On paper, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious pet project 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' (Save Daughter, Educate Daughter) looks great.
The campaign to end female infanticide and educate every girl child of the country is a social media blockbuster, with trending hashtags like #SelfieWithDaughter.
Several Bollywood celebrities, including Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Alia Bhatt are part of a massive campaign to create awareness to empower women on all fronts.
Hunger Games: Condition of Indian women is worse than that of Bangladesh's
Amidst all the hype, comes a shocker. According to a recent study published in the online edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Indian women were found to be the most malnourished in the world.
The study states that more than 18 million women in low- and middle-income countries around the world are severely undernourished.
The highest prevalence of malnutrition is reported from India with 6.2 per cent, followed by Bangladesh (3.9 per cent), Madagascar (3.4 per cent), Timor Leste (2.9 per cent), Senegal (2.5 per cent), and Sierra Leone (2.2 per cent).
Poor women, hungry women
"These women tend to be the poorest and least educated members of the society and comprise a "left behind" population of adults with severe undernutrition whose needs have not been met by economic gains and progress and who have been understudied by health researchers," adds the study.
"What surprised us was the number of women suffering from severe undernutrition despite the fact that the prevalence of being overweight or obese has risen in most of the countries we looked at," said the lead author of the study, Dr Fahad Razak, a physician at St. Michael's Hospital and a researcher in its Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute.
14 million is not a joke
A detail analysis of the study shows that 14 million women in India are malnourished. The main reason cited by experts behind such mind-boggling numbers of women who have no access to basic food was Indian social norms.
In India, a woman generally eats after her family. Thus she mostly eats leftovers. In the process of following such social practices, most of these poor women hardly get to eat.
"Lack of access to nutritious food leads to such high level of malnourishment among women in the country," say experts.
It has been a year now since the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) was launched by the Prime Minister with much fanfare in January last year at Panipat, Haryana. With the latest revelation, bringing to the fore the horrible reality about underfed women in the country, the policymakers need to come up with an immediate solution to address the issue.