New Delhi: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday proposed allocating ₹35,600 crore for nutrition-related programmes. The minister, while presenting the Budget for FY21, announced an additional ₹28,600 crore outlay for women-linked programmes.
One of the government's women-related programmes Beti bachao, Beti Padhao has yielded tremendous results, with gross enrollment ratio of girls on all levels of education topping that of boys. Gross enrollment ratio of girls is 94.32% in elementary levels, 81.32% in secondary level and 59.7% at the higher secondary level.
“Women are a priority, especially pregnant and lactating women. More than 6 lakh anganwadi workers are equipped to upload nutrition status of more than 10 crore households. This scale is unprecedented. Overall, there are imperatives to lower maternal mortality ratios. I propose a task-force on this matter," the minister said.
Public health experts call severe malnourishment a silent emergency. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2019, India has slipped from 95th in 2010 to 102nd in 2019 in terms of hunger ranking. Pakistan, the only country in South Asia that ranked below India in previous indices, has climbed up to the 94th place in 2019.
“India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8%—the highest wasting rate of any country in this report," the report said. “Its (India) child stunting rate, 37.9%, is also categorized as very high in terms of its public health significance. In India, just 9.6% of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet," it said. The index referred to the data from the ministry of health and family welfare’s National Family Health Survey 2015-16.
“If India is serious about addressing intergenerational problems related to nutrition then budget allocation with an increase is a good move, we have to move from leap frogging to pole vaulting. With a 25% increase in the Budget outlay from ₹29,165 crore in 2019-20 to ₹35,600 crore in 2020-21 for nutrition-related programmes and proposed taskforce for recommending the age of girl entering motherhood, the government is acting serious about improving the national nutritional status of women, children of 0-6 years of age, lactating mothers, adolescent girls," said Chandrakant Pandav, Member of National Council on India Nutrition Challenges, POSHAN Abhiyan.