BBC News – The myth of the Indian vegetarian nation

Soutik Biswas, India correspondent

New Delhi – India, 4 April 2018. What are the most common myths and stereotypes about what Indians eat?

The biggest myth, of course, is that India is a largely vegetarian country.

But that’s not the case at all. Past “non-serious” estimates have suggested that more than a third of Indians ate vegetarian food.

If you go by three large-scale government surveys, 23%-37% of Indians are estimated to be vegetarian. By itself this is nothing remarkably revelatory.

But new research by US-based anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and India-based economist Suraj Jacob, points to a heap of evidence that even these are inflated estimations because of “cultural and political pressures”. So people under-report eating meat, particularly beef, and over-report eating vegetarian food.

Taking all this into account, say the researchers, only about 20% of Indians are actually vegetarian – much lower than common claims and stereotypes suggest.

Hindus, who make up 80% of the Indian population, are major meat-eaters. Even only a third of the privileged, upper-caste Indians are vegetarian.

The government data shows that vegetarian households have higher income and consumption, are more affluent than meat-eating households. The lower castes, Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and tribes-people are mainly meat eaters.

On the other hand, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob find the extent of beef eating is much higher than claims and stereotypes suggest.

At least 7% of Indians eat beef, according to government surveys.

But there is evidence to show that some of the official data is “considerably” under-reported because beef is “caught in cultural political and group identity struggles in India”.

Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist BJP promotes vegetarianism and believes that the cow should be protected, because the country’s majority Hindu population considers them holy. More than a dozen states have already banned the slaughter of cattle. And during Mr Modi’s rule, vigilante cow protection groups, operating with impunity, have killed people transporting cattle.

The truth is millions of Indians, including Dalits, Muslims and Christians, consume beef. Some 70 communities in Kerala, for example, prefer beef to the more expensive goat meat.

Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob conclude that in reality, closer to 15% of Indians, or about 180 million people, eat beef. That’s a whopping 96% more than the official estimates.

And then there are the stereotypes of Indian food.

Delhi, where only a third of residents are thought to be vegetarian, may well deserve its reputation for being India’s butter chicken capital.

But, the stereotype of Chennai as the hub of India’s “south Indian vegetarian meal” is completely misplaced. Reason: only 6% of the city’s residents are vegetarian, one survey suggests.

Many continue to believe that Punjab is “chicken loving” country. But the truth is that 75% of people in the northern state are vegetarian.

So how has the myth that India is a largely vegetarian country been spread so successfully?

For one, Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob told me, in a “highly diverse society with food habits and cuisines changing every few kilometres and within social groups, any generalisation about large segments of the population is a function of who speaks for the group”.

“This power to represent communities, regions, or even the entire country is what makes the stereotypes.” Also, they say, “the food of the powerful comes to stand in for the food of the people”.

“The term non-vegetarian is a good case in point. It signals the social power of vegetarian classes, including their power to classify foods, to create a ‘food hierarchy’ wherein vegetarian food is the default and is having a higher status than meat.

Thus it is akin to the term ‘non-whites’ coined by ‘whites’ to capture an incredibly diverse population who they colonised.”


Secondly, the researchers say, some of the stereotype is enabled by migration.

So when south Indians migrate to northern and central India, their food comes to stand in for all south Indian cuisine. This is similarly true for north Indians who migrate to other parts of the country.

Finally, some of the stereotypes are perpetuated by the outsider, north Indians stereotype south Indians just by meeting a few of them without thinking about the diversity of the region and vice versa.

The foreign media, say the researchers, is also complicit “as it seeks to identify societies by a few essential characteristics”.

Also, the study shows up the differences in food habits among men and women. More women, for example, say they are vegetarian than men.

The researchers say this could be partly explained by the fact that more men eat outside their homes and with “greater moral impunity than women”, although eating out may not by itself result in eating meat.

Patriarchy and politics might have something to do with it.

“The burden of maintaining a tradition of vegetarianism falls disproportionately on the women,” say Dr Natrajan and Dr Jacob.

Couples are meat eaters in about 65% of the surveyed households and vegetarians only in 20%. But in 12% of the cases the husband was a meat eater, while the wife was a vegetarian. Only in 3% cases was the reverse true.

Clearly, the majority of Indians consume some form of meat, chicken and mutton, mainly, regularly or occasionally, and eating vegetarian food is not practiced by the majority.

So why does vegetarianism exert a far greater influence on representations of India and Indians around the world? Does it have to do with “policing” of food choices and perpetuating food stereotypes in a vastly complex and multicultural society? – Six hundred Pakistani Sikhs apply visa for paying obeisance at Sri Hemkunt Sahib

Sikh24 Editors

Rishikesh – Uttarakhand – India, 9 April 2018. For the upcoming summer season, 600 Pakistani Sikhs have applied for visas to pay obeisance at the hilly Sikh shrine Sri Hemkunt Sahib. Notably, the gates of Sri Hemkunt Sahib are scheduled to be opened on May 25 this year.

