Economic Survey Vol.1 Ch.11: Thalinomics: The Economics of a Plate of Food in India

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Thalinomics: The Economics of a Plate of Food in India of Nudge”, the Economic Survey 2018-19 made a humble attempt to understand humans as humans, not self-interested automatons, so that a common person can relate to his/ her idiosyncrasies and use that easy prism to understand behavioural change as an instrument of economic policy. What better way to continue this modest endeavour of forcing economics to relate to the common man than use something that s(he) encounter every day – a plate of food?

Observations made by the Survey

  • The absolute prices of a vegetarian Thali have decreased since 2015-16 though it increased during 2019. This is true both across the country and regions i.e. North, South, East, and West.
  • Affordability of vegetarian Thalis has improved over the time period from 2006-07 to 2019-20 by 29% and that for non-vegetarian Thalis by 18%.
  • The average yearly gain to the household of 5 individuals would be around Rs. 10,887 and Rs. 11,787 for vegetarian and non-vegetarian Thali respectively. (This has been observed across regions with some expectations.)
  • At the all-India level, prices of almost all the components used have been mostly lower compared to the projected prices since 2015-16.
  • Thali inflation (year-on-year growth in Thali prices) has cyclical nature but has shown a secular decrease from 2006-07 to 2015-06.
  • There is no specific trend in the variability of Thali prices at the All-India level. This is true across regions and states and also over time.
  • Affordability of Thalis vis-à-vis a day’s pay of a worker has improved over time indicating improved welfare of the common person.


  • The Survey concludes by explaining how food is not just an end in itself but also an essential ingredient in
  • the growth of human capital and therefore important for national wealth creation. 

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