New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Saturday clarified that he had not sought to link malnutrition in the state to beauty consciousness among girls, and claimed the state had achieved the highest rate of reducing malnutrition in India.
Responding to a question at the India Today conclave about his remarks on malnutrition in the state that had stirred a controversy, Modi said he had merely noted that malnutrition was not caused by poverty alone.
In an interview last year to The Wall Street Journal, Modi had attributed his state's high rate of malnutrition to vegetarianism and figure-consciousness among Gujarati girls.
He had said the middle class was more beauty-conscious than health-conscious, and if a mother tells her daughter to have milk, the two would have a fight, as the daughter would insist that milk would make her fat.
Modi said Saturday that his remarks had been misconstrued.
He said that he had stated that malnutrition was also a problem among well-off families, as there was a liking for fast food among children, and parents had to enforce healthier eating.
"This is a problem in many houses. Children do not obey (parents). There is a problem in well-off homes. How long will we turn our head away from reality?" he said.
Modi said the 2001 census report came to him in 2004 and he got a briefing from his officers about the status of malnutrition in Gujarat. The state government then launched a concerted drive to end malnutrition, he added.
He asserted that there was no survey report in the country on malnutrition, and data was based on figures compiled by the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
Modi said Gujarat had been honoured by the central government last week for its work to end malnutrition. He pointed to the CAG report, and said Gujarat had achieved 33 percent rate of coming out of malnutrition, the highest in the country.
The Gujarat chief minister said one of the reasons for the high number of malnourished children in the state was the large inward migration, with people from other parts of the country moved to Gujarat in search of livelihood.