J&K needs to revamp its nutrition program

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Introduction

Recent fact sheets revealed by the fifth (NFHS) National Family Health Survey 2019-20 (which exclude many big states viz. Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh) has put many hands on the paper scribbling the highs and lows of many covered aspects and comparing these facts and figures with that of the past survey conducted in 2015-16.

Many issues have captured the attention of masses in this survey and one thing that lags all things behind is that malnutrition levels in our country as well as in our UT has increased drastically in comparison to the past. There is an increase in the prevalence of stark malnutrition cases in 16 out of 22 States/UTs (compared to previous survey).

Out of 10 children, 8 children suffer from a dietary shortfall in our country and an intriguing fact is that our UT (Jammu & Kashmir) has topped the list in this case where highest increase in percentage of children not meeting dietary adequacy over the last 3 years have been observed.

In other words, there are 86.4% children (aged 6-23 months) in our Union Territory as of now who fail to get proper nutrition which can meet their satisfactory dietary needs.

NFHS field work was conducted in about 18086 households in J&K in which information was collected from 23037 women and 3087 men by the Karvy Data Management Survey Limited.

Why malnutrition increased in our UT?

There can be two major reasons cited behind this.

  • Improper implementation of Centrally Sponsored Government Schemes and
  • Corruption in the system.

Let us address these two reasons at length with the support of datasheets released by the concerned International and National Govt. Agencies:

Improper Implementation of Centrally Sponsored Govt. Schemes.

According to a report of UN FAO, 194 million people sleep hungry every day in India which comprises about 23% of the world’s undernourished population. And it is not that we are unable to provide food to the entire population of ours. As a matter of fact our country produces more than the estimated amount required to feed the entire population. In 2018-19 alone our country produced 283.37 million tons of food grains which are more than enough for the population of 130 crores.

These figures paint a sorry picture of our system and put us at sea when we talk on the subject of under nutrition. How can 23% of the world’s undernourished population belong to a country which ranks first in millets and second in rice and wheat production in the world?

Answer to this question is simple that we have failed in our approach of bringing the targeted population under the umbrella of some centrally sponsored schemes.

Today we have schemes which are formulated for the cause viz. Annapurna Scheme, Mid-day meal scheme, PDS (Public Distribution System), ICDS (Integrated Child Development Schemes), AAY (Anntodaya Anna Yojana), POSHAN et cetera. Every year Govt. of India announces MSPs (Minimum Support Prices) for the farmers of India as incentive to relive them in the times of distress.

It is not that these schemes are useless and have not contended the problem. What we are dealing with right now is the problem of malnutrition which has increased in comparison to the past and we must not forget that these are the figures of pre COVID times.

It is likely that the percentage will increase in the next survey and we must realize that sooner we address this issue better would it be for us.

Corruption in the System

Another major problem that is putting fuel in the fire is corruption. It acts like a cancer which prevents schemes from reaching to the masses.  According to the data released by the Dept. of Consumer Affairs about 62000 tons of food grains were damaged in the warehouses of FCI in the time frame of 6 years (2011-17) and 8600 tons of food grains were lost, thanks to the bogus ration cards and corruption rampant in our system.

Food Department is known for its bad track record and above figures are testimony to this fact. Trucks and trucks of food grains get lost in the way due to the corrupt practices of these officials.Our J&K is not a special case where it doesn’t happen. Corruption was in the DNA of politicians of our UT.

Way Ahead:

If we really want to solve aforementioned problems we must take into account some considerations. MSPs which cover 22 crops benefit only a small chunk of population that is 6% farmers. What about the rest percentage population of farmers? Govt. must make an effort to cover maximum of the population by removing bottlenecks in the middle.

Moreover, we have Public Distribution system which distributes food grains and other necessary items through widespread ration outlets. If we revamp this system by including pulses and other nutritious (which contains protein) items in it then that would be of great thing in this regard.

Other initiatives like “One Card, One Nation” and Digitization of these transactions would remove further hurdles and clear the way for a better India and better Union Territory. J&K administration can streamline the process by reaching to the masses and by tackling corruption stringently.

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