#India -2- child norm to Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children #WTFnews #Coercion #illegal #health


Cap benefits, limit families, suggests panel

Call To Dilute Govt Commitments To Maternity Care, Nutritional Security Of Children Draws Fire

Nitin Sethi TNN , Jan 24, 2012

New Delhi: Should maternity benefits and nutritional support to children under government schemes be restricted to only the first two children to “encourage stabilization of population”? Raising a storm among activists, the parliamentary standing committee has recommended so while assessing the National Food Security Bill. The recommendation has been objected to by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights also (NCPCR).

The other recommendations of the standing committee diluting the existing commitments of the government to provide nutritional security to children, flowing out from various Supreme Court orders, has also drawn criticism from the civil society and the commission. In its report, the standing committee said: “The committee recommends that the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 shall be admissible up to the birth of second child only to encourage stabilization of population.” It also recommended that pregnant women should be eligible for the maternity benefit of Rs 1,000 per month after three months into pregnancy and not for six months as is norm now.
Reacting strongly to the proposals, NCPCR said, “The commission is stunned to see that its submissions to the standing committee on critical issues of children’s food and nutritional security have not found place in the report.” It said, “The universal and unconditional maternal entitlements enabling exclusive breast-feeding to babies for the first six months of life that was provided for in the NFSB is now withdrawn. On the contrary, the committee imposed the two-child norm denying entitlements to the third born and higher order of babies to encourage stabilization of population.”
The standing committee report notes that the recommendation to use regulation of nutritional support for population stabilization was made by Congress MP Naveen Jindal.
The commission has criticized the recommendations, saying, “The committee has ignored the importance of exclusive breast-feeding of babies for the first six months of life which is the vital and indispensable factor for survival and growth of children. In would only perpetuate child mortality and malnutrition in the country. This is unjust and violates the fundamental right to equality.”
The Right to Food campaign, too, has criticized the recommendation denying the nutritional support to children, “It is now widely recognised that such disincentives do not contribute to population stabilisation and only violate the rights of women and children. India’s fertility rate has been steadily declining and anyway approaching the level of population stabilisation.” The campaign added, “It is shocking to learn that the committee obliterated legal guarantees to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and anganwadis on grounds of programmatic and operational gaps in the scheme. This undermines the Supreme Court orders and the advise of hundreds of experts and campaigns that wrote to the Committee on the importance of universalising the ICDS services.”
Oddly, it was on the advice of the Union ministry for women and child development that the standing committee decided to keep ICDS out of the list of legal entitlements under the bill. The ministry told the committee, “The scheme is confronted with programmatic and operational gaps which would need to be addressed first.”

 

 

Demand for SIT probe into Centre’s child nutrition scheme


Down to Earth
Author(s): Richard Mahapatra
Date: Dec 4, 2012

Supreme Court commissioners report multi-crore scam involving private contractors and bureaucrats in food distribution under Integrated Child Development Scheme

imageRichard Mahapatra

Two commissioners of the Supreme Court in the right to food case have recommended setting up an independent Special Investigation Team, similar to the one for the 2G spectrum scam, to investigate corruption and quality in food procurement for the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Following a comprehensive investigation of the scheme in four states, the commissioners have reported a deep-rooted nexus among bureaucrats, politicians and private food contractors to siphon off funds meant for poor children and women.

In October 2004, the apex court prohibited involvement of private contractors in procurement of food for children and women under ICDS. It ordered that ICDS funds be spent on village communities and self-help groups (SHGs) for buying grains and preparing meals. On an average, this would have pumped in around Rs. 6,000 crore to local communities.

But states have been violating this order blatantly or have tweaked the tender systems for the past eight years to favour private contractors. What’s more, food supplied by contractors was found to be much below the prescribed nutrition level.

Under ICDS, anganwadis (centres for providing healthcare and nutrition to small children and mothers in rural areas) provide morning snacks and hot lunch to children between three and six years. Besides, nutrition mix is given to children between six months and three years, and to pregnant and lactating women. It covers 80 million children in the country under the age of six, and 18 million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers through 1.7 million anganwadis.

The commissioners have submitted a 100-odd pages report to the apex court on November 29 2012. This comes after thorough investigation by the commissioners in four states: Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat.

“It is now (time) for an independent Special Investigation Team to thoroughly probe this nexus and bring to book those who are responsible for stealing food for children of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the country,” recommends the report to the apex court. The report has mentioned how government officials and private contractors have entered into nexus to continue with the old system. The apex court is expected to give its verdict on the recommendations in the near future.

