Shillong, June 16: TUR has reiterated that there is gross irregularity in the implementation of Special Nutrition Programme (SNP) of the ICDS as revealed following the seizure of large quantity of rice from Assam.
“Contrary to what the CM claims, supreme court orders since 2004 and the latest being in 2019 emphasise on the need to decentralise the scheme and work with women’s groups, SHGs and local communities who can ensure culturally appropriate and locally available food for the ICDS programme, the main aim of which is to address the issues of under nutrition, anaemia, stunting among children and ensure nutritious food for pregnant and lactating mothers”, TUR leader Angela Rangad said in statement.
According to Rangad, the chief minister is willfully misleading the public by misreading the 2014 notification of the ministry of women and child development and insisting that only entities that can ensure quality food which is micronutrient fortified and energy dense, can be engaged.
“This is an outright lie as the NFSA 2013 does not insist on fortified food but on nutritious food and the supreme court pointed out that the idea of fortification is often used to subvert the scheme and provide a backdoor entry to manufacturers and contractors who eye the central government’s Rs 5000 crore yearly budget for the programme”, she said.
The Meghalaya budget for the feeding component of ICDS for 2020-21 is Rs 60, 37, 2000. “And the question is why should this be cornered by the tainted company Continental Milkose. The intention of the ICDS is to provide nutritious food and local groups can meet this by involving local producers, fruit and vegetable farmers, poultry farmers and others. This Rs 60 crore plus budget should ensure health nutritious food that is locally available and also provide a boost to our economy through generating employment and enterprise avenues for the locals such as farmers , poultry farmers, youth trained in food technology and nutrition and many of whom have returned to the state during this pandemic”, Rangad said.
According to the TUR leader, it is untrue that the foods have to be ready to eat or ready to cook. The two components of the SNP of the ICDS are take home rations as well as hot cooked meals. Insisting on ready to eat is a means towards pilferage through monopoly companies- in this case Continental Milkose- whose food packages were found by the national institute of nutrition , Hyderabad to not meet the required standards.
Rangad said random samples taken from across Meghalaya revealed that vitamin A was not detectable and calorie value was 40 % less than what was claimed among other gross deficiencies in this product.
She said children also do not eat this product and much of it has to be fed to pigs. Children would be better served a variety of local foods that they like such as eggs, bengal gram made with the potassium rich neiiong, rymbainja, maize, pahn karo, Pham dieng, shriew, banana, oranges and others. The SNP ICDS implementation is a scam in Meghalaya as the outcome from its implementation has been dismal where MMR and IMR continue to be one of the highest in the region, Rangad said.
“It is shameful that the chief minister, rather than trying to listen to the grievances of the people and understanding the ground reality of the systemic corruption in the programme, is rather interested to defend Continental Milkose of one Deepak Agrawal.
States such as Odisha, Kerala and Chattisgarh have decentralised the programme by engaging women’s groups and communities and this resulted in success as pointed out by SC, Niti Ayog, NHRC and others. “Meghalaya is well advised to stop the contractor-bureaucrat-politician nexus of promoting the contractor lobby and instead have the interest of children and women in mind. The tender to this tainted company has to be cancelled. Civil society groups and local dorbar should conduct social audits and make public the ground reality of the scheme in the interest of children and women”, Rangad said.