Diet Vs Development

The debate over whether vegetarianism is better or non-vegetarianism is a perennial one in India. Among the many reasons for promoting one way of eating over the other is the argument for overall human development. To test this opinion, our data team decided to evaluate states as per their dietary priorities and check their impact by looking at the HDI numbers. HDI is currently the best method to measure health, education and standard of living.

We are looking at the big states and ignoring UTs mostly because the numbers are too small to make a significant point and due to the lack of availability of dietary data.

Dietary and HDI map of India
Dietary and HDI map of India

Kerala tops the HDI list with 0.782 and also ranks high when it comes to non-veg consumption with over 97% of Keralites being non-vegetarians. Second, in the HDI rank is Punjab with 0.724. Strangely with its global reputation of being home to the celebrated ‘Butter Chicken’, Punjab stands as a predominantly vegetarian state with over 68% in the state preferring a vegetarian diet.

The lowest in the HDI rung is Bihar with 0.574 and overwhelmingly a non-vegetarian state with 92.45% of the population choosing meat over veggies. The second-lowest position belongs to Uttar Pradesh with 0.594 HDI, and just over 52% of the population opting for non-vegetarianism while the remaining 48% of the population are strictly vegetarian.

So, what did we learn after looking at the best and the worst HDI performing states? Simply that, dietary decisions have no impact on core human development issues such as education, health and overall standard of living.