As of 2005-6, India had 62 million stunted children, accounting for a third of the world's burden of stunting. India's official source of nutrition data – key to measure stunting, wasting and other indicators of acute malnutrition – is the National Family Health Survey whose fourth round was conducted in 2014-15 after delays and disagreements that took ten years to resolve.
As a result, India has had no official data on whether its high economic growth since 2005-6 improved nutritional outcomes.
The new NFHS-4 data for 15 states shows that 37 per cent of children under the age of five in these states is stunted, a fall of just five percentage points in a decade. Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are the worst off, with 48 and 42 per cent respectively of children stunted.
The proportion of underweight children has reduced equally slowly, from 39 per cent to 34 per cent, with Bihar and Madhya Pradesh the worst off again.
The one success has been in the area of child wasting (low weight for height). The states for which data is available have more than halved their proportion of wasted children in the last decade, from 48 per cent to 22 per cent, the new data shows.
The proportions of adult men and women with below normal Body Mass Index have also declined.