Palghar district has witnessed more than 208 malnutrition deaths as of August, yet the Maharashtra government has failed to restart the defunct village child development centres (VCDC), one of the most important schemes to curb malnutrition deaths. The scheme was scheduled to have been restarted 15 months ago.
The scheme was further delayed after the state women and child development department, led by Pankaja Munde, tried to introduce controversial supplementary nutritious food packets as part of VCDC scheme, which the state has decided to start only for tribal areas for now.
VCDC provides necessary medical care to severely acute malnourished (SAM) and moderately acute malnourished (MAM) children at the village level.
According to the proposal, supplementary nutritious food packets were to be provided to malnourished infants thrice a day.
The cost of each packet will be Rs25, bringing the expenditure of each child to Rs2250 a month, sources said.
According to sources, tribal development department secretary Rajgopala Devara suggested the women and child development department to come out with the VCDC scheme in its original form, as the new proposal was causing the state exchequer a huge financial burden.
The proposal was later revised and approved by tribal development department. Vinita Singhal, Integrated Child Development Services commissioner, confirmed that they are restarting VCDC for tribal areas in the next fortnight.
However, she denied proposing food packets in VCDC scheme.
“We are starting VCDC in the next 15 days, but we never proposed food packets in the scheme,” Singhal told HT.
In a meeting in May this year, chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya had directed the state women and child development department to start the scheme that was discontinued following the health ministry’s decision to completely stop grants for VCDC in August last year.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too in a meeting held on October 12 lost his cool on the apathy shown by the department, sources said. “Looking at the number of malnutrition deaths, I am ashamed to be the CM of the state,” the sources present in the meeting claimed he said.