Maneka Gandhi bypassed; nutrition norms cleared

After PMO intervention, NITI Aayog approves guidelines

September 09, 2018 12:39 am | Updated November 28, 2021 09:08 am IST - NEW DELHI

 Maneka Gandhi

Maneka Gandhi

The NITI Aayog has approved the supplementary nutrition guidelines, prepared by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, bypassing Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi following intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), according to a person familiar with the development.


The PMO had stepped in to end a more than yearlong stand-off between Ms. Gandhi and the Ministry’s officials in the wake of sharp differences over the proposed norms.

Different approaches

The disagreement primarily centred around the approaches to food procured as take-home rations and the hot cooked meals served to 10 crore beneficiaries at 14 lakh anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

While Ms. Gandhi recommended that take-home rations be procured either from self-help groups (SHGs) that have adequate manufacturing facilities or from government or private undertakings, the officials had favoured sourcing food items prepared with locally available ingredients, solely from SHGs.

The Minister’s position was also at odds over hot meals — she instead wanted ready-to-eat mixes in packaged form to be served to beneficiaries.

PMO suggestion

That the officials’ position has prevailed is evident from a communication sent by the Ministry’s top official to the PMO and the NITI Aayog, which has been reviewed by The Hindu .

In June, R.K. Shrivastava, Secretary, Women and Child Development, wrote to the PMO about the delay in deciding on the norms and sought its intervention to expedite a decision that would back the officials’ position. The PMO then suggested that the matter be processed through the Cabinet Secretariat and the NITI Aayog. Subsequently, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar approved the guidelines on August 16.

Ms. Gandhi declined to comment on the development.

The debate within the Ministry has also included the issue of what constitutes supplementary nutrition at anganwadis. Ms. Gandhi has repeatedly asserted that policy-makers need to “stop thinking of giving food and instead think of giving nutrition,” while officials record in their communication to the NITI Aayog that as per the National Food Security Act “food security is supply of the entitled quantity of food grains and meals.”

Purnima Menon, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, contends that policy-makers have been taking positions on the crucial norms on the basis of assumptions in the absence of data.

“This debate has been going on for 10 years. What is needed is to overlay what the uptake of food is vis-à-vis the models within the ICDS. Policy decisions should be based on data, what is the uptake and the quality of food with the different kinds of models that exist. There is no data systems about the quality of food, how people use it, what people think about it,” said Ms. Menon. “My opinion is that there are a lot of assumptions being made within all quarters, but what we need to do is to look at what is actually happening on the ground.”

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