25 April 2014

India's Elections: Which Political Parties Care About Malnutrition?

Voting is just past the halfway mark in the Indian elections.  The three national parties are Congress (the incumbent), the BJP (Modi's party) and the AAP (the anti-corruption party).  

Their election manifestos are online.  What do they say about malnutrition?  

Congress:  Nutrition mentioned twice. 

Once under the Right to Health: "Almost 56% of adolescent girls in India are anaemic. Anaemia and malnutrition among mothers endanger the mother’s health and causes growth retardation and vulnerability to diseases in children. This is not just a socio-economic challenge; it is a political challenge to which the Indian National Congress reaffirms its commitment." and once under Environment: "We will continue to accord the highest priority to environmental protection and to ensure that all people in India have the right to a clean environment, which secures their health, livelihood and nutritional well-being."

BJP: Nutrition mentioned 12 times.  Impressively the multiple mentions are across several sectors: food, social security, healthcare and agriculture.  

AAP: No mentions of nutrition. 

The lack of prominence of nutrition from Congress is perhaps not so surprising--they have not exactly championed the issue. 

The relative prominence given to the malnutrition by the BJP may reflect Gujarat's own recognition of the importance of malnutrition reduction as signalled by its Nutrition Mission, modelled after Maharashtra's.  But what is interesting is that this party of economic growth has so much time, seemingly, for nutrition.  The two are seen as linked--in both directions. 

Finally I find the AAP's lack of mentioning of nutrition fascinating.  If sunlight  is the best disinfectant for corruption, then the party would be well served by a focus on malnutrition.  Malnutrition thrives in the shadows of the absence of information.  If you want to turn a light on service delivery in general, doing so in the sectors that are supposed to serve nutrition would provide an excellent focus and in the process help the 60-65 million Indian children who are stunted.  

Are manifestos worth the paper they are written on?  As the saying goes there is many a slip between cup and lip.  But while manifestos are not legally binding they are a way of holding parties accountable for their public utterances--or lack of them. 

1 comment:

Sandesh Kotte said...

You are correct Prof. But this elections are indeed revolutionary in a way because for the first time every political party talked about health in their manifestos one or other way. me and my colleague wrote a comment on this:http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2014/05/02/arima-mishra-and-sandesh-kotte-where-does-the-healthcare-of-the-people-in-india-figure-in-political-parties-election-manifestos/