The scheme that envisages feeding children a pre-packed nutritious paste thrice a day for 72 days is being offered as a solution to avoid Palghar-like malnutrition deaths. But health experts point out that having the same meal thrice a day would be monotonous and hence, not followed by kids. Also, tribal children would culturally not be comfortable with packaged food.
Shockingly, the 1.08 lakh anganwadis in the state would not be part of this scheme, said a senior state official. “A private firm will be selected to supply the supplement packs,” he added.
At a recent meeting chaired by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis after he visited the Palghar tribal belt, he stressed on the need to relaunch the village child development centre (VCDC) scheme. It was decided that the scheme could be relaunched with the prepacked mixture—three sachets costing Rs 25 each—to be fed to each child for 72 days, instead of 40. The Centre used to fund the VCDC scheme until three years back. A senior bureaucrat said the discontinued central scheme had an annual sanction of Rs 18 crore. “The new scheme could have been raised to Rs 30 crore; there seems to be no need for three times the amount,” he pointed out.
Experts point out to two problems with the scheme: The Rs 100-crore budget is steep and, worse, the same sachet ideally shouldn’t be given to a child thrice a day for 72 days. Dr Ashish Satav, who runs a hospital in the tribal-dominated Melghat area since 1998, pointed out that tribal children would culturally not be comfortable with packaged food. “Moreover, the same food thrice a day would not even acceptable to urban children, so how could it be a solution for a tribal or malnourished child,” said Dr Satav, adding that the food should be culturally acceptable, easily available, low cost and sustainable.
An expert in the field of child health said, “Packed paste is, at best, a supplementary food that is consumed by bodybuilders as a temporary solution. I could have leave side-effects on malnourished kids.”
TOI tried to contact Munde, but she is out of the country, while woman and child development department secretary Vinita Ved Singhal refused comment saying she would have to discuss the matter with Munde first. A senior official defended the scheme saying the Rs 100-crore projection included expenses for transportation and setting up centres in villages.