Ministry of Woman and Child Development (WCD) led by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is mulling to scrap rations for women and infants
Ministry of Woman and Child Development (WCD) led by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is mulling to scrap rations for women and infants, according to Indian Express report. Instead the ministry has prepared a proposal to replace rations given in aanganwadis for infants under the age of three years and pregnant and lactating mothers, with cash transfers. Under the supplementary nutrition scheme, last revised in 2011, the government provides Rs 6 for a child and enmarks Rs 7 for pregnant and lactating women, and Rs 9 for a severely malnourished child. The new proposal to replace take-home rations with cash transfers will see an increase of the entitlement marginally to Rs 8, Rs 9.30, and Rs 12, respectively, the report says.
As of now a total of 6.5 crore beneficiaries — 4.6 crore infants and 1.9 crore mothers — are currently given rations under the Integrated Child Development Services. This universal nutrition entitlement scheme is meant to provide supplementary nutrition in the prenatal and neonatal stage for mothers and children — a crucial element in preventing child and maternal mortality, child malnutrition, and stunting of growth.
The cash transfer will initially be implemented on a pilot basis. Subsequently it will be extended across the country in a phased manner. “In the first phase, we will cover 300 of the most backward districts where, as per data, the extent of malnutrition and stunting of children is the highest. This will be followed by the remaining districts a year later,” a ministry official said, as per IE reports.
However, the ministry official underscored that the provision of hot, cooked meals in aaganwadis for children in the age group of 3-6 years (3.6 crore beneficiaries) will continue.
The WCD ministry is holding a day-long consultation with representatives from 113 districts, which include six left-wing extremism-affected districts. The remaining are mostly backward districts that score the worst on these indicators, 27 of which are in Uttar Pradesh and 20 in Bihar. “In the ten years between NFHS 3 and NFHS 4, data shows that there has been on an average one per cent reduction per year in the extent of stunting, we want to set the target for 2 to 3 per cent annual reduction by involving district collectors directly,” said WCD Secretary Rakesh Srivastava.