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The National Nutrition Mission or POSHAN Abhiyaan is Government of India’s flagship program to improve nutritional standards among children and women. In September 2017, NITI Aayog, entrusted with the task of closely monitoring the POSHAN Abhiyaan, released the National Nutrition strategy. The recommendations in the strategy were then incorporated into the nutrition mission.
NITI Aayog has the duty to submit implementation status reports of POSHAN Abhiyaan every six months to the PMO. The first bi-annual report was prepared and presented at third National Nutrition Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges. The National Council has met three times in 2018.
The program was launched by the Prime Minister on 8th March in Rajasthan. The main goal of the program was to induce improvement in children, adolescents and women. The program aimed at preventing and reducing stunting, malnutrition. anemia and low birth weight.
Initially the program was meant to be launched in a phased manner starting with districts, but then opted for a Pan India mission. The meeting of the Executive Committee for POSHAN Abhiyaan was held to deliberate on the working of the program. The Committee declared that the Government of India shall release a detailed annual report on the status of nutrition in the country.
Need for this mission
Even though there were many such nutritional programs in existence, the government decided to roll out another one as they saw a lack of synergy and failure to improve the nutritional standards. The mission decided to converge existing schemes in order to bring about effectiveness.
The program ensured convergence of various schemes such as Anganwadi Services (AS), Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAGs), Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), National Health Mission (NHM) and many others. Convergence at Centre is being achieved through formation of the National Council (NC) for Nutrition and the Executive Committee (EC) for POSHAN Abhiyaan.
Both NC and EC draw members from all the stakeholders of the Abhiyaan. The National Council headed by the vice-chairman of NITI Aayog has been constituted for policy direction, effective review and coordination.
Another body called the Executive Committee (EC) under the Chairmanship of Secretary, MoWCD has been constituted to provide direction, policy and guidance for implementation of various programmes/schemes under POSHAN Abhiyaan.
A Convergence Action Plan at State, District and Block level for better implementation of the programme were also implemented. Convergence Meetings are held every quarter to review and take forward the implementation as per the Plan.
An amount of Rs. 9046.17 crores was set aside to be expended for three years commencing from 2017-18. The 50 percent of the mission will be supported by Government Budgetary Support and the other 50 percent by IBRD or other MDB.
Government budgetary support would be in the ratio 60:40 between Centre and States/Union Territories with legislature, 90:10 for North Eastern Regions and Himalayan States and 100% for Union Territories without legislature. The estimated share of the Government of India over a period of three years would be Rs. 2849.54 crores.
The main features of the proposal include introducing
- A robust convergence mechanism,
- Social Audits,
- setting-up Nutrition Resource Centres,
- involving masses through Jan Andolan for their participation on nutrition through various activities, among others and much more.
The program was aimed to reach an approximate ten crore people and all districts were to be covered by 2020. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization report on State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, it is estimated that 190.7 million (14.5%) people were undernourished in India during 2014-2016.
UNICEF statistics indicate that 20 percent of Indian children under five years of age suffer from wasting due to acute undernutrition and undernutrition is more common for children of mothers who are undernourished themselves (i.e. body mass index below 18.5) than for children whose mothers are not undernourished.
The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS4) carried out by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported the prevalence of anaemia as 58.6, 50.4 and 22.7 per cent, respectively, among children aged 6-59 months, pregnant women aged 15-49 yr and men aged 15-49 yr.
This flagship program has not been able to achieve its objectives 3 years into the mission. According to the information given by Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, a total of ₹4,283 crores was disbursed by the Centre to different States and Union Territories.
During 2019-20, even though funds were released for 19 States, only 12 of them had used less than a third of the funds released in the previous two years. The best performers were Mizoram, Lakshadweep, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. The worst performers were Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand and Assam.
With only less than 30 percent of the allocated funds being put to use, the program still has a long way to go in order to achieve its objectives. The Program which came into being for better delivery and implementation of schemes for improving nutritional intake has not made any significant developments.
The Central Government and the State Governments have to ensure better strategy and make sure that these services reach the poorest of the poor. Lack of accountability and no proper supervision has led this flagship mission to falter. The initial targets set forth when the program was implemented is yet to be achieved.
The Government must also seek the help of various Non -Governmental organisations and policy institutes and approach the epidemic of malnutrition in a data driven manner. Women and children form the backbone of our society and their adverse health can affect the country’s growth and economic standards.
Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the government ensures proper implementation of this nutrition mission.
Author: Shamila Jibin from National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Ernakulam.
Editor: Tressa Maria Joseph from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.