Sharing the development with Sikh24, Manager of Sri Hemkunt Sahib Management Trust S Darshan Singh informed that pilgrims from all over the world are in touch with the management. He added that 600 Pakistani Sikhs have applied for visa at the Indian consulate in Pakistan and copies of their applications have also been sent to the board.

He further informed that 50 Pakistani Sikhs are likely to arrive on the opening ceremony of Sri Hemkunt Sahib on May 25. “Beside this, Sikh pilgrims from United States and other are also in touch with us for the pilgrimage beginning on May 25 this year,” he added.

Manager S Amar Singh expressed hope that the flood of Sikh pilgrims this year will break out all the previous records.

Gent-Sint-Pieters – Gentbrugge Brusselsesteenweg – Gent Bevrijdingslaan

Gentbrugge Stelplaats
12 February 2018

Tram 2 to Melle Leeuw

Gentbrugge Brusselsesteenweg
14 February 2018

Tracks for Tram 2
NMBS train
E17 viaduct

Gent Bevrijdingslaan
16 February 2018

Firebrigadeno fire ?

Fire brigade, two vehicles
But where is the fire ?

Turkish Supermarket

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Caravan Magazine – The RSS’s dangerous position on separate religion status for the Lingayats

Hartosh Singh Bal

Op/Ed, 1 April 2018. Well over a century after the question of Sikh identity was fully settled, the RSS continues to insist that Sikhism is not a religion but a sect of Hinduism, thereby antagonising the community.

On 22 March, the Karnataka state government issued a notice granting minority status to the Lingayat community. Over the last few years, the issue of separate religion status for the Lingayats has seen intense debate, invoking issues related to history and religious doctrine, as well as politics.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has adopted a position consistent with its ideology, seeing it as a move that threatens Hinduism by fragmenting it. The RSS is duplicating arguments and rhetoric it has used to suggest that Sikhism is not a separate religion, a stance that has caused much acrimony and some violence in Punjab.

In the long term, the RSS viewpoint holds the potential to stir similar trouble in Karnataka.

(Subscribe to The Caravan to read the full story.

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada. He was formerly the political editor at Open magazine.

The Hindu – Maneka Gandhi at loggerheads with her Ministry over nutrient packets

While the Women and Child Development Minister wants “energy-dense, factory-made” nutrient packets as take-home ration, the Ministry is in favour of “sourcing food items… from self-help groups”.

Jagriti Chandra

New Delhi – India, 11 April 2018. Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi finds herself at odds with her Ministry officials over the issue of food for anganwadi beneficiaries.

While Ms. Gandhi wants “energy-dense, factory-made” nutrient packets as take-home ration for pregnant women and lactating mothers as well as children between the age of six months and three years, her Ministry is in favour of “sourcing food items such as dalia and khichdi, prepared with locally available ingredients, from self-help groups”, according to a top government official.

As a result, two different draft nutrition guidelines were prepared, one by Ms. Gandhi and another by her Ministry, – ahead of a meeting of the Nutrition Advisory Technical Board at NITI Aayog on January 24.

Before the meeting was convened, Women and Child Development secretary R.K. Shrivastava wrote to Principal Advisor, NITI Aayog, Ratan P. Watal, opposing the guidelines prescribed by Ms. Gandhi and requested that the discussion on nutrient packets be dropped from its agenda.

The differences continue to be played out even as the the newly-constituted National Nutrition Council is slated to hold its first meeting on April 18 and the WCD ministry has to finalise its agenda.

The source who is privy to these events said that complying with Ms. Gandhi’s recommendations would imply a move towards “centralisation and corporatisation of anganwadi food.” “We (need to) follow the Act and rules,” the official said.

Ms. Gandhi told The Hindu, “I want pre-mix made by machines and by state governments. Let us look at giving nutrients in a safe manner. Each state can make its own mash with local ingredients. These can be in powdered form and mixed with regular meals. The take-home ration given today is an ugly, non-nutritious mix.

Let us stop thinking of giving food and instead think of giving nutrition.”

While a pre-mix of micronutrients or ready to use therapeutic food (RUTF), high-energy, micro-nutrient enhanced paste, is sometimes prescribed to treat children under five years who suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the minister has recommended giving nutrient packets to all pregnant and lactating mothers and children from six months to three years.

“Why wait for a child to suffer from SAM?” Ms. Gandhi asked.

The Minister has suggested that 30 packets for a month can be dispatched to a beneficiary through the postal department.

She has also said that the daily allocation of Rs 8 (for children between six months and three years) should be spent on nutrition and not on generating livelihood for women of self-help groups. The Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2017, mandate engagement of self-help groups.

As per the government’s Supplementary Nutrition Programme under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), take-home ration is distributed to pregnant women and lactating mothers as well as children between the age of six months to three years, while children between three and six years get hot, cooked meals.

In a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office last November, it was reiterated that the policy on take-home ration and hot cooked meals “will continue as prescribed under the existing scheme of ICDS and as mandated by the National Food Security Act.

Take-home rations include wheat, soya and sugar.