The Ministry of Woman and Child Development (WCD) has cooked up a new proposal that isn’t making everyone exactly happy. The proposal aims to replace take-home rations given to young children, pregnant and lactating women in anganwadis in favour of cash money.
Now this may sound like a good thing, or at least, it may not sound like a bad thing straight off the bat, but it brings some complications that could spell trouble for women and children in India.
This scheme of handing out rations is part of the universal nutrition entitlement scheme under the Integrated Child Development Services, and is meant to supply much-needed supplementary nutrition during the pre and neo-natal stages and in infancy. It’s supposed to help battle malnourishment, stunting and other growth defects in the Indian population.
So naturally, food security activists are concerned that by replacing these rations with the equivalent amount of money, we’re opening up the possibility of women and children missing out on this additional nutrition, because the money could be spent on entirely different things, or even on foods that aren’t as nutritious as that which the government would hand out. In any case, this was never meant to be a poverty alleviation scheme, but one aimed at improving health and nutrition. As activist Dipa Sinha says The Indian Express, the take-home rations are a mix of cereals, fats, sugar and pulses, with added micronutrients, and it could be hard to replace it’s nutritive value with food bought by individuals without the government’s planning and support.
Activists also point out that in most cases where cash is directly distributed, the amount isn’t inflation indexed, which means the cash entitlement they receive may not match constantly fluctuating and rising food prices.