In the past eight years, the apex court gave at least 12 directions to states on violation of its 2004 order. In many cases the court has specifically ordered states like Gujarat to hand over the food contracts to local communities and SHGs.

But as the report finds, states have either outrightly defied this order to tweak the system in such a way that private contractors get to do the same in the guise of SHGs or local community groups. The Central government spends close to Rs 10,000 crore every year on food supply under ICDS.

Ponty finger in this pie

In UP, the state government continues to outsource food supply to private companies, including the one headed by the Gurdeep Singh (Ponty) Chadha, who was killed recently in his Delhi farmhouse along with his brother in a suspected incident of fratricide. His company was severely indicted by the National Human Rights Commission last year for serious malpractices in food supply (Read the report here). On September 24, the government floated a new tender for supply of food under the ICDS. The tender notice does mention SHGs as the preferred agency but has put the condition of Rs 25 crore/year turnover. No local community group can meet this condition, thus making way for entry of private companies. “There has been dissatisfaction about this eligibility criterion for prospective bidders, alleging exclusion of mahila mandals (women cooperatives), SHGs and village committees by setting the financial requirements too high,” says the report.

In Maharashtra, too, the commissioners found that the government obeyed the court order on decentralising the procurement. But it put tough conditions and terms that only private companies could meet. In Gujarat, the state government never took any initiative to implement the court order.

In another interesting finding, the commissioners have found private contractors coming together to monopolise contracts under ICDS, at least in the four states they studied. “Some private contractors have been successful in establishing a monopoly through several states for supply of take home rations for supplementary nutrition provision under the ICDS either through direct contract with the state government or under another cloak,” finds the report.

A massive expenditure of Rs 1,83,778 crore in the 12th Plan to effectively implement ICDS in “Mission Mode”. Would it end as another opportunity for private contractors to amass a fortune at the cost of poor children and mothers needing nutritional care?

 

The Full Ponty- ICDS and Corruption in India


The full Ponty
Samar Halarnkar, Hindustan Times
November 07, 2012
High-school dropout Gurdeep Singh Chadha, or “Ponty” as his friends call him, has achieved the Indian dream. A portly, religious Punjabi with a salt-and-pepper beard, Chadha (52) has a farmhouse in Delhi’s power belt, Chattarpur; a mansion in Dubai; and sundry other homes and cars. Chadha’s  business empire, the Wave Group, is conservatively valued at Rs. 6,000 crore. It encompasses distilleries, multiplexes (Wave cinemas), sugar and paper mills, real estate, poultry and films (he produced the 2005 Sunny Deol starrer Jo Bole So Nihaal). Chadha’s brothers, sons and a grandson run parts of the empire, but it is Ponty’s networking skills and acumen that keeps them ahead.In 2005, during the reign of chief minister Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Chadha won statewide contracts to supply ready to eat food for poor, underweight or otherwise malnourished children under the world’s largest child-health programmes, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Many thought – wrongly – that Chadha’s interests would suffer when Singh’s rival, Mayawati, later won the state. Chadha’s company, Great Value Foods, retained the nutrition contracts, and in 2009, he gained an unprecedented monopoly over the state’s wholesale liquor trade.

Nothing has come of recent moves against Chadha, such as the income-tax department raids in February this year on 25 of his properties in Delhi and UP. Two days ago, the UP Lokayukta was asked to investigate his 2010 and 2011 acquisition of four State-owned sugar mills for roughly – according to the government auditor’s report – a tenth of their value. I had no luck reaching Chadha for comment.

Chadha’s story is unexceptional in a country known for crony capitalism, except that his dominion over the child-nutrition programme does not help a state that is home to every sixth malnourished child in India. Eight million women and 30 million children in UP depend on the ICDS for basic nutrition.

“The (food) is produced in poor hygienic conditions…does not seem to contain the ingredients claimed and the weaning food may not be suitable for babies,” says a report of the National Human Rights Commission, after investigating one of Chadha’s factories and the government crèches in Gorakhpur district during March and April, 2011. Referring to a centralised, poorly supervised nutrition programme, the report says, “63% of the food and funds is misappropriated.”

