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Nutrient packets may replace food: Maneka Gandhi

“What we have till now is food which is not even calorie-dense. Secondly, our delivery system has always been dependent on anganwadis. Anganwadi stopped being an effective delivery system 20 years ago,” Maneka said

By: Express News Service | Published: September 20, 2017 4:55 am
Maneka Gandhi, Nutrient Packets, Food, Nutrition Programme, Anganwadi, India News, Indian Express, Indian Express News Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi (PTI)

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi Tuesday said the ministry is planning a complete overhaul of its supplementary nutrition programme wherein states should provide nutrient packages directly to beneficiaries instead of providing food through anganwadis. Referring to the anganwadi-run supplementary nutrition scheme under the ministry’s Integrated Child Development Services Programme (ICDS), Maneka told a conference of officials from 130 districts with the highest rates of malnutrition, “Supplementary nutrition is in the form of take-home rations or hot-cooked meals. I want to bring about a complete change, an out-of-box change.”

“What we have till now is food which is not even calorie-dense. Secondly, our delivery system has always been dependent on anganwadis. Anganwadi stopped being an effective delivery system 20 years ago,” she said.

Maneka said that under the new policy, instead of food, the focus would be on nutrient packets that will provide 1,000 calories to pregnant and lactating mothers and 600 calories to children. “What we came up with is a change in policy which is, we stop thinking of this as giving food. Khana nahi dena — we give nutrition,” she said, adding that the packets would have a dry mixture of peanuts, millets and micro-nutrients which can be consumed with milk, lassi, juice, or water.

Experts, however, state that ready-to-use therapeutic foods cannot always be a substitute for hot-cooked meals. “There is nothing to beat hot -cooked fresh food but one has to ensure quality and quantity. The packages are useful in feeding children with acute malnutrition. It should be seen as a therapeutic food and should not replace your normal diet,” said Soumya Swaminathan, Director General of Indian Council for Medical Research.

Maneka said the delivery pattern too would be changed entirely so as to stop leakage. She pointed out that the Union government is very keen on direct benefit transfer (DBT) where cash is transferred directly to the beneficiary’s account instead of food. Maneka, however, said she is in favour of packed nutrients since DBT would mean a very small amount reaching the beneficiary who doesn’t have the advantage of buying food at government’s wholesale prices.

The minister suggested that nutrient packages should be delivered through post offices. “Thirty packages can be delivered through the post office to every family that has a baby and a pregnant mother. Since it is not vegetable or rice, it cannot be misused or sold in the market,” she said.

Ministry officials, however, said that as recommended by a NITI Aayog report, they have drawn up a proposal to substitute take-home rations with cash. “Once the proposal is approved, we will start a pilot project in 100 districts and later extend it to the others,” said an official.

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  1. Mayank The Sabha
    Sep 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm
    who is running the state Niti Aayog or NDA? It better to give parliament to Army because you have failed Indian state. The government can't even feed poor children what a shame...
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      Anju Maini
      Sep 21, 2017 at 3:40 pm
      The BJP which promised to improve the conditions of the anganwadi workers and helpers if voted to power appears to be bent upon devastating their lives after assuming power. AIFAWH calls upon the anganwadi employees all over the country to collectively thwart the attempts of the government for cash transfer. It calls upon all its state units to organise protest demonstrations throughout the country and burn effigies of the government demanding withdrawal of this decision. These measures to dismantle ICDS cannot b e allowed. AIFAWH also seeks the support of the beneficiaries of ICDS, the common people and the organisations of peasants, agricultural workers, women etc in its struggle to Save ICDS.
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        Anju Maini
        Sep 21, 2017 at 3:39 pm
        We also strongly oppose the decision of the government to introduce Direct Cash Transfer in 300 districts to start with and expand it to the entire country in a year. This is nothing but another attempt to weaken the ICDS. Since coming to power the NDA government has been trying to dismantle ICDS. It has drastically cut down the budget allocations and changed the funding patterns, which has already affected the services of ICDS. It has replaced hot cooked food with take home ration. The cash transfer now will be the death knell to ICDS, which has earned worldwide recognition for its role in reducing severe malnutrition, bringing down infant mortality rate etc. In addition, the job of over 26 lakh anwadi workers and helpers, all women, mostly from poor and socially oppressed sections of the society, will be under serious threat because of this decision.
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          Anju Maini
          Sep 21, 2017 at 3:39 pm
          Press Statement 21st September 2017 AIFAWH Opposes Cash Transfers and Packed Food in ICDS Calls for Country wide Protests and Burning of Effigies on 22nd /23rd September 2017 All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) strongly condemns the decision of the government of India, as stated by the Minister for WCD, to change the policy of replacing hot cooked meals in the awd centres with ready to eat packed dry mixtures. We also condemn her totally unsubstantiated statement that ‘anganwadi stopped being an effective delivery system 20 years ago’ contradicting evidence provided by various studies and reports. This indicates the intent of the BJP led NDA government to weaken and ultimately dismantle the anganwadi centres and to involve the corporate food giants in the ICDS. It is to be recalled that a former Minister for Commerce has invited Pepsico to provide packaged food to the awd centres.
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