ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Malnutrition and ICDS

Pronouncements about the ICDS scheme have to be juxtaposed against the grim reality of malnutrition.

In his Union Budget 2009-10 speech soon after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-II (UPA-II) government took office, Union Finance Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee stated that “Government is committed to universalisation (our emphasis) of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme in the country. By March 2012, all services under ICDS would be extended, with quality (our emphasis), to every child under the age of six.” We are now a year away from March 2012, but with two-fifths of children under five years of age suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition, one-third not getting a full course of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) immunisation, and two-thirds deprived of the opportunity of preschool learning, surely the actual outcome next year is going to fall far short of the pronouncement made two years back. Yet, the Union Budget for 2011-12 has stepped up the allocation for the ICDS from Rs 8,430.21 crore in 2010-11 (revised estimate) to just Rs 9,294.19 crore in 2011-12 (budget estimate), which will be an increase of no more than 10.2% and that too in nominal terms.

Perhaps the finance minister knew even when he made the pronouncement in 2009 that the ICDS scheme could not deliver the outcome he promised. And he presumed that the pronouncement itself would have been forgotten. But the reality of malnutrition in India is grave. Even if our “India shining” elite have declared India as an economic superpower, the grim reality reflected in the infant, under-five child and maternal mortality rates, and the high incidence of malnutrition, puts the nation in the category of the least developed countries.

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