In Attappadi, fund crunch empties belly of community kitchen project

PALAKKAD: The shortage of funds seems to be taking its toll on the running of community kitchens in Attappadi. Of the 385 pregnant women, 150 are adivasis and 68 weigh below 45 kg. Naturally, these women will give birth to underweight children.

“The community kitchen was envisaged as a scheme in which the Scheduled Tribe department will provide Rs 2 crore, Social Justice Department Rs 2 crore, Social Security Mission 2 crore and the Kudumbashree Mission Rs 48 lakh. Our department has given its contribution but there are dues from others,” said the director of the SC/ST department, Dr Pugazhendi. 

He added that there needs to be coordination among all departments. While one department is for women and children, one is for infants, one for pregnant and lactating women and another one for the general health of the adivasis.

“Of the 196 community kitchens in Attappadi, hearths are burning in only 58 of them. In Agali panchayat, of the 81 community kitchens, only 12 are functioning. In Pudur panchayat, of the 63 community kitchens, only 13 were functioning. In Sholayur panchayat, of the 52 community kitchens, only 33 are functioning,” said the manager of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), Seema Bhaskaran, on the Food Support Programme.

‘’Due to the lack of funds, we owe Rs 2,25,88,990 to various agencies for running of the community kitchens till now. While Rs 1,05,96,953 was due to the kudumbashree ayalkootams towards the vegetables purchased, wages and firewood, another Rs 1,19,92,037 was due to the Maveli stores for the supply of provisions. Since the NRLM took over the running of community kitchens in December 2014, we had received a sum of Rs 4.27 crore till date,’’ she added.

Meanwhile, an official of the Social Justice department in Thiruvananthapuram said that it was in 2013-14 that it was decided to provide Rs 2 crore for the community kitchen programme at the height of infant mortality. ‘’Unless the government provides us budgetary support, how can we dole out funds?’’ he asks.

“Of the 32 tribal women who gave birth in January 2016, 12  delivered babies weighed below 2.5 kg. In February, of the 34 adivasi women who gave birth, the babies of 10 of them were below 2.5 kg. In March, of the 49 adivasi women who gave birth, the babies of 16 of them  were less than 2.5 kg. In April, of the 47 adivasi women who gave birth, 16 had infants below 2.5 kg and in May, of the 32 adivasi women who gave birth, 20 of them had babies of less than 2.5 kg and of them four weighed below 2 kg,” nodal officer for Health in Attappadi, Dr Prabhudas, said.  He added that the only solution is to provide support to the adivasis through MNREGS to cultivate fallow land with their traditional crops and by strengthening the Animal Husbandry sector.

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