NEW DELHI: Union Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday said the West Bengal government has refused to adopt the POSHAN Abhiyaan (Nutrition Mission) and urged the TMC-led state government to do so maintaining a humanitarian approach despite political differences with the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre.
The Women and Child Development Minister made the remarks in the Rajya Sabha during her reply to a Calling Attention Motion on malnutrition in women and children moved by three members - JDU's Kahkashan Perween, Jaya Bachchan of the Samajwadi Party and Vijila Sathyananth of the AIADMK.
The reference to West Bengal was in response to a suggestion made by All India Trinamool Congress member Shanta Chhetri who suggested that the Centre include best practices implemented by West Bengal to arrest malnutrition as part of its national module.
"Our member of Parliament from West Bengal Shanta (Chhetri) appealed to me if we can make the state's best practices a part of the national module. I would like to inform the member of a very serious issue that West Bengal (government) has refused to adopt the POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission)," Irani said.
She further said the Centre, in an endevour to strengthen the Aanganwadi services in West Bengal, is ready to give smartphones.
"We gave money to West Bengal for 1. 31 lakh smartphones, we are also ready to give them infantometers and weighing scales but not even one has been procured till now.
I am not passing sharp remarks against the state government through the member (Shanta Chhetri), but if we consider this humanitarian work, not one rupee has been spent on West Bengal due to these reasons," Irani said.
The minister said the Centre monitors on a state-to-state basis, how it can reach the ground level through direct benefit transfer schemes to malnourished children and women.
She appealed to the member "to tell the West Bengal government to join this national campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi because we may have political differences, but to view this as a humanitarian issue".
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on June 28, 2019, Irani had said "Odisha and West Bengal are yet to start implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan".
Besides, Irani informed that a T3 'test, treat and talk strategy' to check anaemia was being implemented by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
Various other members spoke on the Calling Attention Motion and gave suggestions for a targeted approach to tackle malnutrition and stunting of growth in women and children.
Perween of the JDU called for efforts to eliminate the practice of dowry, saying that under-age marriages were leading to malnourished children in states like Bihar.
Bachchan said we need to educate mothers and children through a method easily understood by them on stunted growth that need special care.
Sathyananth said malnutrition and infant mortality rate in the country remains very high even as the budget to check these is meagre.
Amee Yajnik of the Congress called for better coordination between the Women and Child Development Ministry, the Tribal Affairs Ministry and Jal Shakti (Water) Ministry to curb malnutrition through improved sanitation for tribals.
Manoj Kumar Jha of the RJD said the working conditions of Aanganwadi workers need to be improved significantly. Veer Singh of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party claimed that 19.5 crore people in the country are affected by malnutrition.
The Union Cabinet had approved setting up of National Nutrition Mission (NNM) with a three year budget of Rs 9,046.17 crore commencing from 2017-18.
POSHAN Abhiyaan aims to reduce malnutrition from the country in a phased manner, through a life cycle concept, by adopting a synergised and result oriented approach.
The Abhiyaan ensures mechanisms for timely service delivery and a robust monitoring as well as intervention infrastructure.
The target of the Abhiyaan is to reduce stunting in children (0-6 years), under-nutrition (underweight prevalence) in children (0-6 years) and Low Birth Weight at the rate of 2 per cent per annum and reducing anaemia among young children (6-59 months), women and adolescent girls at the rate of 3 per cent per annum across the country.