MAHARASHTRA has not cleared bills for the supplementary nutrition supplied to infants and pregnant mothers across anganwadis for over five months, admitted Women and Child Development Minister Pankaja Munde on Wednesday. While replying to a calling attention motion in the Legislative Assembly, Munde said that while her department had raised Rs 400 crore as supplementary budget grants in December last year to pay the pending bills, the money has only recently been released. “The pending bills are now being cleared,” she said.
The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), under which the supplementary nutrition scheme is run, caters to over 26 lakh infants (six months to six years) and about 10 lakh pregnant and lactating mothers. Even as Munde maintained that the pendency in clearing bills had not impacted the nutrition supplies, the Opposition didn’t seem to agree. Accusing the government of putting lives of children at risk, it staged a walkout from the Assembly over the issue.
Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “The minister is admitting to the delay in providing funds for nutrition supplies for infants and pregnant mothers. The government has funds for (big ticket infrastructure projects) Samruddhi Corridor and Metro rail projects, but it does have money to provide nutrition to this vulnerable segment. It is playing with lives of children.”
According to Vikhe-Patil, about Rs 800 crore worth bills were yet to be paid. The Opposition leader also criticised the lack of coordination between Munde’s department and the finance department over the release of funds for the sensitive issue.