The Centre has slammed several states and Union territories for botching up the implementation of schemes to provide "supplementary" nutrition, saying this was in direct contravention of Supreme Court orders.
Almost half of India’s children are malnourished and, going by a series of letters Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath and ministry secretary D.K. Sikri shot off to states, one doesn’t have to look far for the reason.
In some cases, state governments’ plans for providing supplementary nutrition have no connection with the childrens’ actual requirements.
Haryana’s nutrition programme for children, for instance, provides only half the levels of protein and kilocalories prescribed. This prompted the Centre to shoot off a letter, saying the issue could "become problematic for the state to defend" and that "immediate action is required".
Tirath has directly written to some chief ministers — such as Arjun Munda (Jharkhand), Nitish Kumar (Bihar), Okram Ibobi Singh (Manipur) and Tarun Gogoi (Assam).
Another round of letters were sent by Sikri to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana and the adviser to the administrator of Chandigarh. Sikri went so far as to threaten to cut off funds under this scheme to Chandigarh.
A senior ministry official told Hindustan Times "each state has been told specific instances of where they are found wanting. Where possible we have suggested possible solutions."
Chandigarh administrator Pradip Mehra was reminded of the Union Territory’s commitment to the Supreme Court in January, when it promised to improve on what it spent on feeding children. "But it was disappointing to find … the old cost norms of Rs 2, Rs 2.70 and Rs 2.30 still in operation, 18 months after the guidelines have lapsed," said Sikri.
Tirath told Gogoi she had received reports that since April, there had been disruptions in the supplies of take-home Rations given to children and in the hot cooked meal.