The contracts awarded to Chadha’s Great Value Foods are also symptomatic of a larger, rarely discussed issue: how politicians, officials and private companies often conspire to fix ICDS contracts, which, according to a 2004 Supreme Court judgement, should be handed only to local self-help groups, women’s groups, or mahila mandals, and village communities. Chadha’s contracts are “a complete violation of the Supreme Court orders“, says a letter sent last month to the Supreme Court Commissioners – who have monitored litigation related to food for India’s poor since 2003 – by their principal adviser Biraj Patnaik.

ICDS contracts are worth more than R8,000 crore, the financing split between central and state governments. In some states, local cooking and supply has had significant impact; in others it has become the subject of scams.

“Despite seven years having past since the Hon’ble Supreme Court banning contractors from the ICDS…the politician-bureaucrat-contractor nexus has managed to violate the orders of this court with impunity,” says Patnaik’s report, which reveals how ingeniously the Congress-controlled Maharashtra government and contractors undermine laws. Similar fiddles were previously revealed in BJP-ruled Karnataka.

After the 2004 judgement, Maharashtra, like many states, continued giving nutrition contracts to the old contractors, arguing it needed time to make the changeover. Five years later, when the state supposedly switched to local groups, Patnaik’s investigations revealed that three mahila mandals had been awarded contracts for the state. The private companies leased by the mandals to produce take-home rations, he discovered, were owned by wives, daughters and sisters of the same mandals.

To be sure, over the last six years, Maharashtra has almost halved the incidence of malnutrition in children, reveals a provisional report released by the International Institute of Population Sciences. But that is largely because a host of government departments acted in concert against the diverse components of malnutrition, including promotion of breastfeeding, the use of toilets and improving healthcare. In vast swathes of the state, things are as bad as ever. Causality is hard to establish, but in Nashik, where 32% of children are stunted, or below normal height, the ration programme is being run by one of the mahila mandals investigated by Patnaik.

India’s progress against malnutrition is out of sync with its economic progress. More than half of children under three were undernourished in 2006, when the last such survey was conducted. That’s only a 6% fall since 1999.

Things can change only if the rot that Patnaik’s report hints at is eliminated. He recommends a special investigation team. Indeed, there is much that requires investigation, locally and nationally. For instance, Patnaik found one of the Maharashtra mandals had subcontracted take-home ration production to a Tamil Nadu company called Christy Fried Gram Industry, which after two years of pressure from the SC Commissioners was blacklisted this year by the Karnataka government for supplying substandard and possibly toxic food to crèches statewide.

Back in UP, two government tenders (issued in September 2012 and due to be opened this month) for micronutrient-rich powders meant for infants being weaned, or moving from breast milk to semi-solid foods, invite applications – for the first time – from mahila mandals, self-help groups and village communities. Prospective suppliers must deposit R45 crore as earnest money and should have manufactured and supplied, to any state, at least R25 crore worth of powdered weaning food over the last two financial years.

As I read the tender conditions, it’s obvious no grassroots group can fulfill such conditions. However, one company can: Chadha’s Great Value Foods.

Samar Halarnkar is a Bangalore-based journalist

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

VICTORY !!!-Agreement with Christy Friedgram cancelled #Goodnews


Bageshree S., Bangalore , The Hindu

Government Order  issued in the light of ‘several instances of lapses’

The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories.— FILE PHOTO: M. Subash

The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories.— FILE PHOTO: M. Subash

The controversial agreement between the Women and Child Welfare Department and Christy Friedgram Industry on supply of supplementary nutrition food to anganwadis has finally been cancelled in the light of “several instances of lapses”.

The Government Order (GO) of May 31 admits that there had been serious flaws in the execution of the agreement by the company, ranging from deviously retaining control over Mahila Supplementary Nutrition Production and Training Centres to flouting stipulated standards in maintaining quality of food supplied to anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

While the department officials previously maintained that company was not hired as a contractor for food supply but only as a capacity builder, the Government Order makes it clear that it (the company) had indeed been indirectly working as contractor.

As per the April 2009 agreement, the company was to set up mahila training centres and train the staff to work completely independently before May 2012. These centres were to produce nutritional food, package and supply it to anganwadis for feeding children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

“Even after three years, the mahila training centres are not capable of working independently,” says the Government Order.

The members of these centres are neither technically nor administratively competent, according to the Government Order.

More importantly, it admits that the company continued to have control over the mahila training centres even though the company was only meant to hand-hold them.

