UTTAR PRADESH: A study published by Lancet Child & Adolescent Health says Uttar Pradesh is among the states with the highest malnutrition levels in the country. The state government has roped in thousands of women self-help groups (SHGs) to facilitate its Take Home Ration (THR) scheme under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). These women have been entrusted with providing nutritious ration to the beneficiaries in their villages and blocks.
THR, executed by UP State Rural Livelihood Mission (UPSRLM), focuses on children under six months of age, pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls and severely malnourished children in the age group of six months to six years. Under the initiative, ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food, dry rations and hot cooked meals are provided to the beneficiaries. The ration comprising staple food such as rice, pulses, wheat, and oil is given to the beneficiaries for consumption at home.
]How it works
“Under the scheme, cooked food with specific caloric value is also provided to new born babies, expecting and lactating mothers, children under the age of 6 years and other malnourished population,” says Yogesh Kumar, in-charge, UPSRLM, adding “Earlier the service was being run in the state by private players who were providing the Take Home Rations which was then distributed by the Anganwadi workers to the beneficiaries.”
In such a scenario, with the involvement of so many hands, there were frequent complaints of quality and quantity of the preparation. Many times, ration would never reach the beneficiaries. “To tackle it, a simple formula has been worked out wherein the state government has roped in around 3,000 SHG members, organized into 204 SHG Micro Enterprises (MEs) in 204 blocks of 18 districts and are entrusted to distribute prepared recipes with counted calories to beneficiaries,” says Kumar.
Kumar said each SHG member got sustainable livelihood through preparation and supply of THR. Each women of the SHG Micro Enterprise is expected to generate additional income of Rs 4,800-Rs 6,000 per month through preparations of specific caloric values of ration and its supply. Each SHG consisting of about a dozen women who help in the distribution of the prepared ration to approximately 16,160 Anganwadi Centres (AWC) across 18 districts.
For procurement and distribution of dry ration, another 65,000 SHGs have been roped in. They procure dry ration at village level and supply it to around 1.5 lakh Anganwadi centres. As per official figures, this initiative is covering approximately 1.5 crore population.
Explaining the working process, the officials say that earlier the scheme was being run by the ICDS department. For procurement of ration, money was sent to a centralised vendor who gave it to Anganwadi centres.
“Now the money is being transferred to these SHG members. The women use it procure food, pack it and deliver to the beneficiaries. This chain helps the SHG members to save some money. Roughly, they are able to save Rs 10,000-12,000 a month, which they take home as their profit,” said an official.
Some of the members of the SHG engaged in THR are also its beneficiaries like Anu Devi, who belongs to ‘Jai Maa Kali’ SHG associated with Mahila Gram Sanghathan. She remembers how earlier the ration used to be of low quality. “Ever since the government engaged us, that problem has been resolved,” she said.
“We ensure that we procure good quality ration to rid children of malnutrition. We procure rice, pulses, wheat, milk and oil from our village only at the best possible price, then pack it up and distribute it to the people. In winters, we sometimes make ‘panjiri’ for expecting women,” she said.
Ensuring Good Quality Ration
Sona Devi of Sheetla SHG from Dubepur block in Sultanpur district says she and others like her are happy to get this responsibility. She says that since the members of her group are procuring and distributing the ration, there is no scope of any irregularity and that the beneficiaries are getting quality and quantity both.