The government’s three top committees on nutrition responsible for providing policy directions, monitoring the implementation of various schemes, and reviewing the nutritional status of various States and Union Territories have failed to meet even once since the COVID19 pandemic broke out, though they are required to meet every quarter. This is despite global warnings of rising levels of hunger, malnutrition, and child mortality. A leading member of one of these bodies, Chandrakant S. Pandav, who is also known as the “Iodine Man of India'', told The Hindu that “he is depressed and angry” at the “collapse” of the nutrition system as the “situation has gone from bad to worse, which could have been prevented”. Another member of the Executive Committee of the National Nutrition Mission said on the condition of anonymity that structures created by the PM under the Nutrition Mission need to be used and not be kept idle”.
Both members said they had raised their concerns with the heads of these committees urging them to call an urgent meeting. Three panels The three top committees are the National Nutrition Council (NNC), headed by NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and including 12 Union Ministers and five Chief Ministers on a rotational basis; the Executive Committee (EC) of the National Nutrition Mission headed by the Secretary of the Women and Child Development Ministry Ram Mohan Mishra; and the National Technical Board on Nutrition (NTBN), headed by Member, NITI Aayog, V.K. Paul. These committees were set up after the Cabinet approved the National Nutrition Mission in December 2017 and were mandated to meet once every quarter. They have to supervise the policy framework and the implementation of the government programs, review the performance of various States, give scientific and technical recommendations for the execution of various schemes, and propose corrective measures.
Only one this year The NNC held its last meeting in October 2019, and the EC met last in February 2020. According to the NITI Aayog’s website, the NTBN has met only twice and its last meeting was held in August 2018. ‘Bad to worse’ Asked if the meetings were scuttled because of the focus on COVID19, Dr. Pandav said: “COVID19 is the reason why these meetings should have been held urgently. COVID19 has scuttled everything. I am depressed and angry. The situation [poverty and hunger] has gone from bad to worse, which could have been prevented. We could have used imaginative ways of engaging communities, but we lost the opportunity to reach them.” Another expert, who is a member of the EC that met last in February 2020, said: “COVID19 has put a lot of pressure on the underprivileged, especially women and children, who need nourishment at a time income levels have gone down. We need to put our heads together to ensure this.”
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