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HindustanTimes Thu,23 Oct 2014

Effective PDS ‘tackles’ malnutrition in Chhattisgarh

Ejaz Kaiser, Hindustan Times  Raipur, March 16, 2013
First Published: 18:02 IST(16/3/2013) | Last Updated: 20:11 IST(16/3/2013)

The success of public distribution system (PDS) has had a striking 'impact' on curtailing malnutrition in Chhattisgarh.

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The much-applauded system of the state, aimed to ensure the poor do not remain hungry, has 'tackled' malnutrition appreciably.

When over half of the state's children were deemed to be malnourished till 2006-07 (54%), the efficacy of PDS apparently countered the silent and invisible emergency on malnutrition.

During a span of four years, the cheap food-grains at doorsteps and the effective Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) evidently led to accomplishing conspicuous progress in bringing the malnutrition to 38%.

Samir Garg, advisor to commissioner of Supreme Court on Right to Food stated that the PDS is obviously the most important factor in curbing malnutrition.

"Besides the CAG which usually relies on government data, we have other studies that showed substantial decline, close to 38 %, in malnutrition cases in Chhattisgarh". 

With the people getting "enough" ration, the money saved due to availability of subsidised food from PDS, which was reformed in 2005-06,provides the option to buy other food to complete their diet, claimed the state government.

The state, with pre-dominantly tribal population, has emerged ahead of several states including the national capital Delhi in registering a substantial decrease in the malnourished children during the last four years, cited a report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The CAG concurred with the claimed drop in malnutrition. The malnutrition rate in Delhi was reported to be as high as 49.19 % with Bihar having a shocking 82.12%.

"To overcome malnutrition is a big challenge, though Chhattisgarh has succeeded to confront the malnourishment with substantial progress", the chief minister Raman Singh told Hindustan Times.

"The PDS covers all villages, schools and angadwadi centres. The poor now spend their savings on other nutritional food", said an official spokesman.

The supplementary nutrition as a gap filling measure is provided to children below six years of age and nursing mothers as one of the services under the ICDS extending the benefit to 49,000 odd angadwadi centres across the state, according to the women and child development (WCD) department.

The state has hiked supplementary nutrition food fund and is spending Rs. 6 on supplementary food per child and pregnant women per day through such centres.

A political will and reforms leading to successful PDS seems to have addressed lingering malnutrition crisis.

Noted social activist Harsh Mander lauded the state's efforts in curbing malnutrition and said, "Chhattisgarh has done a lot to focus".

Chhattisgarh PDS provides:
1.1 million Antyodaya (extremely poor) households get 35kg of rice per family per month at Rs. 1 per kg
 
3.1 million BPL families get 35kg of rice at Rs. 2 per kg
 
Both categories get 2kg of free iodised salt per family per month
 
2kg of pulses for poor in non-tribal areas at Rs. 10 per kg
 
2kg of gram (chana) in tribal areas at Rs. 5 per kg


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