Punjab has not been able to meet the nutritional requirement of its more than five lakh children from economically weaker strata who attend anganwadis for the past nearly two months. Yet, in a callous display of misplaced priorities, the state is organising events related to nutrition in posh hotels. Imagine how many thousands of needy mouths could have been fed wholesome food had the workshops not been held in expensive five-star environs. The ‘Poshan Maah’ (nutrition month — September) should have, instead, been hosted in one of the many humble government properties. This splurge of the already scarce finances of Punjab underscores the haves’ disregard for the dire straits of the have-nots as also the disconnect of theoretical knowledge with the ground reality.
For, who should know better the value that healthy food has in a child’s all-round development than those in charge of implementing programmes aimed at improving the lot of kids suffering from malnutrition and its associated ailments? Under-nutrition is a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality. As per the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), Punjab, once a land of robust people, today bears the burden of 22 per cent of its children under five years being underweight. In a worrisome trend, wasting among children has increased from 9 per cent in NFHS-3 to 16 per cent in NFHS-4.
The corresponding decline in the state’s finances — it is sunk in a debt of crippling Rs 2 lakh crore — has cast a shadow on its health targets. The slowdown should have necessitated prudent spending rather than a gluttonous splurge. The budget allocation for schemes critical to transforming childcare and nutrition has not been enhanced enough to ensure the young children’s healthy growth and development. It is estimated that much of the increase will go into covering the rise in honorariums to anganwadi workers and leave little for enhancing the supplementary nutrition for kids or improving the centres’ infrastructure. The foundation of a healthy generation of children is essential as they are the best investment for a state. It is criminal to squander funds meant for their nutritional needs.