Union Budget 2021-22: India's nutrition programme put on a diet

The budget has proposes Mission Poshan 2.0 to improve nutritional status of the country but has reduced funds  

By Vibha Varshney
Published: Monday 01 February 2021
Photo: Amit Shanker / CSE

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced her plan to merge the existing Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) and the Poshan Abhiyan to strengthen nutritional content, delivery, outreach and outcome during her Budget 2021-22 speech February 1, 2021. The new scheme would now be called Mission Poshan 2.0. 

However, the budget document also reveals that the budget estimate on nutrition has gone down  to Rs 2,700 crore in 2021-22, from Rs 3,700 crore in 2020-21. 

The Poshan Abhiyan was launched in 2017-18 in an effort to reduce stunting in children aged between zero and six years to 25 per cent, from 38.4 per cent by 2022. 

Similarly, the ministry had launched the SNP as part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in 2009. This scheme targets children (from six months to six years) and pregnant and lactating mothers.

The outlay on major schemes in the budget shows that the Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 has a budgetary estimate of Rs 20,105 crore for the year 2021-22.

These two include those formed by merging the Umbrella ICDS-Anganwadi Services, Poshan Abhiyan, Scheme for Adolescent Girls and National Creche Scheme. As multiple schemes have been merged, it is difficult to see how much the funds have reduced. 

“It is not clear how the merger will improve nutrition,” JP Dadhich, national coordinator of Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, told Down To Earth

Data from the National Family Health Survey-5 from 22 states reveals that only 5.9-29 per cent of the children between the ages of six and 23 months get adequate diet, he added.

The Mission Poshan also does not address the problem that the earlier programmes failed to address. For example, SNP did not touch infants between the ages of 0-6 months and nor did the Mission Poshan. “As a result there is sub-optimal breastfeeding  particularly the initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” Dadhich said.

Sitharaman also announced that the Mission Poshan would target to improve nutritional outcomes across 112 aspirational districts. “Any programme aiming to improve the nutritional status of women and children in our country should cover all the districts. Restricting the programme to aspirational districts may not provide the desired results,” Dadhich said.

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2020, there has been little progress in meeting the target of reducing anaemia among women of reproductive age. As many as 51.4 per cent of women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.

As many as 34.7 per cent of children under five years of age are stunted, which is higher than the average of 21.8 per cent in the Asian region. Similarly, India has not moved towards meeting the target for wasting and 17.3 per cent of children under five years of age are affected. This too is higher than the average of 9.1 per cent seen in the Asian region.

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