Skip to main content

Eight crore children, 1.6 crore pregnant women 'deprived' of right to food

Counterview Desk

The Right to Food Campaign, in a memorandum to Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, even as demanding to restart hot cooked meal and other Integrated Child Development Services, has regretted that despite India’s unlock phases, a whopping 6.40 crore children and 1.56 crore are pregnant and lactating women continue to be denied the right to food.
Worse, said the top civil rights network, the supplementary nutrition provided through ICDS, which was supposed to continue during the lockdown through home delivery, is still not being delivered in most places. Also, maternity entitlements under the Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) have been “disturbingly disrupted”.

Text:

On behalf of the Right to Food campaign, we write this letter to express our concerns and grievances about the denial of the right to food of women and children during this pandemic. While most services for them have been shut down since March, we believe it is time to urgently revive these as essential services.
To put things into perspective, we looked at the data submitted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in response to the unstarred question No 2669 on March 6, 2020. The response noted that the anganwadi services operate through a network of 7,075 fully operational projects and 13.79 lakh anganwadi centres (AWCs), as on September 30, 2019.
These services cater to 7.96 crore beneficiaries of which 6.40 crore are children under six years of age (3.6 crore children from 6 months - 3 years, and 2.7 crore children from 3 years to 6 years) and 1.56 crore are pregnant women and lactating mothers.
At the moment, these are the very least of the staggering figures of denial of right to food of women and children. Without cooked meals in both schools and anganwadis, the numbers only skyrocket further.
The extended lockdown periods owing to the pandemic had resulted in temporary closure of anganwadis and led to a discontinuation of hot cooked meals, take home rations and immunisation support, counselling, growth monitoring, and so on.
The discontinuation of growth monitoring services in this extraordinary time of hunger is depriving a high number of malnourished children from receiving the extra provision of summer nutrition programme (SNP) through Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). 
We have received two reports from across the country that the supplementary nutrition provided through ICDS, which was supposed to continue during the lockdown through home delivery, is not being delivered in most places. Maternity entitlements under the Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) have been disturbingly disrupted. 
Despite unlock phases, crucial food, nutrition, and health support mechanisms for women and children still remain abysmally affected
Additionally, the repeated announcements of relief packages -- both at the national and state levels -- too, have not included the specific schemes and programmes for women and children to be a priority and thereby added to the systemic denials and exclusions. 
While the nation is now slowly stepping into the unlock phases of the pandemic management, it is these crucial food, nutrition, and health support mechanisms for women and children that still remain abysmally affected.
It must be emphasised that the ICDS is, after all, a pivotal programme to ascertain the rights and ensure the wellbeing of women and children through state-sponsored mechanisms. In that vein, given the high burden of malnutrition and maternal and child mortality in India, we urge the MWCD to take immediate cognisance and ensure proper implementation of ICDS across all states.
In addition, we strongly recommend:
  1. Universal and unconditional application -- Hot cooked meals, and take-home rations must be regularised and made available for all enrolled children, without any added conditionalities whatsoever. Depending on local conditions arrangements can be made for spot-feeding or home delivery.
  2. Proper Implementation -- Ensure urgent decentralised grievance redressal mechanisms, monitoring framework and penalties for non-implementation so that those who are not getting their entitlements can register their complaints and get a timely response. 
  3. Protection for the frontline workers -- It is of paramount importance to provide relevant personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety gears to the frontline workers like anganwadi workers (AWWs), anganwadi helpers (AWHs), auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), accredited social health activists (ASHAs), and mid-day meal cooks. They must be encouraged in their endeavors in these distressing times. Plus, it is high time that they are provided with proper health insurance to effectively deal with the pandemic. 
  4. SNP for food security -- Due to the economic slowdown being faced because of the pandemic as well as the migrant crisis, there is widespread hunger being reported from across the country. In such circumstances, it is not enough to just provide the usual supplementary nutrition rather more substantial nutrition needs to be provided for the groups that are covered under the ICDS, including pregnant and lactating mothers, children under six and adolescent girls. We suggest that a comprehensive package of cooked food and dry rations including cereals, pulses, oil and eggs be provided through the period of the pandemic. 
  5. Eggs for children -- Eggs are a crucial source of protein as well as micronutrients, and they go a long way in improving the diets of children. The need to add eggs in hot cooked meals and take home rations has only become all the more pressing in these times. 
  6. Anti-discrimination provisions – The lockdown periods have proven to be a hotbed for myriad forms of discriminations on the basis of caste, class, ethnicity, and religion. There must be an immediate halt to this, and all children must be able to access their due meals. 
We request you to consider these suggestions at the earliest and allow a timely implementation of the same. We would be glad to discuss this further with you, as and when needed.

Comments

TRENDING

Why do I lend my support to voices protesting world class renovation of Gandhi Ashram?

By Martin Macwan* One would not expect an activist working on Dalit rights to join such a protest. Dalits carry unhealed trauma that Gandhi caused to Dr BR Ambedkar and the Dalit cause of effective political representation by using violent means of his own definition in the event of the Poona Pact. This apart, Gandhi’s ideas in general, which changed often, on caste were orthodox. I have nothing to add to the subject after the sharpest critique offered by Dr Ambedkar.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Protests break out as school going children 'branded Naxalites, taken prisoners'

By Sheshu Babu* Conditions in all spheres of life is going from bad to worse. On September 13, Political Prisoners' Day was observed. On that day, Jatin Das, friend of Bhagat Singh and member of the Hindustan Republican Socialist Association, passed away after 63 days of hunger strike. He demanded 'political prisoners' status to those who have been jailed by the state.

Celebrating birthday amidst image of 'coerced, submissive' India ruled by a strong leader

Pushkar Raj*  As the weeks long birthday festivity of the leadership was being rejoiced India wide, the Covid was still raging in several parts of India. The carnival was in line with the post-Covid decisions and actions of the leadership demonstrating a pursuit of personal power and glory instead of national interest in times of disease and death.

Catholic women warn: Kerala Bishop turning Church into puppet in political games

Counterview Desk A group of Catholic women under the banner Concerned Catholic Women of India has said that they are deeply concerned over "a bishop’s controversial statement" which may threaten communal harmony in India. As many as 89 Catholic women from across India have urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and its Kerala unit to take special steps to "foster peace and avoid strife."

No space for 2 lakh waste pickers in Delhi masterplan for next two decades: Study

By Our Representative  A new survey report prepared by the NGO Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group on the challenges faced by waste pickers in managing solid waste in Delhi, “Space for Waste - 2021”, has regretted that currently, there is no provision of workspace for waste workers, hence they carry out their work of segregation, repairing, and composting at different locations.