- ₹24,435 crore has been allocated to the Ministry of Women Child Development
- Of this, ₹20,105 crore has been given to Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0
- POSHAN2.0 to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 aspirational districts
New Delhi: In an attempt to strengthen India’s nutritional delivery and outcome with special focus on 112 aspirational districts, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the launch of Mission POSHAN 2.0. On February 1, 2021, FM Nirmala Sitharaman presented India’s first paperless Union Budget for the financial year 2021-22 and touched upon the need to improve nutritional outcomes in the country. FM Sitharaman informed that Supplementary Nutrition Programme and POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) will be merged under the umbrella of Mission POSHAN 2.0. While delivering her budget speech, Ms Sitharaman said,
To strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcome, we will merge the Supplementary Nutrition Programme and the POSHAN Abhiyaan and launch the Mission POSHAN 2.0. We shall adopt and intensify strategy to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 aspirational districts.
As per the budget document, an expenditure of Rs. 20,105 crore has been estimated for ‘Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0’ covering the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, which last year had a budget estimate of Rs. 28,557.38 crore. Under the umbrella of ICDS, came different schemes like Anganwadi services; national nutrition mission or POSHAN Abhiyaan – government’s flagship programme to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers; scheme for adolescent girls; national crèche scheme.
Sharing his opinion on the new policy focusing 112 aspirational districts, Basanta Kumar Kar, Recipient of Global Nutrition Leadership and Transform Nutrition Champion Award, called it ‘an excellent policy initiative on addressing inequity and social injustice in nutrition’. While talking to NDTV, Mr Kar said,
The aspirational districts have a very high incidence of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Actions on health and nutrition interventions, with 30 per cent weightage, are intended to quickly and effectively transform these high burden districts and turn development into a mass movement. With this announcement and given our pandemic experience which has compounded the nutrition disruption, we are expecting the number of aspirational districts to increase. We have to address the vulnerability of women and children who are the hardest hit.
Talking about the new initiative, ‘POSHAN 2.0’, Ruchika Chugh Sachdeva, Vice President- Nutrition, Vitamin Angels, global public health nutrition organisation, said, the increase in health budget and Mission POSHAN 2.0 are welcome initiatives to address the malnutrition issue. She added,
India suffers from the triple burden of malnutrition and the situation has been further exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic. The pathway to success would be to adopt a multi-sectoral approach and innovative solutions to ensure increased coverage with quality of evidence-based nutrition and health interventions for all including hard to reach areas and for underserved populations like urban slums. It will be important to engrain accountability within the health systems and ensure performance-based incentives to drive impact.
Dr Dipa Sinha from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University Delhi said there is not much clarity on the conversion of supplementary nutrition programme and POSHAN Abhiyaan as the later was always implemented under ICDS. She said,
The two main interventions of POSHAN Abhiyaan are digitsiation and behaviour change and they were being implemented through ICDS scheme only. Overall, I don’t see much difference.
Dr Rajesh Khanna, Deputy Director of Health and Nutrition at Save the Children also shared similar thoughts and said the convergence of schemes will probably intensify the efforts in selected districts. He said,
As of now, we don’t know how POSHAN 2.0 will be rolled out. We need clear guidelines on it to better understand the renewed initiative.
Dr Sheila Vir, Director, Public Health Nutrition and Development Centre said the increased budget allocation for health will positively impact nutrition through improvements in preventive health measures such as child immunisation, effective antenatal care and newborn care through the network of health and wellness clinics. She added,
Additionally, the Budget refers to investment in drinking water, streamlining public distribution system (PDS) and agriculture aid and education. All these enhanced investments are in the right direction for improving nutrition situation. The challenge is in effective implementation of SNP (Supplementary Nutrition Program), health services and influencing behaviour of child, adolescent and maternal care effectively at state level.
What is important to note is that POSHAN 2.0 leaves two of the schemes earlier covered under ICDS – firstly, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana or maternity benefit programme; secondly, child protection services. These two schemes have been moved to a different umbrella.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana or Maternity Benefit Programme announced in 2016 a pregnant woman or lactating mother is entitled to Rs. 5,000 for the first live birth. The key objective of the scheme is to provide partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery of the first child and lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the pregnant women and lactating mother. This programme now comes under the umbrella of ‘SAMARTHYA’. Talking about the shuffling of schemes, Dr Sinha said,
The ICDS scheme only makes the list of pregnant women and lactating mother eligible for the cash incentive. I cannot make what it means to reshuffle the programme. We will have to look for changes in the on ground implementation.
Before the announcement of the union budget, Dr Sinha had wished for removal of limitation on the number of births on maternity entitlement. According to her, if the government spends, it will contribute to the local economy.
Dr Khanna believes that reshuffling of schemes is a good move as now all women empowerment related programmes are under a single umbrella ‘SAMARTHYA’. He said,
Women empowerment will be crucial for our country’s future. SAMARTHYA covers Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the girl child, educate the girl child), maternity entitlements, gender budgeting, research, and other things and together it carries an estimated budget of Rs. 2,522 crores. It shows that the government is focusing on nutrition sensitive interventions along with nutrition specific interventions and this was the basic idea of POSHAN Abhiyaan.
Child protection services have been clubbed with Child Welfare Services and added under the header ‘Mission VATSALYA’. The mission has been allocated an estimated budget of Rs. 900 crores. In 2020-21, the budget estimate for child protection services was Rs. 1,500 crores and was later revised to Rs. 821 crores.
Dr Khanna added that integrated approach seems to be a good idea but we will have to wait and watch how the schemes are rolled out. He added,
Since the government has decided to take things in mission mode, programmes will have targets to achieve which I think will benefit all the schemes.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.