A report published by Economist says that Gujarat is worse than Bihar and Chattisgarh on child immunisation. Ranked 16th of the 31 states, this western Indian state, which was ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for more than 12 years, has just 56.2% children fully immunised, far below than the national average of 65%.
The new survey also suggests that the dropout rate for the polio vaccination in Gujarat, relatively more affluent and developed than backward states like Bihar and Chattisgarh, is almost 21%- significantly below than the national average of 12%.
The report further adds that when Modi took office as chief minister in 2001, Gujarat had 54% of its children fully immunised against preventable diseases. This was higher than the national average of 46% then. During his 12 years of rule, the state made a marginal improvement. But, while the national average improved by 19%, Gujarat under Modi could only register improvement of two percent. (See the chart below)
The Economist report further reveals that India has not published comprehensive study relating to nutrition or health since 2007. In 2013-14, the UN agency for children, Unicef with the help of the Indian government launched a countrywide survey that entailed interviewing 200,000 people. The results were meant to be published in October 2014, but only a limited set of data, on immunisation, was released that month by the ministry of health.
Shockingly, according to the report, while it covered most large states, the figures on Gujarat, were excluded.
This is not the first time that Gujarat has been criticised for its poor immunisation record. A report published by Unicef in 2011 had found Gujarat behind 21 other Indian states in immunization coverage of children in the age-group of 12-23 months.
This new revelation is bound to cause embarrassment to PM Modi, who has long flaunted the development model of Gujarat asking the rest of India to emulate the same.
In 2012, Modi had come under fire for attributing the state’s malnutrition to “beauty conscious” young girls watching their weight. While speaking to Wall Street Journal, he had said, “Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle-class is more beauty conscious than health conscious – that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they’ll have a fight. She’ll tell her mother, ‘I won’t drink milk. I’ll get fat’.”
In December 2014, after he became India’s prime minister, his government at the centre announced it was cutting almost 20 % of its 2014/15 healthcare budget thereby putting at risk key disease control initiatives in a country, where public spending on health is already among the lowest in the world.
(Photo: courtesy WSJ)