Saturday, August 29, 2009


The Body Mass Index or BMI, is a measure of one's weight in relation to one's own height, and gives and indication of the body's muscle mass and fat stores. Normal BMIs for men and women should range between 19 and 25. A BMI less than 18.5 indicates undernutrition, or in most cases, hunger.

A BMI between 13 and 15 corresponds to 48 to 55 percent of desirable body weight for a given height and is considered as the lowest body weight that can sustain life. At this level of BMI the body fat is less than 5 percent.

It seems logical therefore, that the BMI be used as an indicator of who should receive Government subsidies for various programmes, especially those that enable a person to purchase food at an affordable price.

Dharmin Gond is one of the TBAs I work with within the Achanakmaar sanctuary. She is 38, and lives in Katami with her husband and 3 children - a son 22, a girl 16, and the youngest a boy of 14. They own less than one acre of land, which has been given to her by her parents. Her in-laws are dead, their land was submerged when the Lamni dam was built some years ago. No land compensation was provided, and she does not know if any money was given.

She is heavily in debt: having borrowed 40 kg grain for sowing: the seedlings came up and during the dry spell in August, all of them dried up. She now has nothing to sow again, and has to return 80 kg to the farmer she borrowed from, and does not know how she will manage this.

They also borrowed Rs.1500 for a wedding @ 5% interest per month. Apart from this, they borrowed Rs.3500 for a bullock at the same rate of interest. The bullock which died of a mysterious illness within a month of purchase.She struggles to keep up with the interest payments.

They do not have a BPL card, and have to purchase rice at the market rate of Rs.16 / kg, or broken rice at Rs. 14 /kg. She is not sure how much they consume per month, but buys whenever they have Rs 50 or 100. But 10- kg rice lasts a maximum of 4 -5 days. She buys about Rs. 10 worth of masur daal during festival time, which they eat for 2 days. Masur is Rs. 60 per kg in the market now.

Both her sons and husband worked in NREGA in summer, and when they were paid, Rs. 50 was deducted from each one's wages as a standard procedure. There is no work in Katami now. They have heard that there is work in Lormi, but they need voter Id proof ,which they don’t have. They now have to go to the block headquarters at Lormi or to the Surhi Panchayat office to get it.

She also runs a creche for which she earns Rs. 1000 per month, which helps her in meeting some expenses.

Dharmin says she is distracted with worry about her debts and also about her daughter's marriage: her daughter wants to study further, but discontinued after the 8th standard to help in the house.

Dharmin's BMI is 15.3. She is barely above the body weight that can sustain life.

Yet according to our Government, she is not poor.


  1. Many studies have concluded that indian govt. has yet to outline properly the magnitude & detailed profile of poverty group population. Its merely a collection of poverty lines & poverty ratio for official statistics.
    Listening about Dharmin Bai, its high time that govt need to think beyond poverty data collection.

    You made a good effort to make people aware of such hidden issues.

    Reena Sonwalker

  2. Hi,

    I was directed to your blog by Dilip D'Souza. You must continue writing. There are so many of us who simply don't know what happens on the ground, and the English newspapers that we read do not highlight these problems for whatever reason. But if people like you keep on writing, people like me who do not have first hand access to Indian villages will remain in touch with its realities.