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Poverty, Dietary Imbalance and Sickness among Casual Labourer Households in Shillong (India)

  • Biology
  • Medicine


The objective of this study is to bring out the case of poverty, undernourishment and health conditions of casual labourers in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, India. Casual labourers are those workers who work for a very short duration (for a few hours, a day or at most a few days under a single contract) for an employer, and who are (usually) paid for their labour either at the end of the contract or at the end of a day. The study is based on the primary data collected from 125 casual labourer households with 688 family members. Overall, it is found that casual labourer households in Shillong are poor; their per capita income (per month) is Rs. 516.6 on an average and they spend a meager amount (Rs. 252.9 only or 48.95 percent of income) on food articles yielding energy. Some 38.4 percent of these households are below poverty line (fixed at Rs. 396 per capita per month). Poorer households have larger family size. Consequently, some 46.5 percent persons in the sample households are below poverty line. The mean energy intake of these households is slightly less than 1600 calories per person per day. The average energy intake among the BPL households is a meager 1307.66 calories per person per day. Only 19 households have calorie intake larger than 2000, and of them only 14 get more than 2200 calories. Of 125 households, the majority (93) have no milk consumption. Overall, carbohydrates supply 76.5 percent of the energy intake and the contribution of proteins to the calorie intake is ranging between 9.55 and 10.64 percent across different income and food habit groups with the mean value of 10.16 percent. Irrespective of the per capita income group that they belong to, the casual labourer households, without a single exception, eat diets deficient in proteins far below the prescribed norms. Of the total number of 688 persons in 125 households, 72 (8.14 percent) are found chronically sick. Among the 72 sick persons, 56 (78.78 percent) are in the BPL income group, 34 (47.22 percent) are children in 0-14 years age group, and 23 (31.94 percent) are adult women. Among the sick, the overwhelming majority indicates nutritional deficiency. Children and women are hit most hard by the dietary imbalance in food. Logit analysis of incidence of sickness suggests that the probability of a person being sick is very high (0.5 or more) in the extremely poor households. The probability of finding a sick person at about per capita income of Rs. 600 per month is 0.10 and it declines sharply with an increase in income.

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