Nagpur: The Maharashtra government has not thought necessary to spend even a single paisa on removing malnourishment in underprivileged children despite it itself allocating Rs10 crore per year for ‘alleviation of malnutrition in children’. An RTI has revealed that the state has not spent a single paisa from this over the past two years. In fact, during Financial year 2015-16, there was not even a budgetary allocation for alleviation of malnutrition.
Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner had filed the RTI application seeking details of budgetary allocation and expenditure for malnourished children in Maharashtra. He had asked how many malnourished children are there in the state as per last count and one before that.
As per the reply, Gandhi received, almost 10% or 6,29,057 children out of the total 61.11 lakh are under nourished or malnourished. The govt allocated Rs159 per children in 2017 to alleviate malnutrition, compared with Rs162 a year before.
Mr Gandhi also asked about the amount budgeted for the current and past financial year for alleviation of malnutrition including the amount for energy dense nutritious food (EDNF), and the amount spent in the past and current financial year. The response he received was shocking.
During FY2015-16, there was no budget for alleviation of malnutrition. During 2016-17, the state government allocated Rs10.50 crore, but spent nothing. During the current FY2017-18, there is a provision of Rs10 crore, but during the past eight months, there is no expenditure and the fund is lying unutilised.
Govt Apathy disturbing in the face of dire situation
Child malnutrition and stunting remains one of the biggest health concerns globally. One in every three children in India is stunted. Some of the previously conducted studies have found disturbing facts about the state of nutrition in people across all states of the country. Protein, iron and vitamin D deficiencies are commonly occurring in people across the globe. With an aim to spread awareness and formulate policies on the state of nutrition in India, the NITI Aayog on Tuesday released the National Nutrition Strategy aimed at bringing nutrition to the core of the National Development Agenda. The strategy lays down a road-map for effective action in achieving nutrition objectives, the planning body said in a statement.
Ironically NITI Aayog has made it a priority
M.S Swaminathan, one of the pioneers in agriculture science, released the strategy document emphasizing the need for a holistic nutrition strategy that would cover the nutritional needs of a person from birth to death. He added that all three types of nutrition deficiencies — under-nutrition, malnutrition and protein hunger — need to be looked at in totality. “Agriculture provides answers to most of the nutrition problems… The challenge is how you marry the two,” he was quoted by a news agency.
Experts pointed at the need for states to create customized state and district level action plans and a nutrition strategy to tackle challenges and address local needs.
“The strategy enables states to make strategic choices, through decentralized planning and local innovation, with accountability for nutrition outcomes,” it added.
Will our Maharashtra government wake up and give this burning problem the priority it deserves?