Maharashtra: Proposed budget cuts could cripple nutrition services, say activistshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/maharashtra-proposed-budget-cuts-could-cripple-nutrition-services-say-activists-4581241/

Maharashtra: Proposed budget cuts could cripple nutrition services, say activists

Allocation slashed by 31 per cent; child and women healthcare to get affected

The state’s proposed budget estimates for 2017-18 could significantly impact child and women health with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) allocation staring at a 31 per cent cut this year, say activists.

Last year, the budget deduction was a significant 62 per cent.

Experts and activists associated with the Jan Arogya Abhiyan (JAA) Wednesday criticised the Maharashtra government for cutting budgets for the women and child department (WCD) and health and tribal departments.

The ICDS under WCD that is responsible for providing nutritional support to women and children will suffer a cut from Rs 2,947 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 2,033 crore for the next fiscal, a report by JAA says.

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The budget cuts can affect state-wide implementation of the newly-launched Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Amrut Aahar Yojana aimed to improve maternal health by providing two free meals a day to pregnant and lactating women.

The ICDS data show that until November 2016, the state had 9.9 lakh women eligible for the scheme.

“Anganwadis receive Rs 4.92 per child per day to provide two meals. The nutrition content will suffer if the amount is reduced further. What can an anganwadi worker be expected to provide with such a small amount? Anganwadi workers also have the problem of delayed salaries,” said Shubha Shamim, secretary of Anganwadi Karmchari Sangathana.

Maharashtra recorded over six lakh malnourished children till November last year.

In 2016-17 fiscal, the ICDS has suffered from 32 per cent underspent budget, the analysis showed.

According to Vinod Shende, attached to the JAA, even the health sector has witnessed a reduction in budget by 4.4 per cent from Rs 12,726 crore in 2016-17.

“Other states such as Goa, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have higher per capita expenditure on health than Maharashtra. The government’s per capita expenditure is only Rs 996 this fiscal ,” Shende said.

He added that the National Health Mission budget was also slashed by Rs 112 crore for the next fiscal.

While the Center funding has remained constant, the state has reduced its expenditure for NHM which may impact non-communicable disease programme, palliative care, and family planning in rural areas.

The allocated budget for medicines was also found to be under spent for the current financial till March 20.

In 2016-17, only 44 per cent of the total budget was spent to procure medicines.

“Government hospitals and primary health centers do not have stocks of even the essential medicines. This is the reason patients are either forced to approach private health care facilities or visit higher centers,” activist Abhay Shukla said.

“The finance minister said this budget is for farmers and agriculture. But it has not even released the agricultural growth rate statistics,” said Amit Narkar from the National Center for Advocacy Studies.

The state government noted a 19.5 per cent growth rate in agriculture.

Narkar claimed that the government has spent only 49 per cent of its total budget estimates and the food security budget has been under spent by 83 per cent.

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When it comes to social security, the state government has cut down the funding by Rs 317 crore bringing the per capita expenditure between 2017-18 and 2016-17 at 0.17 from 0.20.

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