National

Govt. abdicated responsibility in ensuring social security, says Right to Food Campaign

According to an analysis, the allocations for important food and nutrition programmes such as the POSHAN (or ICDS scheme) and the mid-day meal programmein the Union Budget are nearly 40% less than what they were in 2014-15, when the NDA government came to power.   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Instead of taking bold steps to counter rising hunger following the national lockdown last year, the Union Budget has responded by introducing “cuts and deductions” and “abdicating its responsibility in ensuring social security,” the Right to Food Campaign said on Wednesday.

According to an analysis, the allocations for important food and nutrition programmes such as the POSHAN (or ICDS scheme) and the mid-day meal programme are nearly 40% less than what they were in 2014-15, when the NDA government came to power.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her Budget speech the launch of POSHAN 2.0, under which the government’s Poshan Abhiyan would be merged with the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (as part of which nutrition is distributed at anganwadis). Four schemes have been grouped together under the Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0. While the four schemes were altogether allocated ₹24,557 crore last year, this year’s allocation has been slashed to ₹20,105 crore.

Watch | Highlights of Union Budget 2021
 

Similarly, the maternity benefit programme, or Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY), has been clubbed with at least three other schemes, but the allocation for the umbrella scheme called SAMARTHYA is nearly same as what was set aside for the PMMVY alone last year — ₹2,522 crore in FY 2021 and ₹2,522 in FY 2022.

The mid-day meal scheme received ₹11,000 crore last year, which was raised to ₹11,500 crore in this year’s announcement, which would only take care of inflation, explained Dipa Sinha from the Right to Food Campaign at a press conference. The Campaign is a network of NGOs fighting against hunger and deprivation.

“NREGA, PDS, ICDS, PMMVY, mid-day meal and old-age pension form the six pillars of what is a semblance of social security. This government has attacked four of these pillars over the years. The allocation for ICDS has seen a 36% cut since 2014, and for mid-day meals it has seen a 38% cut if we take inflation into account,” said Jean Dreze, well-known development economist.

 

The National Social Assistance Programme under which the elderly and women get pensions has also seen a decline in real terms.

“These cuts are all the more difficult to understand when there is evidence of stagnation of nutrition indicators of children and enhanced food insecurity. This is an abdication of responsibility in the field of social security. The Budget as a whole is 15% more than last year, and the axe seems to have fallen on children dramatically,” he said.

The senior economist explained the maths — ICDS was allocated ₹18,691 crore in 2014-15, which at an inflation rate of 5% would amount to ₹26,300 crore today. Keeping allocation for it at 84% of the umbrella scheme as it was last year, this year’s allocation would be ₹16,888 crore — a 36% cut over seven years.

The revised estimate for the scheme also shows that a large chunk of the money allocated for key food schemes last year remained unutilised in a year of all-pervasive hunger. Only 52% of the funds set aside for the maternity benefit scheme, PMMVY, for mothers expecting their first child was utilised — ₹2,500 crore was set aside last year and ₹1,300 crore was used. And, 28% of the Budget allocated for anganwadi services was used — ₹24,557.4 crore was allocated and ₹17,917 crore was used.


Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 5:53:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-abdicated-responsibility-in-ensuring-social-security-says-right-to-food-campaign/article33741923.ece

Next Story