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Panel throws out scheme to check malnutrition

Plan panel rejects WCD ministry’s R2 lakh cr proposal, says model is not implementable. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Feb 13, 2012 00:36 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

Country’s top advisory body, the Planning Commission has rejected a Rs 2 lakh crore scheme aimed at checking malnutrition among children saying the model proposed was not implementable.

Around 46% of children in India are malnourished, a percentage even worse than sub-saharan Africa.

Recently, PM Manmohan Singh had also called malnourishment among children in India a matter of ‘shame’.

The problem of malnourishment begins from a mother’s womb because of poor health during pregnancy and in the first two years of a child’s life due to a nutrition-deficient diet.

According to the National Family Health Survey-III, Around 30% women aged 25-49 years give birth for the first time before the age of 18 years and 50% give birth for the first time at the age of 20. Around 1.7 million children die before their first birthday, of these 1.2 million die in the first month, the survey said.

To provide an incentive for mothers to delay their first pregnancy (after a woman turns 19) and improve health of the newborn, the women and child development (WCD) ministry had implemented a scheme to provide conditional cash to pregnant and lactating mothers who adopt good health practices.

Each mother in 52 districts was given Rs 4,000 from third trimester till the child was six months old to compensate for any wage loss, pay for medicines and ensure six months of exclusive breastfeeding. The money was given in three installments — at the time of registration of pregnancy, at the time of birth and when the baby completes six months.

The ministry wanted to extend it across India at a cost of around Rs 2 lakh crore in the next five years. Some others components were also merged to provide “single window” assistance to women through 14 lakh anganwadi centres.

But the plan panel believes the model of implementation was not workable. “The anganwadi centres do not have paraphernalia to implement such a massive scheme. For an anganwadi worker it will not be possible to monitor so many pregnant women along with running the centre,” a senior plan panel official said, adding that the ministry has been asked to suggest a more “innovative model”.

The decision has irked WCD minister Krishna Tirath, who met the commission’s deputy chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia this week. But Ahluwalia asked the ministry to submit a reworked proposal. Funds for any programme is not released until the panel approves it.

First Published: Feb 12, 2012 23:10 IST