People’s mentality has changed within two decades, now instead of food and drink, expenditure on other things has increased.

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In the recent report of the National Sample Survey, a tremendous change is being seen among the countrymen towards their lifestyle and eating habits. While on one hand there is a rapid decline in expenditure on food items from 1999-00 to 2022-23, on the other hand there is a big jump in expenditure on other than food items. The surprising thing is that this change does not happen only in urban areas, but the winds of change in rural areas are not almost the same but are more than in urban areas. It is not that there has been a decrease in per capita expenditure during this period, rather a continuous increase in per capita expenditure is being seen. This trend also explains the rapidly changing priorities.

Another fact is that while the consumption of food grains has decreased, there is an increase in the purchase of non-edible items. In fact, this change also explains the changing scenario. If an overall analysis of the NSS report is done, then the use of beverages and processed foods i.e. canned foods has increased in the food items, whether in urban or rural areas, but these should also be included. Yet the expenditure on food has reduced significantly by 2022-23 as compared to 1999-00, while people in urban and rural areas are spending money generously on non-edible items. It seems as if people’s priorities have changed equally now. Rather, it would be more logical to say that now villages are in no way lagging behind cities in terms of standard of living and use of luxuries. Rather, this is what emerges from the report and it has become clear that despite the commodity culture, producers are now getting a good market in rural areas. This can also be considered a good sign for the economy, on the other hand, believe it or not, but it is clear from the survey that villages are no longer villages and they do not want to lag behind the cities. This is the reason why producers have now started preparing strategies by targeting rural areas also.

If we understand the dramatic changes in the country in just two decades, then in the language of statistics, in 1999-00, 59.40 percent of the amount was being spent on food items in rural areas, whereas by 2022-23, it came down to only 46.38 percent. The special thing is that rapid changes have been seen in it, especially in the last decade. Similarly, if we talk about urban areas, the expenditure on food grains was 48.06 percent in 1999-00, which came down to 39.17 percent by 2022-23. The most important thing is that even though experts believe that one of the reasons behind the decline in food grains is the distribution of food items by the government for free and at low prices, but this is not an acceptable thing because under food security, to a certain extent, Free food items are also being distributed. Yes, there is talk of change in eating habits to some extent, but this also cannot be considered correct because the use of canned food items is not increasing as much as the use of food grains has decreased. It seems as if people are becoming disillusioned with food grains. But this cannot be considered a good sign for the future.

In 1999-00, 22.23 percent of the amount was spent on food grains and food alternatives in rural areas, which has come down to 6.92 percent in just two decades. This is the situation of villages. Even in cities, expenditure on food grains and food products has reduced from 12.39 percent to 4.51 percent. On the other hand, if we take beverages and processed food among food items, its usage has increased from 6.35 percent to 10.64 percent in urban areas and from 4.19 percent to 9.62 percent in rural areas. On the other hand, if we talk about purchase of non-edible items, it has increased from 40.60 percent to 53.62 percent in rural areas and from 51.94 percent to 60.83 percent in urban areas. In this too, a huge increase is being seen in durable items. People’s interest has increased towards vehicles, AC, fridge, oven, flats or houses etc. The other aspect of the picture is that there has been a decline in expenditure on clothes, shoes and similar items of personal use.

Actually, this is a picture of the changing mood of the countrymen in two decades. But the decrease in the use of food items and increase in the use of canned and beverages should be a matter of concern. Similarly, for durable items, being burdened with debt due to taking personal and other types of loans and using credit cards cannot be justified. If seen, today’s generation and today’s people have started getting stress, frustration, competition etc. without paying any kind of price. There was a time when two meals a day, pulses and bread were the first necessity and priority, but that seems to have gone to the background in just two decades. It has become clear from the survey that today rural and urban areas are growing in the same direction at almost the same speed and the distinction between village and city is reducing, but change in eating habits can be a cause of concern for the future.

-Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sharma

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