February 3, 2021 1:48:49 am
ANGANWADI GROUPS have protested against funding cuts in nutrition, anganwadi and maternity schemes in the 2021-22 Union Budget. Anganwadi services have now been clubbed under Saksham Anganwadi and Mission Poshan 2.0 scheme.
Mission Poshan 2.0 is an umbrella scheme covering Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), anganwadi services, Poshan Abhiyaan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and National Creche Scheme with a total budget for 2021-22 at Rs 20,105 crore. In 2020-21, anganwadi services alone had a budget estimate of Rs 20,532 crore.
“The government has talked about privatisation. It is not clear if anganwadis will be allowed to prepare hot cooked meals or will remain only a channel of food distribution and food will be prepared by private organisations,” said Shubha Shamim, vice-president of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). The AIFAWH has called for a protest on February 3 against the Union Budget.
In the Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), a scheme launched in 2017 with a budget estimate of Rs 2,500 crore in 2020-21, is no longer a standalone scheme now. It has been clubbed with various other maternity benefits such as Beti Bachao, Mahila Shakti Kendra, gender budgeting to come under the umbrella programme ‘Samarthya’. The total budget for these many programmes stand at Rs 2,522 crore, slightly more than the busiest estimated PMMVY alone in 2020-21.
The nutrition budget has been slashed by Rs 1,000 crore, from a budget estimate of Rs 3,700 crore in 2020-21 to Rs 2,700 crore this year.
“There is a departure from existing schemes. There is no budget mentioned for Integrated Child Development Services. We need clarity from the government on how anganwadis will work. It may mean NGOs will be roped in to manage anganwadis,” said Ajit Abhyankar, state committee member in CPI(M).
The latest National Family Health Survey-5 found a decline in nutritional status in several of the 22 states surveyed. In 16 states, the rate of underweight and severely wasted children aged under five has increased while in 13 states stunting in children increased since NFHS-4 conducted five years ago.
Usha Ram, professor at International Institute for Population Sciences that undertook NFHS, said the aim of the survey was to help the government frame necessary policy for intervention in health and nutrition. Instead of an expected rise, however, the Budget has slashed funds for these components. MS Shaikh from Centre of Indian Trade Union said they supported the cause of anganwandi workers, who have not received any hike in honorarium in this Budget.
“Anganwadi workers and ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) worked hard during the Covid-19 pandemic. The government has not given any thought to providing pension or other social security to these employees,” AIFAWH said in a statement.
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