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Analysis | ₹1,000 crore spent on Poshan Tracker, but where is the data?

Screengrab of the home page of the Poshan Tracker website  

The Ministry of Women and Child Development has spent over ₹1,000 crore on its Poshan or Nutrition Tracker, which records real-time data on malnourished and ‘severe acute malnourished’ children in each anganwadi. But four years since its launch, the Government is yet to make the data public.

The Government has spent ₹1,053 crore on the Poshan Tracker or Information Communication Technology-Real Time Monitoring as on March 31, 2021, the Ministry of Women and Child Development told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports. The report was presented before Parliament on November 30. Of the total, ₹600 crore was spent on procurement of smartphones; followed by ₹203.96 crore on smartphone recharge and maintenance; ₹180.68 crore on incentives to anganwadi workers and helpers for using the technology; and ₹68 crore on training.

Yet, in response to a question on the number of malnourished children in the country from Samajwadi Party MP Rewati Raman Singh in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, the Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani relied on data from the recently released National Family Health Survey-5, which shows improvement in stunting, wasting and under-weight children.

Also read: Anganwadi workers struggle with Centre’s order on ‘Poshan’

The NFHS is a sample survey conducted across 6.3 lakh households in two phases — from June 2019 to January 2020, and January 2020 to April 2021.

The Poshan Tracker gives the Ministry daily data from 12.3 lakh anganwadi centres, with 9.8 lakh beneficiaries, including children, in the age of six months to six years, as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers.

With the help of their mobile phones, anganwadi workers log into the Poshan Tracker mobile application and input data such as the height or weight of a child, which when tracked over a period of time indicates whether the child is growing appropriately for his or her age or is stunted, wasted or under-weight. Other services recorded include the vaccination status of the child; the nutrition status of pregnant women and lactating mothers; whether an anganwadi was opened on a particular day; how many children attended the anganwadi; how many received take-home rations and hot cooked meals, among others. It triggers alerts for beneficiaries and service providers, and provides a dashboard to enable officials from the Centre to district level to review progress.

Also read: Ministry set to finalise Mission POSHAN 2.0

The Poshan Tracker, known as the ICDS-CAS (Integrated Child Development Services-Common Application Software) in its earlier avatar, was set up with the aim of tracking and improving various services delivered at anganwadis and to ensure nutritional management of beneficiaries. This real-time monitoring system is one of the key pillars of Poshan Abhiyan or Nutrition Mission approved by the Union Cabinet in November 2017 with a financial outlay of ₹9,000 crore for three years.

Yet this important data is not available in the public domain, unlike the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act) data or the Health Management Information System (HMIS) of the Ministry of Health for monitoring of the National Health Mission and other health-related programmes. Government officials have cited privacy concerns as a reason for keeping the data under lock and key but experts say it can easily be anonymised as is the case with data for several other government schemes.

On its Poshan Tracker website (https://poshantracker.in/), the government hosts a dashboard which provides only administrative details at the national, State and district level. This includes total attendance, vaccinations, take-home ration delivered and hot cooked meals served for the past one month, past seven days, and today. It neither allows an analysis of these services over a period of time nor does it share critical information — such as nutrition status of the beneficiaries — that researchers, economists and activists are most interested in.

“The dashboard has no useful information and we can’t draw any inferences from it. While Poshan Tracker records real-time data, surveys such as NFHS come out once in few years, and there is a lag between when the data is collected and when the report is released. Poshan Tracker data needs to be in the public domain as it is built from public money and involves public data. Its availability will improve transparency and accountability,” says Dipa Sinha, Assistant Professor (Economics), Ambedkar University, and a member of the Right to Food Campaign.


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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 12:28:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/analysis-1000-crore-spent-on-poshan-tracker-but-where-is-the-data/article37822823.ece

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