India is home to the one of the world’s largest flagship programmes for under-6 children, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which was introduced more than four decades ago on October 2, 1975. Tragically, India continues to languish way down in international rankings on child nutrition indices. Nonetheless, there has been a progressive evolution in policies, advanced at times by judicial interventions. Significant financial resources have also been expended on the ICDS and related programmes. Yet, substantial improvements are yet to be seen, especially in the laggard heartland States of northern and eastern India.
In this Policy Watch, Venkatesan Ramani, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the Maharashtra cadre and the first Director-General of the Rajmata Jijau Mother-Child Health and Nutrition Mission, the first such mission to be set up in the country in 2005, analyses why both planning and implementation of programmes impacting child nutrition have been deficient. Data gaps have impeded the framing of sound policy measures, leading to one-off actions to solve the problem rather than a concerted effort to address underlying economic and social causes, especially in pockets of high incidence of child malnutrition in the country.
Drawing on his experience in Maharashtra, Ramani suggests measures to help reduce child malnutrition in the coming years. Political will and administrative skills, he writes, are key to such changes and need to be accompanied by adequate funding and activating what, in many States, is a rather moribund ICDS machinery.
He can be contacted at [email protected]
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