In Gujarat, 1,42,142 children are suffering from malnutrition, over which the Opposition Congress cornered the ruling BJP during the Question Hour in the Assembly Tuesday even as Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said that the government was committed to eliminate malnutrition from the state.
As per the details provided by the state government to different starred questions raised by Congress MLAs, out of the total 1,42,142 malnourished children, 1,18,041 are underweight and 24,101 children are with “very low weight”.
Dahod district of Central Gujarat tops the list with 14,191 malnourished children followed by Narmada district having 12,673 malnourished children. Porban-dar district of Saurashtra has the least number of malnourished children at 469, followed by Botad with 758 malnourished children.
Lack of coordination between departments a reason behind failure
Despite several schemes launched by the Gujarat government in recent years apart from a dedicated ‘Kuposhan Mukt Gujarat Maha Abhiyan’ launched by then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in May 2015, the state government has failed to address malnutrition that has been pointed out in several state, national and international reports. A combination of reasons are attributed towards failure in achieving the desirable results. One reason is the lack of co-ordination and synchronisation between health and women & child development departments, both of which are trying to address the issue as per their own different standards, thus setting different targets. The other reason is that no officer posted as the state nodal nutrition officer has lasted there for more than a few months, in the past couple of years. Among the flaws at the implementation stage include focus on short-term goals over a long visionary ones.
A question by Congress MLA from Petlad constituency Niranjan Patel on the subject related to Anand and Valsad districts was taken up for discussion during the Question Hour. Patel asked about the number of children suffering from malnourishment to which Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare Vibhavari Dave replied, while stating that Anand has 6,026 and Valsad has 1,582 malnourished children suffering from malnourishment.
Patel said that it was very surprising that such a high number of malnourished children was reported from Anand district, which is part of developed region of Charotar in Central Gujarat. “It is a matter of worry since when a malnourished child grows up and has his/her own children, those children will be malnourished.I feel that a campaign-like effort is required to deal with the situation,” Patel said.
Taking a jibe at the ruling BJP, Patel said, “The BJP has been in power for the past 25 years and it has got all 26 (Lok Sabha) seats two times… it is their responsibility.”
Dave tried to defend the government, indicating that the number of malnourished children looks big in absence of total number of children in the state. She cited the example of Anand tehsil and said that it has total 1,387 malnourished children.
“However, the total number of children in Anand tehsil is 37,039. So the percentage of total malnourished children is only 3.95% (in Anandtehsil),” Dave said.
In her reply, Dave mentioned the efforts being taken by the state government to provide nutrition to address malnourishment. These initiatives include hot breakfast, lunch, fruits twice a week, take-home ration, high-calorie-protein-rich laddoo, fortified salt and fortified oil in anganwadi centers and fortified milk in various talukas of the state.
Taking serious view of the issue, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also made a statement in the House while sharing concerns of the Opposition members. Rupani said that it was true that a campaign-like effort that includes not only the government but all stakeholders is required and that the state government is committed to eliminate malnourishment in Gujarat