In the Federal Budget 2023-24 released on February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pledged to support Pradhan Mantri Ghalib in ensuring food and nutrition security for more than 800 million people in times of pandemic. Emphasized the importance of Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY). Food cereal stocks depleted under Food Corporation of India (FCI), high food subsidy of Rs. So it wasn’t surprising. Distribution of additional free grains under PMGKAY he ceased in January.
Furthermore, Sitharaman highlighted the recent announcement of the federal government to provide free grain to all Antyodaya and priority households until December under PMGKAY with a budget of Rs 1.97 crore for fiscal year 2024. . Government policy measures are set to cut the budget deficit from his 6.4% (RE) in FY23 to his 5.9% in FY24.
But what impact will this withdrawal have on the nutritional security of the poor who must purchase additional entitlements at market prices? Especially at a time when both staples are under high inflationary pressures. (Wheat recorded 22.2% inflation, rice recorded 10.5% inflation in Dec).
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Malnutrition is a multifaceted problem, with multisectoral solutions focused on women’s education, child care, improved sanitation and safe drinking water, apart from access to adequate and nutritious food. I need a measure. Through this lens, we need to understand the budget allocation of various nutrition-sensitive programs, including women’s education, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and more.
Currently, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) known as Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0 has been allocated Rs. This is a slight increase of 1% over the revised estimate for 2023. In contrast, in Pradhamman Triposhan Shaktinirman (Daytime Meal Plan), the budget allocation decreased from his Rs.12,800 in FY23 to Rs.11,600 in his FY24 (RE). With the reopening of schools and Anganwadi centers after pandemic closures, the revised estimate for 2023 is 25% higher than the budget estimate.
Financial expenditure on women’s education under the Samagra Sikhsha, a comprehensive schooling program under the National Education Mission, is Rs 37,453 thousand in FY24 (only 0.2 percent higher than the budget estimate of the previous year). The total allocation of SAMBAL scheme (including Beti Bacho, Beti Padhao schemes) is her Rs 562 crore for FY2024, same as budget estimate for 2022. It should be noted that approximately 41% of the budget allocation under the SAMBAL scheme was underutilized during the 23 financial years. Instead, the best policy option is to provide liberal scholarships and financial incentives to reduce dropout rates for female students, especially at the secondary and tertiary levels.
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Another important area of malnutrition is WASH. In FY24, there is a significant increase in budget allocations to the Jal Jeevan mission and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. However, about 30% of the budget allocation under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Rural) was underutilized in FY2023. NFHS-5 data show improved sanitation (48.5% in 2015-16 to 70.2% in 2019-21) and safe drinking water (94.4% in 2015-16 to 95.9% in 2019-21). ) did not observe any significant improvement in the nutritional status of women and children in tandem, despite increased coverage of stunting. , with alarmingly high levels of malnutrition. Moreover, there are large regional disparities in child stunting rates, mainly concentrated in the districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.
It is critical that nutrition-sensitive programs begin to focus on behavior change and raise public awareness of healthy hygiene practices, nutritious diets, parenting practices and their links to nutrition. Government piecemeal efforts to improve access to women’s education, children’s health care and WASH facilities will reduce child (ages 0-6) stunting to 25% by 2022 under POSHAN Abhiyan It is clear that we have not achieved our previous goal.
Union Budget 2023 is tightening POSHAN’s purse strings and could further hamper India’s progress in achieving holistic nutrition for women and children. Until the government urgently addresses the multifaceted determinants of malnutrition through targeted and region-specific nutrition-sensitive interventions, India is unlikely to overcome its nutrition security challenges.
Shyma Jose is an ICRIER Fellow (Twitter: @shyma_jose) and Kriti Khurana is a PhD Scholar at BITS-Pilani, Hyderabad (Twitter: @kritikhurana12).
(Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of DH.)