ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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COVID-19 as an Opportunity to Engage with Urban Malnutrition Challenge: Preliminary Insights from India

As the world is urbanising fast, a growing body of literature highlights malnutrition as an imminent urban challenge, further compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19. The nutrition policy discourse, however, is yet to accommodate this shift. In fact, it continues to exhibit a rural bias. This itself has partly been reinforced by the absence of authoritative evidence on urban malnutrition. Based on preliminary analysis of Indian data, this paper examines whether there is urbanisation of child malnutrition. The paper finds that urban India is witnessing a decline in nutrition advantage. While for less urbanised states, urban child stunting is relatively higher, in more urbanised states, urban child wasting is a challenge. Given that wasting is an indicator of acute malnutrition, it is partly attributable to lack of adequate food. Though it might be early to connect this to a looming hunger crisis, growing child wasting questions the claims of food security in urban India. Seeing this further in context of implications of COVID-19 provides a potential basis for broadening of the nutrition policy agenda.

Assessing the Recent Indian Economic Growth

Although the headline growth in 2021–22 and the projections for 2022–23 following the disastrous COVID-19 pandemic are impressive, indeed the highest among major economies, this is not the hoped-for V-shaped recovery as the output loss is far from being recouped. India’s output loss is among the highest in major G20 economies. It may be difficult for the Indian economy to sustain an average growth above 5% in a business-as-usual scenario because its potential growth has declined through hysteresis, and it faces several headwinds going forward.

Epidemic and Infectious Disease Surveillance

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen some Asian countries employ sophisticated mass-surveillance technologies—normally employed to gather intelligence for domestic security purposes—to contain the spread of infection in their populations. There has also been an intrusion of military and allied national security actors into the traditionally civilian domain of public health, in the form of disease surveillance. These emerging developments in the pandemic response provide a pretext for a limited historical review, beginning from World War II to the present, centred on the intersection between infectious disease surveillance and control, national security, and military in the Western world.

Food Consumption Expenditures and the COVID-19 Pandemic in India

The COVID-19 pandemic led to lockdowns and disruptions in food supply chains and emerged as both a demand- and a supply-side shock. Based on the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy– Consumer Pyramids Household Survey monthly expenditure data for the period from January 2019 to August 2021, changes in food expenditure shares in India as a result of the pandemic across income and socio-economic and demographic groups are examined. The pandemic-induced lockdowns resulted in a sharp increase in the share of food in the total expenditure across rural and urban India for all income groups and castes and religions, but the intensity of shifts varied.

Novel Health Approaches Emerging from the Covid-19 Crisis

Novel public health experiments from Maharashtra in the pandemic times, involving co-production of healthcare, interventionist regulation of private hospital rates and popular initiatives to ensure social accountability of private hospitals, demonstrate significant potentials to advance people-centred health system changes.

The ‘Relevance’ Question

The Social Sciences in a Global Age: Decoding Knowledge Politics by Dipankar Sinha, Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2022; pp xxiv + 173, `695.

Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Rural Non-farm Self-employed in India

This paper examines the importance of skills, especially through vocational training, for the rural non-farm sector in overcoming the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The difference-in-differences technique has been used to assess the differential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the earnings of skilled and unskilled self-employed activities. The primary data have been collected from 880 rural non-farm self-employed individuals who hailed from different regions of Karnataka. Although every section of the rural non-farm activities has been adversely affected due to the pandemic, the impact is more severe on unskilled individuals as compared to skilled individuals. Therefore, policymakers need to pay attention to enhancing the provision of formal vocational training for RNFS individuals on a grander scale.

Fiscal Situation of India in the Time of Covid-19

India announced a fiscal package worth `1.7 trillion to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were arguments for more spending. Using data from a cross-section of countries, this paper estimates the relationship between fiscal spending and the spread of COVID-19, economic stringency, and macroeconomic factors. It argues that subsidy rationalisation is the way to fund the increased expenditure on health and direct transfers while maintaining fiscal discipline.

State and Health Markets in the Time of Pandemic

This paper attempts to explain three broad trends that underpinned the relationship between the state, market, and healthcare: first, the state is moving away from its health provider role to a regulator role, which involves shifting the resources, authority, and responsibility to diverse public and private actors. Second, in the name of the pandemic, the state has opened up fresh frontiers of privatisation and corporatisation of healthcare, extending to non-metropolitan cities and small towns. Third, the above two processes would lead to further exclusion of lower castes, classes, and genders from access to healthcare, spiralling health inequalities.

Impact of Public Debt on the Economic Growth of Subnational Economies in India

This study examines both the short- and long-run impact of public debt on the economic growth of Uttar Pradesh during the post-reform period of 30 years by employing the vector error correction model. The empirical analysis revealed that the increase in public debt-to-gross state domestic product ratio and interest payments burden would have an adverse impact on the long-run economic growth of UP, while having no significant impact on the short-run growth. It is also notable that the effective interest rate has negatively correlated with the gross capital formation in UP, and the latter has shown significant positive long-run association with the economic growth. In order to attract investments and economic growth, the state Government of UP should continue a countercyclical fiscal stance that would help in adhering to fiscal sustainability rules by smoothing out the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian Banking Sector

This article investigates the impact of COVID-19 on the banking sector through the trend analysis of return on assets and return on equity of the scheduled commercial banks. It covers both the pre- and post-lockdown periods. The results suggest that the governmental measures are helping ameliorate situations of bad quality loans and will improve future prospects of the banking industry.

Decoding the Three Pandemic Budgets

Despite substantial socio-economic disparities in health, education, and nutrition outcomes, the government is pitching human development expenditure against capital expenditure. In a welfare state, social sector should be the centre of policy prescriptions. Instead of an imperfect assumption of trickle-down, the the government needs to realise that growth and development must go hand in hand.


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