Union women and child development minister Smriti Irani recently told Parliament that, of the Rs 4,283 crore disbursed for the POSHAN Abhiyaan scheme, only Rs 1,283.89 crore had been utilised until October 31, 2019—a mere 30% of the total disbursements since 2017. The non-utilisation of the funds casts a cloud on India achieving the Sustainable Development Goal on ending hunger—the scheme aims to bring down stunting in children to 25% by 2022, from 35% currently, while it is currently reducing at 1% per year.
The total budgetary allocation for the scheme was Rs 9,046.17 crore, of which 50% was brought in through support from World Bank and other multilateral agencies.
The rest is divided 60:40 between the Centre and the states, 100% for UTs without legislatures, and 90:10 for states in the north-eastern and Himalayan region—Mizoram (65.12%), Lakshadweep (61.08%), Bihar (55.17%), Himachal Pradesh (53.29%), and Meghalaya (48.37%) were the top-five fund utilisers. The lowest was Punjab (0.45%) followed by Karnataka (8.75%), and Kerala (8.75%). Though, this is only a partial picture since a Bihar that has high utilisation still has one of the highest disease burdens from child and maternal malnutrition, as estimated by the Indian Council for Medical Research. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked India 102nd, and the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) showed 35% of under-five children in the country are stunted and 33% underweight. Such high levels of malnutrition undermine India’s growth potential, with lasting consequences for healthcare outgo. A study led by Harvard researcher Akshay Swaminathan shows that there are severe intra-state disparities in levels of malnutrition. This means POSHAN funds have to be directed based on local needs, and implementation has to be tailored accordingly. With time running out to meet POSHAN goals, and, indeed, the SDG on ending hunger, states must get the implementation right.
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Source: Financial Express