'Contractor raj' on in nutrition schemes

Maneka Gandhi’s letter to Pankaja Munde has thrown the doors open to the entry of private manufacturers in supplementary nutrition scheme.  

The ‘contractor raj,’ ushered in by the UPA government to address the problem of malnutrition, persists in the Ministry of Women and Child Development under Maneka Gandhi, who is doing a balancing act between Supreme Court orders and the existing guidelines.

Supreme Court Commissioners, appointed to monitor the implementation of food schemes, say both are posing a problem for the government.

Two months back, The Hindu had reported on the ongoing flip-flop by the Ministry on the issue. On September 3, 2015, Ms. Gandhi wrote to Maharashtra Minister Pankaja Munde, who has been in the news for awarding questionable contracts worth crores to private chikki manufacturers, drawing her attention to the need to maintain quality in food served to infants and pregnant and nursing mothers under the government’s supplementary nutrition scheme. Ms Gandhi’s letter, many food security activists apprehend, may actually allow Ms. Munde to continue awarding contracts to private manufacturers, whose involvement the Supreme Court has strictly prohibited.

Ms. Gandhi’s letter to Ms Munde, states: “My attention has been drawn to the letter dated 9-7-2015 wherein Government of Maharashtra has sought advice of Central Government for use of extrusion technology for preparation of take home rations under the ICDS scheme… The Ministry of WCD has made it absolutely clear that the directions of the Honourable SC regarding quality and hygiene standards of THR (take home ration) have to be followed.”

An email sent to Ms. Gandhi by The Hindu was not responded to.

Ms. Gandhi draws Ms. Munde’s attention to two particular paras of a 2011 Supreme Court order, which, activists assert, throw the doors open to the entry of automated plants operated by private manufacturers, beyond the means of small self-help women’s groups who are supposed to supply hygienic food.

As per rules and guidelines of the Supreme Court, Self Help Groups (SHGs) run by women should be in charge of providing take home rations for pregnant and nursing women and children below three years, the rationale being women, if given control over the food chain, would be sensitive in tackling malnutrition among infants.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 3:42:34 PM |

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