The objective of the Scheme may be laudable but it is indisputable that its politician members don’t see it as a very high priority.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to present himself as a champion of the poor, but apparently, his ministerial colleagues, especially from his own party, don’t share his enthusiasm. So, out of 10 ministers expected to attend the first meeting of the National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges under Poshan Abhiyaan held on Wednesday in New Delhi, as many as eight skipped it. The three Bharatiya Janata Party chief ministers who were supposed to attend the meeting also didn’t.
Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan and Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Housing & Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri were the honorable exceptions. Headed by Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar, the Council has 10 Union ministers, the Niti Aayog CEO, five chief ministers (on a two-year rotation basis), and Secretary (Health Research) & Director General (Indian Council of Medical Research).
The absent ministers were: Women & Child Development Maneka Gandhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, Health & Family Welfare Minister J.P. Nadda, Drinking Water & Sanitation Minister Uma Bharti, Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh, Information & Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, and Panchayati Raj Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Rajiv Kumar stressed on the need for ground-level work and participation from all sectors, for converting the mission into Jan Andolan
The chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu are also members of the Council. None of them attended its first meeting. They sent state WCD ministers for the event.
The Council, set up under Poshan Abhiyaan, is the apex body to formulate overall policies, guide and monitor all nutrition-based schemes, said an official release. “The mandate of the Council is to provide policy directions to address India’s nutrition challenges through coordinated inter-sectoral action, coordinate and review convergence among ministries, and review programmes for nutrition on a quarterly basis.”
The Council is expected to submit its report to the Prime Minister every six months.
Rajiv Kumar stressed on the need for ground-level work and participation from all sectors, for converting the mission into Jan Andolan and achieving the goals, said the release. “He called for feedback and suggestions from members and state and district level officers in implementing the mission.”
“We began the Poshan Abhiyaan with an unwavering commitment to ensure proper nutrition facilities for our women and children.”
Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, WCD Ministry, in his address said that there is a need to ensure convergence of various programmes spread across ministries. The programmes include: Anganwadi Services, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Scheme for Adolescent Girls of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY); National Health Mission (NHM), Home-based New born Care, Home-Based Yong Child Care, Anemia Mukt Bharat, and Rashtrya Bal Swasth Krayakram of the MoH&FW; Swachchh Bharat Mission, Construction of toilets and WASH of the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation (DW&S): Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD); and Drinking Water & Toilets with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
The objective of the Council may be laudable and the effort required hectic, but it is indisputable that its politician members don’t see it as a very high priority. Facts tell the story: out of 15 politician members of the Council, 12 were from the BJP, which is indeed the dominant party in the country. But only one BJP Council member, Puri, chose to attend the Council’s first meeting.
The Prime Minister tweeted on March 8, “We began the Poshan Abhiyaan with an unwavering commitment to ensure proper nutrition facilities for our women and children. India will progress when our youth and Nari Shakti are healthy.” His commitment may be unwavering; the same cannot be said about his ministerial colleagues.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.