The government has approved the launch of the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) which will be driven by technology to monitor the growth of children as well as check the pilferage of food ration provided at anganwadis.
The mission will kick off in 315 high burden districts during 2017-2018 and will be implemented over three years. Nearly 235 districts will be covered in 2018-19 and the remaining will be covered by 2019-20.
By 2020, an estimated 10 crore people will benefit through this programme for which the Cabinet has approved a budget of Rs 9046.17 crore.
The mission has a target to reduce under-nutrition and low birth weight by 2 per cent each per annum. It also aims to bring down anemia among young children, women and adolescent girls by 3 per cent per year until 2020.
The government will also strive to reduce the prevalence of stunting from the current level of 38.4 per cent (as per the National Family Health Survey 4) to 25 per cent by 2022.
At the heart of the mission is the use of information communication technology for real-time monitoring of the services delivered by anganwadi workers, frontline community health workers or ASHAs (Accredited social health activists) and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs).
The use of smartphones by anganwadi workers and tablets by their supervisors will also help in mapping nutrition or growth levels of the beneficiaries.
Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry Secretary RK Shrivastava highlighted that use of technology will help frontline workers in carrying out their daily responsibilities.
"Eleven registers maintained by Anganwadi workers weigh nearly 8.5 kgs. These will be replaced by smartphones which will weigh 170 gms," he said at a media briefing today.
He added that a pilot has been carried out across 50,000 anganwadis in 162 districts for 42 lakh beneficiaries where the workers used mobile phones to record attendance, weight and height of children who come to the centres as well as click photos of the hot-cooked meals served there.
The growth chart plotted by the software provides daily progress of the child and when the graph indicates adverse results an SMS alert is sent to the parents.
The pilot project had helped the government identify 12,000 severely malnourished children and make interventions.
This project has a six-tier real-time reporting system, which includes an anganwadi worker, anganwadi supervisor, child development project officer, a district official, an official appointed by the chief secretary at the state level and officials at Centre.
An Aadhaar card will be a mandatory requirement to avail the benefits under the mission. However, "those who don't have an Aadhaar will not be denied benefits but will be helped to get an Aadhaar card. We are giving anganwadi workers an incentive of Rs 500 under this scheme (to ensure enrolment for Aadhaar)," said Shrivastava.
He added that a child under 5 years will be registered under the Aadhar number of his or her mother.
As per the website of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) biometrics for children below five years will not be captured.
Their Unique Identification (UID) will be with that of their parents. These children will need to be re-enrolled with biometrics when they turn 5.
"Some identification is required because we can't have fake children in our system," Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said, adding that a study in Assam helped identify 3 lakh fake beneficiaries in the state.
Minister for Health and Family Welfare JP Nadda told reporters that the National Nutrition Mission is a programme that will ensure convergence between the WCD Ministry and his ministry in the fight malnutrition.
To achieve this goal, he added that anganwadi workers, ASHAs and ANMs will be given "group-based incentives".
Gandhi also hinted at a possible shift in the role of anganwadis in preparing and delivering take-home ration and hot cooked food.
"A uniform delivery system will have to be suggested by the technical board (under NITI Aayog) for both take-home ration and hot-cooked food.
"Hot-cooked food can be made by self help groups or anganwadis but the board will have to deliberate on take home-ration and how will it reach the parents and at what frequency," Gandhi said.
She had earlier indicated that delivery of take-home ration could be done with the help of postmen.
The government provides food, preschool education, and primary healthcare under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Angnwadi centres are also linked to the ICDS.
Under the scheme, a child between 6 months to 3 years, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers till six months after birth, get take-home ration. Children between 3 years and 6 years get hot-cooked meals.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)