Nutrition and the Budget’s fine print
Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Global Hunger Index
Mains level: Issues relating to poverty and hunger
- The Global Hunger Index, reported that India suffers from “serious”
hunger, ranked 102 out of 117 countries, and that just a tenth of children
between six to 23 months are fed a minimum acceptable diet.
- The urgency around nutrition was reflected in the Union Finance
Minister’s Budget speech, as she referred to the “unprecedented” scale of
developments under the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic
Nutrition, or POSHAN Abhiyaan, the National Nutrition Mission with efforts
to track the status of 10 crore households.
Plan and allocation:
- There are multiple dimensions of malnutrition that include calorific
deficiency, protein hunger and micronutrient deficiency.
- The Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh which was launched in 2019 by Minister
for Women and Child Development and Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a recent
attempt to bridge this gap.
- The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme provides a
package of services including supplementary nutrition, nutrition and health
education, health check-ups.
- The referral services addressing children, pregnant and lactating
mothers and adolescent girls, key groups to address community malnutrition,
and which also tackle calorific deficiency and beyond.
- For 2019-20, the allotment was ₹27,584.37 crore but revised estimates
are ₹24,954.50 crore, which points to an underutilisation of resources.
- The allocation this year is marginally higher, but clearly, the emphasis
needs to be on implementation.
- Pulses are a major contributor to address protein hunger.
- A scheme for State and Union Territories aims to reach pulses into
welfare schemes (Mid-Day Meal, Public Distribution System, ICDS) has revised
estimates standing at just ₹370 crore against ₹800 crore allocation in the
- The Horticulture Mission can be one of the ways to address micronutrient
deficiency effectively, but here too implementation is low. Revised
estimates for 2019-20 stand at ₹1,583.50 crore against an allocation of
- In 2018-19, the Government of India launched a national millet mission
which included renaming millets as “nutri-cereals” also launching a Year of
Millets in 2018-19 to promote nutritious cereals in a campaign mode across
- This could have been further emphasised in the Budget as well as in the
National Food Security Mission (NFSM) which includes millets. However, the
NFSM strains to implement allocation of ₹2,000 crore during 2019-20, as
revised expenditures stand at ₹1,776.90 crore. As millets have the potential
to address micronutrient deficiencies, the momentum given to these cereals
needs to be sustained.
Impact of linkage schemes:
- With underspending, allocations for subsequent years will also be
affected, limiting the possibility of increasing budgets and the focus on
- While agriculture dominated the initial Budget speech, the link between
agriculture and nutrition was not explicit.
- This link is important because about three-fifths of rural households
are agricultural in India (National Sample Survey Office, 70th round) and
malnutrition rates, particularly in rural areas are high (National Family
Health Survey-4). Therefore, agriculture-nutrition linkage schemes have
potential for greater impact and need greater emphasis.
How can we bring about better nutrition in India?
- With the largest number of undernourished people in the world, India
needs to hasten to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 of ‘Zero Hunger’
- The Economic Survey notes that India should give special attention
although the Budget has not explicitly spelt out nutrition in greater detail
in many ways.
- We need to focus on nutrition-related interventions, beyond digitisation;
intensify the convergence component of POSHAN Abhiyaan, using the platform
to bring all departments in one place to address nutrition;
- To direct the announcement to form 10,000 farmer producer organisations
with an allocation of ₹500 crore to nutrition-based activities;
- To promotion of youth schemes to be directed to nutrition-agriculture
link activities in rural areas;
- To give explicit emphasis and fund allocation to agriculture-nutrition
linked schemes; and ensure early disbursement of funds and an optimum
utilisation of schemes linked to nutrition.
- Nutrition goes beyond just food, with economic, health, water
sanitation, gender perspectives and social norms contributing to better
- The Economic Survey notes that “Food is not just an end in itself but
also an essential ingredient in the growth of human capital and therefore
important for national wealth creation”.
Q.1) With reference to the Emergency Response Sanitation Units (ERSUs)
proposed by Maharashtra government, consider the following statements:
1. The municipal commissioner of the civic body concerned will be the
Responsible Sanitation Authority (RSA).
2. The ERSU should be headed by a senior civic officer and other civic officers
should be on the ERSU advisory board to decide the standard operating procedure
(SoP) for workers who enter manholes for cleaning purposes.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
Q.1) Describe the hunger and malnutrition scenario in India. How can we
bring about better nutrition in India?