Punjab: Once land of plenty, now struggling


04 Feb 2017

Once robust Punjab now has wasted children, anaemic men

Punjabis have for long been perceived as relatively well-off people who eat heartily and live an energetic lifestyle.

Punjab, once one of India's richest and fastest-growing states, is going for elections today.

The agrarian state is now termed "once rich" because its economy is declining and ill-health is plaguing people across all ages, as this analysis by the Observer Research Foundation for IndiaSpend shows.

Wasting among children increasing, stunting rampant

Wasting (low weight-for-height) among children has increased to 15.6% in 2015 from 9.2% in 2005, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). One out of every four child is stunted (low height for age) in 2015.

More disease-prone

Punjab faces both high obesity and anaemia

Obesity among men reached 27.8% in 2015, up from 22.2% in 2005. , increasing their risks of contracting non-communicable diseases like diabetes.

Obesity among women has increased 1.4 percentage points to 31.3% in 2015 from 2005.

The proportion of anaemic men increased to 25.9% in 2015 from 13.6% in 2005, while anaemic women increased from 38% to 53.5%.

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What is anaemia

The World Health Organization states: Anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or their oxygen-carrying capacity is insufficient to meet physiologic needs. In its severe form, it is associated with fatigue, weakness, dizziness and drowsiness.

Some positives

Alcohol use, tobacco consumption rates among men decrease

On the positive side, the proportion of male tobacco users is down from 33.8% in 2005 to 19.2% in 2015.

While drug use has surged, alcohol consumption among men is down to 34% in 2015 from 43.4% in 2005.

Underage marriage among girls fell from 19.7% in 2005 to 7.6% in 2015.

The infant mortality rate has dropped even as child immunization has increased.

Punjab's sex ratio improving but lags behind national average

Punjab's sex ratio has improved from 860 (females per 1000 men) in 2015 from 746 in 2005. However, it still lags behind the 2014 all-India ratio of 906.


Punjab's healthcare system in tatters

Among the five states heading for the polls, Punjab has the second lowest per capita health spending at Rs. 647 per year.

Punjab has one government hospital bed for every 2,420 people leading citizens to depend on costly private hospitals.

Patients often travel to neighbouring states for treatment.

Only 5.6% of Punjab's citizens are covered by health insurance. The national average is 15.2%.

Subsidized electricity eats up state coffers, reduces social spending

Studies reveal that free rural electricity offered since the green revolution led to over-exploitation of groundwater. There has been little growth in the state's social spending, including on health and education.

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National Family Health

National Family Health Survey


Observer Research Foundation


World Health Organization

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