The latest National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, “Key Indicators of Household Consumer Expenditure in India” , released in June 2013 and based on sample survey in 2011 and 2012, does not just suggest that the average Gujarati both in rural and urban areas is forced to spend a higher proportion on food items compared to non-food items, which include anything ranging from paan and tobacco to clothing, footwear, fuel and light, transportation, education, health and entertainment (read THIS ARTICLE for a complete picture). The NSSO data also suggest that while the average Gujarati would like to “save” on education and healthcare, thereby spending a relatively smaller amount than most other states on the items under the two categories, he diverts his attention towards spending a much higher sum on edible oil, milk and milk products and paan, tobacco and intoxicants. At the same time, the survey finds out that the average Gujarati spends less on cereals, a major source of nutrition in a state where consumption of eggs, fish and meat is relatively much lower.
If the new NSSO data are to be believed, the rural Gujarati spends Rs 34 and the urban Gujarati spends Rs 77 per month per head on education, which is quite low compared to most other states. The NSSO defines education to include expenditure on “goods purchased for the purpose of education, viz., books and journals (first-hand or second-hand), newspapers, stationery, educational CD, etc, and also magazines, novels and other fiction. It also includes fees paid to educational institutions (e.g., schools, colleges, universities, etc.) on account of tuition and other fees like game fees, library fees, etc., and payment to private tutors. Fees for shorthand and typing courses, fees for music, dancing and swimming lessons, and fees for training in nursing, physiotherapy, etc., are included.”
The average Gujarati spending on education is not only much lower than the all-India average (Rs 50 in rural areas and Rs 200 in urban areas). It is, in fact, lower than most states – Andhra Pradesh (Rs 59 in rural areas, Rs 184 in urban areas), Haryana (Rs 157 in rural areas, Rs 336 in urban areas), Himachal Pradesh (Rs 91 in rural areas and Rs 257 in urban areas), Jammu & Kashmir (Rs 79 in rural areas and Rs 194 in urban areas), Karnataka (Rs 36 in rural areas and Rs 203 in urban areas), Kerala (Rs 98 in rural areas and Rs 168 in urban areas), Maharashtra (Rs 47 in rural areas and Rs 211 in urban areas), Punjab (Rs 139 in rural areas and Rs 225 in urban areas), Rajasthan (Rs 65 in rural areas and Rs 227 in urban areas), Tamil Nadu (Rs 81 in rural areas and Rs 171 in urban areas), Uttar Pradesh (Rs 45 in rural areas and 159 in urban areas), Uttarakhand (Rs 93 in rural areas and Rs 157 in urban areas, and West Bengal (Rs 77 in rural areas and Rs 175 in urban areas). The rural population of a few states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh spends less on education than Gujarat, but as for urban areas, things are just the opposite.
The situation is not very different vis-à-vis healthcare. On the health front, the average rural Gujarati spends Rs 34 for institutional medicine and Rs 47 for non-institutional medicine, while the average urban Gujarati spends Rs 51 on institutional medicine and Rs 69 on non-institutional medicine. The NSSO explains, “The distinction between institutional and non-institutional medical expenses lies in whether the expenses were incurred on medical treatment as an in-patient of a medical institution (institutional), or otherwise (non-institutional). Medical institution here covers private as well as government institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes.” Taken together, the average rural Gujarati spends Rs 81 on healthcare in rural areas, as compared to the all-India average of Rs 95. As for the urban areas, the average Gujarati spends Rs 120 on healthcare (both institutional and non-institutional) as against the all-India average of Rs 143.
Compared to lower spending on the social sector, significantly, the average rural as well as urban Gujarati spends a much higher amount than most states on edible oil – Rs 89 and Rs 197 respectively. This is higher than all states, including “comparable” states such as Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. The average Gujarati also spends much higher sum than many states on milk and milk products (Rs 196 in rural areas and Rs 267 in urban areas), which is higher than most states except states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. Same is the case with such vegetables and sugar. However, a higher spending on edible oil, milk and milk products, sugar and vegetables is compensated by the average Gujarati’s much lower per capita per month spending on egg, fish and meat – Rs 24 in rural and Rs 30 in urban areas as against the all-India average of Rs 68 in rural and Rs 96 urban areas, respectively.
It is a matter of some concern that while the average Gujarati spends a big sum on edible oils and milk and milk products, significantly, the spending is quite much less compared to most states on cereals, which is a major source of nutrition in the absence of non-vegetarian food. On cereals, the average rural Gujarati spends Rs 126 per capita per month, while the average urban Gujarati spends Rs 143. This is against the all-India average spending on cereals to the tune of Rs 153 per capita per month in rural areas and Rs 174 in urban areas. Equally disconcerting is the fact that the average Gujarati spends a much higher sum on paan, tobacco and other intoxicants (Rs 44 in rural areas as against the all-India average of Rs 43, and Rs 44 in urban areas as against the all-India average of Rs 42).
— Rajiv Shah