The government’s decision to introduce conditional cash transfers in a key nutrition programme for children, pregnant and lactating mothers instead of take-home ration in the country’s 10 districts on a pilot basis has hit a roadblock.
A recent social audit of the direct benefit transfer of food subsidy in Ranchi’s Nagri block found a majority of the beneficiaries wanted subsidized food grains instead of cash transfer.
Citing the adverse feedback from beneficiaries in the state to the cash-transfer scheme, the Union women and child development (WCD) ministry has decided to seek views of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and federal think-tank Niti Aayog on whether the ministry should go ahead with the pilot.
Jharkhand had started cash transfers in place of subsidised grains on a pilot basis in October. “After the Jharkhand report was brought to our notice, WCD minister Maneka Gandhi directed that PMO and Niti Aayog’s opinion be sought on whether to go ahead with the pilot,” said a ministry official, who did not want to be named. The official added the ministry is in the process of writing to them.
According to the fourth round of the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 38% children under five are stunted, or have low height than what is normal for their age. About 36% are underweight.
At present, under the supplementary nutrition program run by the WCD ministry, a child below three years is entitled to a take-home ration of Rs 8 per day.
The ration is given at anganwadis or government-run day-care centres. Pregnant and lactating mothers are entitled to a ration of Rs 9.50 daily per beneficiary. The ministry, following directions from the PMO earlier this year, had decided to introduce conditional cash transfer on a pilot basis according to which Rs 200 (cost for 25 days in a month) was to be transferred to the account of a mother for buying food for her children. For pregnant and lactating mother, Rs 237.50 was to be transferred.
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