PM- POSHAN (Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman)

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    • According to official records, around 65 % of 24.95 laid Cook-Cum-Helpers(CCHs) engaged under PM-Poshan (earlier Mid-Day Meal) are paid less than 2,000/month. In some of the states, it is constant at 1,000/month since 2009.

    PM-Poshan

    • About:
      • Type: Centrally-Sponsored Scheme.
      • Ministry: Ministry of Education.
      • Coverage: All school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided Schools.
      • Funding: Funds for payments to cooks and workers are split by the Centre in a 60:40 ratio with states, and UTs with legislatures.
      • Continuation for the five-year period 2021-22 to 2025-26
      • Proposed to be extended to pre-primary or Bal Vatikas of Government and Government-aided primary schools.
    • Nutritional Norms:
      • For children of Primary classes- 450 calories and 12 grams protein
      • For children of Upper-Primary classes- 700 calories and 20 grams protein.
    • Outcomes:
      • To benefit more than 11.80 crore children studying in 11.20 lakh schools across the country. 
      • Investment of more than ? 24,400 crores, including the cost of about ? 11,500 crores on food grains.
      • Development of School Nutrition Garden in more than 3 lakh schools already completed.
    • School Nutrition Gardens:
      • To give children first-hand experience with nature and gardening and to harvest them to provide additional micronutrients. 
    • Holistic nutrition goals:
      • The Policy provisions have also added a 5 per cent Flexi component into the existing budget to allow States to incorporate. 
      • Additional nutrition-rich elements — such as fortified foods, fruits and milk — into the menu. 
      • The concept of TithiBhojan– a community participation program in which people provide special food to children on special occasions/festivals.
      • Provisions for supplementary nutrition items to children in aspirational districts and districts with a high prevalence of Anemia.
    • Social audits:
      • It has been made mandatory in all districts.
      • College students and trainee teachers will be roped in to do field inspections to ensure the quality of meals.
    • Direct Benefit Transfer:
      • States will be asked to do direct benefit cash transfers of 
        • cooking costs to individual school accounts, and 
        • honorarium amounts to the bank accounts of cooks and helpers.

    Expected Benefits

    • Tackle Malnutrition among school-going children.
    • Achieve Right to Food and SDGs.
    • Help the Aspirational and Tribal Districts
    • Promotion of ethnic cuisines and culture
    • Promote transparency and reduce leakages (By opting Social Audit & DBT).
    • Promote Gender-Equity and development of girl child. 
    • It supplements education with nutrition.
    • Deter poor house-hold do not send their children to work as their food and education is taken care of by the government.

    Major Concerns

    • No increase in monthly honorarium to Cooks:
      • In States like UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, and Odisha remuneration for CCHs is less than 2,000/month while in states like Tamil Nadu it is as high as 12,000/month, and in UT of Puducherry, it is 21,000/month.
      • Legislation of Minimum Wages does not apply to them as they are classified as honorary workers rendering social service.
    • Funding Issues:
      • Delays on part of the Finance Department of concerned states to release funds for payment to CCHs.
    • Poor Quality of Food:
      • Many cooks are not very well trained for cooking food.
    • Hunger and Malnutrition: 
      • According to the Global Hunger Index 2021, published by Welthunger Life and Concern Worldwide, India ranked 101 out of 116 countries.  
      • According to Oxfam India, the amount for child nutrition dropped by 18.5% compared to 2020-21. 
    • Other Factors:  
      • Corruption, Caste bias and Discrimination

    Way Ahead

    • The process of food procurement and distribution should be made more transparent by involving technology.
    • Awareness to remove caste bias and discrimination through stories of Rama, Krishna, etc.
    • Proper and regular monitoring of the scheme and routine surprise inspection to check the quality, quantity, and distribution of food.
    • Health components should also be added to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.

    Other Government Initiatives

    • Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) to provide food security to millions of poor in the country. 
    • National Food Security Act, 2013 with the objective to provide for food and nutritional security
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), a scheme under which beneficiaries covered under NFSA are given an additional 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month free of cost.
    • PM Matru Vandana Yojana for maternal healthcare and to provide nutritional and monetary requirements during pregnancy. 

    Source: IE