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

'Very low rung in quality ladder': Critique of ICMR study on 'sudden deaths' post-2021

By Bhaskaran Raman*  Since about mid-2021, a new phenomenon of extreme concern has been observed throughout the world, including India : unexplained sudden deaths of seemingly healthy and active people, especially youngsters. In the recently concluded Navratri garba celebrations, an unprecedented number of young persons succumbed to heart attack deaths. After a long delay, ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) has finally has published a case-control study on sudden deaths among Indians of age 18-45.

SC 'appears to foster' culture of secrecy, does not seek electoral bond details from SBI

By Rosamma Thomas*  In its order of November 2, 2023 on the case of Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India contesting constitutional validity of electoral bonds, the Supreme Court directed all political parties to give particulars of the bonds received by them in sealed covers to the Election Commission of India. SC sought that information be updated until September 2023. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Only 12% of schools RTE compliant: Whither 6% budgetary allocation for education?

By Ambarish Rai* Despite Indian state’s commitment of 6% GDP on education, the Finance Minister completely ignored right to education for children and strengthening implementation of RTE Act which makes education a fundamental right in her budget speech . The Right to Education (RTE) Forum, which is a collective of different stakeholders in education, condemns this neglect of a legal entitlement, which is unconstitutional and demand for overall increase in the budget to ensure improvement in learning outcomes and overall enhancement of quality education.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

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.

Reject WHO's 'draconian' amendments on pandemic: Citizens to Union Health Minister

By Our Representative  Several concerned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister to reject amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted during the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) in May 2022, apprehending this will make the signatories surrender their autonomy to the “unelected, unaccountable and the whimsical WHO in case of any future ‘pandemics’.”

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".

'Ambiguous policy': India late in advocating EVs as energy storage in national grid

By Shankar Sharma*  This is regarding the points raised by the Chief Electricity Authority’s (CEA's) advocacy for usage of electrical vehicles (EVs) as energy storage technology, and few associated issues . An objective reading of what he states should reiterate the enormously growing importance of battery energy storage systems (BESS) in our need to transition to a net-zero carbon scenario for the country.

Union Health Ministry, FSSAI 'fail to respond' to NHRC directive on packaged food

By Our Representative  The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed deep concern over the adverse health effects caused by packaged foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats. Recognizing it as a violation of the Right to Life and Right to Health of Indian citizens, the quasi-judicial body called for a response from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding its selection of front-of-pack labels aimed at providing consumers with information to make healthier choices.