Schemes that provide integrated benefits to women and children did not get additional funds this year
Food and nutrition were highlighted in this year’s budget presented in the parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
However, children might not get the benefit of good food.
Schemes for children such as Poshan 2.0, which provide integrated benefits to women and children, did not get any additional funds this year.
In 2022-23, an estimated budget of Rs 10,234 crore has been sanctioned to the Pradhan Matri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN) programme. This scheme was earlier known as the ‘National Program of Midday Meal in Schools’ and provided hot cooked meals to school children between the ages of 6 and 14 years. Last year, the revised estimate was Rs 10,234 crore.
In case of Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 schemes (umbrella Integrated Child Development Schemes which provide supplementary nutrition to children below six years), Rs 20,263 crore was made available. Last year’s revised estimate was Rs 20,000 crore. Both represent 0.5 per cent of the total budget.
In the Pradhan Mantri Matri Vandana Yojana, similarly, there has been only a marginal increase in the budget allocation. This scheme ensures good food to pregnant and lactating women.
The allocation for the scheme has gone up to Rs 2,622.11 crore in this budget, compared to the revised estimate of Rs 1,862 crore in 2021-22. Last year, this was 0.05 per cent of the total budget while it is 0.07 per cent of the total budget this year.
Sachin Jain, a food rights activist associated with Vikas Samvad Human Development Resource Organisation, said the budget does not show any interest in children and their nutrition. The lack of focus is of concern considering the country is going through the pandemic and nutrition is important in this situation.
During the pandemic, the government provided additional ration to the families but the budget does not indicate any cognisance of the importance of ensuring nutrition.
Last year’s budget also had given a short shrift to nutrition for children. The budget estimate on nutrition had gone down to Rs 2,700 crore in 2021-22 from Rs 3,700 crore in 2020-21.
This lacuna is despite the fact that the budget this year has components that promote good food. For example, the government plans to promote millets. The world will be celebrating International Year of Millets in 2023. The government will support post-harvest value addition to improve consumption domestically and also brand them internationally.
Though not specified in the budget documents, the Prime Minister Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Scheme looks at millets too. This year, the budget for this scheme has been increased to Rs 900 crore from Rs 500 crore last year.
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