NEW DELHI: Less than 50% of the fund meant for a crucial scheme to tackle malnutrition among children and pregnant and lactating women was utilised by the Centre in 2018-19, the latest CAG report has highlighted, strongly noting that this was a result of the ‘inefficiencies’ by the Women and Child Development Ministry.
Report said, only about Rs 908 crore, out of approximately Rs 1,042 crore allocated for the Integrated Child Development Scheme was actually disbursed.
The savings of over Rs 1,000 crore were ‘due to ministry’s inefficiencies’ in scheme performance, leading to delay in finalisation of contract with service provider for cloud services; delays in procurement of smart phones; non-receipt of utilisation certificates and availability of unspent balance of previous years with the state governments”, report said.
ICDS, one of the WCD ministry’s flagship programmes in existence since 1975 is meant for kids aged 0-6 under which they are assured of supplementary nutrition, non-formal education, nutrition & health education through anganwadis and immunisation and health check-ups in public hospitals.
All components of ICDS except supplementary nutrition programmes are financed through a 60:40 ratio between Centre and states and under SNP beneficiaries are given hot meals along with take-home rations.
CAG report is especially worrying as per the Lancet Child Adolescent Health 2019 report, malnutrition remains the predominant risk factor for deaths (68.2%) and disease burden in children younger than five years in India.
“The national and state governments need to streamline budget monitoring systems, develop nutrition management information system and work together to effectively utilise the budget that can prevent nutrition disruption and improve access to nutrition supplies and services by the marginalised in a timely manner,” said nutrition consultant Basanta Kumar Kar.
Sujeet Ranjan, executive director, Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security said that the binding constraints in the implementation of the scheme are gaps in human resources, particularly at the supervisory level and procurement of growth monitoring devices.
He identified lack of smartphones and likelihood of attrition in the quality of data collected through ICDS- common application software, fund utilisation, convergence at grassroot level, capacity building as other problem areas.