Centre identifies 4 districts for cash transfer pilot under Poshan scheme
The Centre has finally selected two districts each in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan for a pilot scheme to study whether cash transfers will work better instead of take-home ration for pregnant women and lactating mothers as well as children between six months and three years of age, more than a year after it was announced, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
The decision was taken at a review meeting of the Scientific Steering Committee of the “Poshan Abhiyaan” or National Nutrition Mission last week in which representatives from the ministries of women and child development, health and family welfare, technical experts, federal policy think tank Niti Aayog, among others were present.
Under the scheme, children below the age of six will get ₹8 per day, and pregnant women and lactating mothers will be given ₹9.50 per day by the anganwadis or child care centres.
The idea of cash transfers under the Anganwadi Services and Integrated Child Development Services was first mooted by the Niti Aayog to plug alleged leakages in the Public Distribution System (PDS).
Anganwadis are rural child care centres run by the WCD ministry.
Initially, the ministry had expressed some reservations because it felt that the money would be inadequate; it might be pocketed by the male members in the family, and that the scheme was not in conformity with the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Finally, the ministry came to an agreement with the Niti Aayog and decided that a pilot would be started in 10 districts in April 18, 2018.
The number of districts was later reduced to four. A technical committee, — Scientific Steering Committee — was formed on February 22 this year to evaluate the pilot scheme.
“The idea is that food leakages from the system should be stopped and if the woman has access to some amount of cash, it leads to her empowerment in the house,” one of the officials cited above, who attended last week’s meeting, said on the condition of anonymity.
The pilot scheme will be launched in Lucknow’s Chinhat and Mohanlalganj blocks and Sitapur’s Khairabad and Mahmudabad blocks in Uttar Pradesh.
In Rajasthan, Chaksu block in Jaipur district and Kishangarh block in Ajmer district have been selected.
The pilot will be monitored by the Indian Council of Medical Research. A meeting has been scheduled for August 10 where representatives from both states will attend a workshop.
In a survey that the Niti Aayog carried out in 27 districts in eight states in 2019, it found that only 48% out of the 78% of pregnant women and lactating mothers enrolled in the Anganwadi scheme had access to a hot-cooked meal for an average of 13 days a month.
In addition, of the 64% eligible children registered under the scheme, only 17% had access to a hot cooked meal a day.