provide basic essentials like food, education, health etc with optimum quality to every citizen. Poverty and hunger have always been interrelated.

 However, in the recent times despite coming out of poverty the problem of hunger continues to haunt lot of people.

 For instance, poverty as per official estimates is around 22%( as per 2011-12 estimates) whereas India is ranked 103 out of 119 countries in Global Hunger Index-2018. The causes for this trend are:

 • Decline in social spending certainly is one of the most important reason.

 • Overall spending on public education is less compared to other developing countries. This has affected quality of education too.

 • Increase in demand for quality education and rise of private schools cumulatively led to decline in financial power of poor.

 • Similarly, in case of public health, it is less than 2% of GDP. This has increased out of pocket expenditure to around 70%.

 • destruction of rural livelihoods and loss of access to common property resources like forests, ponds, grazing lands and rivers. Along with the growth of landlessness, shrinking access to common property resources have led to sharp declines in access to non-market sources of food

 • structure of occupation has been undergoing rapid change.

 • Rural working people are migrating in large number to urban centres or other rural areas in search of work. Most of such migration is temporary and seasonal in character, and involves travelling relatively large distances. This large circulation of labor will have substantial impacts on the expenditure patterns of households. For instance, an increasingly footloose labor force means that a large section of the working poor have to bear higher costs of transportation, maintain communication with the sites of work (much of which is seasonal in character), and are deprived of traditional non-market sources of food when away from home.

 • shrinking social expenditure by the government is rendering the urban and rural poor dependent on market prices of non-food essential items, which are typically high.

 • Decline in spending on public distribution scheme, Inefficiencies in it also contributes to this problem.

 • In addition to this, increased focus on nutrition also has affected overall food budget.

Way forward:

 • Increase expenditure in education to 6% of GDP as suggested by Kasturi Rangan committee and included in draft national education policy.

 • Increase health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP at the earliest (national health policy) • Diversify PDS to provide better food with nutrition.

 • Universalization of PDS to remove exclusion errors which might affect seasonal migrants (foot loose labor)

Growing divergence


 India is on the verge of becoming a trillion dollar economy and is currently the 6th largest economy in terms of nominal GDP with second highest growth rate. It has huge capital to invest in social sector to reap maximum benefits from its rich demographic dividend by human capital formation. Hence, government must increase its allocation on health,education and other social sector services such as subsidies on electricity, water and internet services so that citizens can spend maximum on food items.

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