New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday (February 1) allocated Rs 35,600 crores for ‘nutrition-related programmes’ for the Financial year 2020-21. While announcing the Union Budget 2020 in Parliament she said,
Health of both mother and child is important for the government. Nutrition this time will be the focus, to improve the nutritional status of 0-5 years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers. We launched Poshan Abhiyan to improve nutrition status for these categories of people and the scale of this Abhiyan is unprecedented.
She further said that the Prime Minister’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” scheme has yielded tremendous results and that over six lakh Anganwadi workers are equipped with smartphones to upload a nutritional status of more than 10 crore households.
Basanta Kumar Kar, Recipient of Global Nutrition Leadership and Transform Nutrition Champion Award, welcomed the allocation but told NDTV that the intent needs to be realised into action in the ground, he said,
Nutrition budget allocation of Rs 35,600 crore as proposed in budget 2020-21 is a welcome move. I think, the budget provides the scope and opportunities for nutrition sensitive interventions in a substantial way. If implemented well, it can drive addressing protein hunger and micronutrient malnutrition popularly known as hidden hunger through improving/diversifying both production and farming system which includes nutrition rich horticulture and agricultural crops, poultry, fishery production etc. The budget highlights climate smart nutrition sensitive agriculture and farming system. The intent needs to realised into action in the ground.
He further pointed out that the policymakers and program delivery executives at state, district and below need to develop a clear convergence plan and take advantage of climate smart-nutrition sensitive agriculture. This according to him should be done with a focus on increasing the dietary diversity that the budget proposed for desired nutrition outcomes. Mr. Kar said,
In this context, the role of Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Development assume significance. Both the Ministries need to work in tandem with the Ministry of Women and Child Development for better nutrition outcomes with a focus on the children and first one thousand days of life.
Women smallholder farmers in the Self Help Groups (SHGs) need to take control over the production of nutritious crops, asserts Mr. Kar. He further says that the task force to look into the age of a girl entering motherhood is necessary as early child marriage and birth spacing has bearing on low birth weight babies and malnourished child.
NDTV also reached out to Save The Children Foundation for their reaction to the Budget and Dr. Antaryami Dash, Head – Nutrition said,
On health, the budget emphasis on holistic vision of health care, support to ODF plus intervention, strengthening public health infrastructure in select Aspirational Districts, and enhanced nutrition support are positive initiatives to ensure health services reach the most marginalized children. Lot more however, needs to be desired to meet our demand for increasing public funding for Child Protection Services to 1.5 per cent of GDP, for education to 6 per cent of GDP and for health to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2021. This will ensure that adequate public investment for children is made we meet our 2030 SDG agenda.
Malnutrition In India
In 2019, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) which comprehensively measures and tracks hunger at global, regional, and national levels, ranked India 102 out of the 117 countries that were assessed. India’s rating has been poor with a score of 30.3 which according to GHI’s guidelines, falls in the ‘serious’ category. Also what is to be noted is, neighbouring countries like Pakistan (ranked 94) and Nepal (ranked 73) fared better than India in GHI 2019. On the other hand, UNICEF’s ‘The State of the World’s Children 2019’ report revealed that the primary reason behind 69 per cent of deaths of children below the age of five in India is malnutrition. The report further goes on to say that every second child in India, belonging to that age group is affected by some form of Malnutrition.