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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Fixing India’s malnutrition problem

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes,NFHS-5, POSHAN, ICDS, Mid-day meal scheme etc)
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Health.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022 ranked India 107 out of 121

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Global Hunger Index(GHI):

  • It is published annually as part of a partnership between Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
  • The first GHI report was published in 2006.
  • The GHI is intended to be “a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels”.

 

Indicators and dimensions:

 

Importance of GHI:

  • Particularly among children: It looks at stunting, wasting and mortality among children, and at calorific deficiency across the population.

 

Why is the report not a conspiracy but truth?

  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5)-2019-21 report(children below the age of five years):
    • 5(thirty five point five)% were stunted
    • 3(nineteen point three)% showed wasting
    • 1(thirty two point one)% were underweight.

 

Issues with the government schemes:

  • Saksham Anganwadi:
    • It seeks to work with adolescent girls, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children below three.
    • Budget for this scheme for FY 2022-23 is less than 1%(more than the actual spend in FY 2020-21)— an increase of less than 1% over two years.
  • PM POSHAN(previously Mid-Day Meal scheme)
    • The budget for FY 2022-23 was 21% lower than the expenditure in FY 2020-21.

 

Accountability Initiative budget brief report for PM POSHAN:

  • Per capita costs of the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (one of the largest components of this scheme): It has not increased since 2017 and remains grossly underfunded.
  • Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) posts: 50% CDPO posts were vacant in Jharkhand, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan
    • It points to severe manpower constraints.
  • Social audits: meant to allow for community oversight of the quality of services provided in schools are not carried out routinely.

 

How is Cash transfers helpful?

  • Cash transfers seem to be a favored solution for several social sector interventions which includes the health and nutrition sectors.
    • Example: use of JAM trinity (Jan Dhan bank accounts, Aadhaar, Mobile).
  • Targeting the right beneficiaries: i.e pregnant women and families with children under the age of five is possible.
  • Expanding choice at the household level: they make decisions on what to put on their plates.
  • Cash transfers: It can also be used to incentivise behavioral change in terms of seeking greater institutional support.

 

Issues with the cash transfers:

  • Evidence shows cash transfers improve household food security: but not necessarily translate into improved child nutrition outcomes.
  • The effect of cash transfers is limited: where food prices are volatile and inflation depletes the value of cash.
  • son preference: It can influence household-level decisions when responding to the nutrition needs of sons and daughters.
  • Study of the Mamata scheme in Odisha: It targets pregnant and lactating women.
    • It showed that there were persistent socio-economic discrepancies in the receipt of cash transfers.

PM POSHAN:

 

Way Forward

  • Utilization of funds: Not only are key nutrition schemes underfunded, but it is also the case that the funds available are not being spent effectively.
    • Fixing these schemes is the obvious answer to addressing India’s multi-dimensional nutrition challenge.
  • Economic conditions: Malnutrition persists due to depressed economic conditions in large parts of the country, the poor state of agriculture in India, persistent levels of unsafe sanitation practices, etc.
    • Economic conditions need to be improved along with modern agricultural practices.
  • Food rations through PDS and special supplements for the target group of pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants and young children, are essential.
  • Getting schemes right: It requires greater involvement of local government and local community groups in the design and delivery of tailored nutrition interventions.
  • A comprehensive programme targeting adolescent girls is required if the intergenerational nature of malnutrition is to be tackled.
  • Child nutrition: The need of the hour is to make addressing child malnutrition the top priority of the government machinery, and all year around

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Q. Reforming the government delivery system through the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme is a progressive step, but it has its limitations too. Comment.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)