The country’s audit watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has flayed the Gujarat government for discontinuing with the “Antyodaya Anna Yojana” (AAY) that supplied fortified wheat flour for overcoming micronutrient deficiencies in a state that has a poor malnutrition record, especially among children.
In April 2006, the state government had introduced distribution of fortified wheat flour in place of wheat under the AAY in Ahmedabad city on an experimental basis to overcome micronutrient deficiencies, which was expanded to the who state in April 2010, CAG pointed out in a recent report on the state’s ‘General and Social Sector’ tabled in the Gujarat Assembly.
“Though the use of fortified wheat flour was cost effective and increased the intake of micronutrients, the state government discontinued the project on May 2012 after incurring a total expenditure of Rs 210 crore,” the report stated pointing out how the state government had failed to fully utilise the Additional Central Assistance of Rs 27 crore provided by Government of India on March 2010 and had refunded Rs 5.04 crore in December 2012.
The state government attributed non-availability of flour mills, milling capacity, testing facility to ensure the actual mixed quantity of soya, iron, folic and other micro-nutrients as the reasons for discontinuing with the programme. The state also pointed out complaints from people regarding insects in fortified flour, etc.
However, CAG has dismissed the reasons cited by the Gujarat government. “The reply was not acceptable as instead of making efforts to overcome the hindrances on implementation of the scheme, the state government opted to close it. Further as per a case study, substitution of fortified wheat flour had increased the intake of micronutrients, reduced 94 percent of inadequate iron intake among PDS (Public Distribution System) beneficiaries and according to WHO criterions, this programme was highly cost effective,” stated the auditor in its remarks.
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That is not all. CAG also found “improper implementation” of the Annam Brahmam Yojana that was launched by the state government in January 2009 in pursuance to a Superme Court order (Octber 2002) that put the onus of prevention of starvation and malunutrition deaths on the states.
Under this programme, the state government was meant to provide 10-15 kgs of food grains, free of cost, to persons who had no ration card and belonged to a targetted category (very poor, handicapped, orphaned, bed ridden at hospitals, street chidren, etc).
CAG in its report observed that as against the targetted distribution of 2250 quintals per annum of food grains, only 241 quintals (11%) were distributed in 2009-10, 487 quintals (22%) in 2010-11 and 480 quintals (21%) in 2011-12. “The foodgrains under the scheme were not distributed in 19 districts in 2009-10, 13 districts in 2010-11 and 18 districts in 2011-12 and five districts in 2012-13. This indicated that the Mamalatdars/DSOs failed to identify maximum beneficiaries, defeating the very purpose of the scheme,” the report added.
The auditor was particularly harsh on the state government for it’s slackness towards the Village Grain Bank (VGB) scheme that was introduced in November 2006 to provide safeguard against starvation during the period of natural calamities or during lean agriculture season. GOI sanctioned 354 VGBs (2006-08) and released one-time cash component of Rs 43 lakh and 1416 metric tonne of foodgrains.
“However, out of the 61 VGBs sanctioned in 2006-07 for Porbandar and Banaskantha districts, only 24 were in existence at the end of March 2013. Thus, 37 VGBs ceased to exist and no action was initiated by the state government to revive them. Hence the objective of setting up these VGBs was defeated,” CAG observed adding thatthe state government had not formed 12 VGBs for Dahod and Panchmahal districts.