It says that the project facilitators were employees “in the pay of the company” and the raw material too continued to be supplied by the company.

“Rather than procure material from the local market, items such as sambar powder, ragi malt and high protein mix were supplied from units set up by the company in Nelamangala, Davangere and Gulbarga,” the Government Order says and adds that the setting up of these units was not brought to the attention of the department.

Low quality

The Government Order says that the food supplied by the company did not have stipulated amount of protein and calories and used colours that were not permitted.

An earlier inspection had found that there was no hygiene maintained and food contained ‘coliform bacteria’. Contrary to the terms of the agreement, the food quality and infrastructure was not certified by a competent authority.

Several of the mahila training centres have been running under loss, which again is the responsibility of the capacity builder, and the government has been giving them loans of Rs. 10 lakh each at an interest rate of four per cent, in an attempt to help them revive.

Child rights and civil society organisations have for long been campaigning against the company being involved in the supply of food to anganwadis, pointing to several loopholes now admitted in the Government Order. Cases of child malnutrition in the State had further fuelled this controversy.

Three officials, the former Director of the Department Shamla Iqbal, Deputy Director Usha Patwari and Assistant Director Muniraju, are being investigated by the Lokayukta in connection with the scam.


  • The company was supplying supplementary nutrition food to anganwadis
  • Under the agreement, it was to have set up mahila training centres

 

Malnourished kids battle to stay alive in Maharshtra- Shining India ?


18-year-old Sarjubai Tota (lying behind the baby) weighs a mere 28 kg and was paralysed in the third month of her pregnancy. On May 20, she gave birth to a girl, who weighs 1 kg, without any medical assistance

, TNN | May 29, 2012,

SANGRAMPUR (BULDHANA): On May 20, 18-year-old Sarjubai Tota gave birth to a girl without any medical assistance in her thatched, one-room marital home. While Sarjubai weighs a mere 28 kg, her daughter weighs 1 kg (the normal weight for a newborn is around 2.5 kg).
Eight days on, Sarjubai hasn’t even held her daughter once. In fact, she is oblivious to her daughter’s presence. Paralysed in the third month of her pregnancy, Sarjubai now drifts in and out of consciousness and spends most of her time moaning in pain.

As shocking as Sarjubai’s situation is, this is the way of life for people in Shemba village where the Totas reside. The Sangrampur block, which includes Shemba village, of Buldhana district has emerged as the new Melghat with over 2,000 malnourished children and this year’s drought has only made things worse.

“I have to trek four km down a hill and then walk another six km to reach a shop from where I can buy milk. Water is a luxury and we get it if we are lucky. I don’t know how my wife and child will survive in these conditions,” said Sarjubai’s husband Santosh (20).

So scarce is water that the 400-odd people residing in Shemba village have to trudge down a rocky terrain for a kilometer to access the two nearest hand pumps. “Children suffer the most during a drought. While getting basic nourishment for them is a problem, they also have to run around for basic resources,” said an anganwadi teacher.

With inadequate healthcare facilities and anganwadis remaining shut for most of the summer months, villagers in the Sangrampur taluka watch helplessly as children wilt away due to malnutrition. Shemba alone has 40 malnourished children. Of the two anganwadis in the village, the one run by the zilla parishad is closed most of the time, said residents. The second, run by the Gajanan Maharaj Trust, is doing its bit by distributing food.

The Sangrampur taluka comprises 105 villages and has 3.25 lakh residents. Of these, 15,000 live below the poverty line. While the entire region is plagued by malnutrition, 18 tribal villages are worst hit.

In 2011, 23 child deaths were recorded in the taluka and activists claim this is a deflated figure. According to the data available with the child development care department, 18% or 2,567 children of the total 14,905 in the region suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition, which means they don’t weigh as much as they should in keeping with their age. Technically, 308 children suffer from moderate acute malnutrition and 28 from severe acute malnutrition (their weight does not correspond to height). This despite the fact that there are 173 anganwadis in the region to “cater to the needs” of the children.

Villagers and activists said they don’t remember a single primary healthcare worker visiting the region or balanced died being served to children in the recent past. “Although drought has been declared here, no efforts are being made to ease the situation. Critical patients have to be taken either to the government hospital in Akola which is 85 km away or Shegaon which is 60 km away,” said activist Kailash Khadse.

An integrated child development services official said, “We provide a balanced diet to children. Often, it is because people in these areas are uneducated that problems arise.”