The federal Finance Ministry has calculated the cost of a plate of food for the average Indian according to their eating habits.
Terming it “Thalinomics” (Thali=Plate), the ministry found that the absolute price of a vegetarian dish has fallen since 2015-16. Vegetarian food is usually less costly in India.
Economic advisors to the federal finance ministry used retail price data from April 2006 to October 2019 to find the impact of inflation on the average Indian family.
But the Finance Ministry’s Economic Survey claims that a non-vegetarian family of five saves more in a year than a vegetarian family. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government has repeatedly promoted vegetarian foods as healthy.
“After 2015-16, the family of five person gained Rupees 10,887 per year (over $150) on an average from the moderation in per plate prices. Similarly, a non-vegetarian saves around Rs. 11,787 ($165) on an average during the same period,” said the survey.
The ministry, while using the annual earnings of an average industrial worker, found that affordability of vegetarian plates has improved by 29 percent since 2007 while non-vegetarian dishes are 18 percent more affordable.
“This is owing to significant moderation in the prices of vegetables and lentil from 2015-16 when compared to the previous trend of increasing prices,” the report reads.
The report suggests that in April-October, 2019, the most affordable food was to be found Jharkhand–state where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the state election. Jharkhand has also witnessed at least 22 deaths due to starvation in the last five years and at least 15 in two years.
Data corroborated on the basis of government and independent researchers, shows only about 23-37 percent of Indians are vegetarian. However, opposition parties and some social activists have been accusing the Modi government of turning people against non-vegetarians, especially beef eaters.
According to a survey conducted by the premier Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, egg was removed from the mid-day meal programme in schools during Modi’s tenure on religious grounds. The scheme funded by federal government is designed to better the nutritional standing of school-age children nationwide.
India’s national carrier Air India had also stopped non-vegetarian meals on flights claiming it would prevent wastage. The BJP has repeatedly been accused of trying to impose vegetarian food habits and turning a blind eye to incidents of so-called "beef" lynching, which was also a key issue during elections to the Lok Sabha in May 2019.