Food scheme targets Bastar region; malnutrition down from 37pc to 25pc in Dantewada

Chhattisgarh, September 11 (KMS): Maalnutrition is a pressing issue in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, where at least 30 per cent of the population is undernourished.

The tribal region has faced continued government apathy, with more focus on infrastructure development rather than social indicators like malnutrition.

Through an integrated nutrition programme in Dantewada district, however, malnutrition has come down to 25 per cent from 37 per cent. The current regime has made an effort to counter malnutrition. Under the Chhattisgarh government’s flagship programme to battle malnutrition, Dantewada district of South Bastar region has received a major chunk of district mineral fund (DMF) due to mining projects in the area. The Bhupesh Baghel-led government launched Mukhyamantri Suposhan Abhiyan, in which a massive share of DMF funds was allocated to provide nutritious food to villagers at panchayat level.

Severely affected by Left wing extremism, Dantewada has 300 feeding centres covering the entire district. The centres complement ongoing ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) programme through anganwadis. At a recent experiment involving of community women at the panchayat level, it became a local community campaign to fight malnutrition in Bastar.

Under the scheme, children aged under five, girls and young mothers get one cooked meal per day at the gram panchayat headquarters.

At 11.30 am, women, mostly in groups of four to five, with their young babies start arriving at the Kawalnar gram panchayat office (Dantewada block). The beneficiaries sit in rows, while a group of 10 women set up plates of food. Soon, the plates are distributed and they all eat a meal that the state government is hopeful will change food habits and bring down malnutrition and anaemia rates in Chhattisgarh.

Since the Congress government came to power in December 2018, the state cabinet and chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, in particular, have repeatedly said one of their government’s targets is to bring down 37 per cent malnutrition rate in the state. One of the initiatives towards this goal is the Mukhyamantri Suposhan Abhiyan, which began as a pilot project in Dantewada district, but has since been announced in every district of the state on October 2.

A woman, identified as Shanti, said they were unemployed, but when they got to know about the scheme, they formed Ma Danteswari self-help group that has 12 members. They provide hot food to beneficiaries under the nutrition scheme that has lentils, rice, roti and egg, sprouted grains, green vegetables.