Poshan Abhiyaan is a scheme earlier known as the “National Nutrition Mission” which seeks to improve the nutritional outcomes of children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. The implementing agency is the Ministry of Women and Child Development. More than 10 crore people will be benefitted from this program. “Poshan Abhiyaan” is one of the important government schemes in the perspective of UPSC exams. This article critically analyses the scheme Poshan Abhiyaan in different aspects and will provide you with most of the following insights useful for UPSC exams preparations on Poshan Abhiyaan:
What is Poshan Abhiyaan?
The full form of Poshan Abhiyaan is Prime Ministers Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition. The aim of this scheme is to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, children, and lactating mothers. It was launched in 2018 in Jhunjhunu Rajasthan. More than 10 crore people will be benefitted from this programme.
POSHAN Abhiyaan is not a programme but a Jan Andolan, and Bhagidaari, this programme incorporates inclusive participation of public representatives of local bodies, government departments of the state, social organizations, and the public and private sector at large.
The Union Government of India has signed a $200 million loan agreement with the World Bank for National Nutrition Mission or NNM which is also called Poshan Abhiyaan. The loan proceedings of these 200 million dollars will be used for reducing the stunting in children from 0 to 6 years of age and also to provide nutrition to various categories.
To ensure a holistic approach, Poshan Abhiyaan or the NNM tries to cover all 36 States and UTs.
Other schemes are
- Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)
- Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)
- Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) of MWCD
- Swachh Bharat Mission
- Public Distribution System (PDS)
- Department food and Public Distribution
- National Health Mission (NHM).
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS)
- Anganwadi services.
- Ministry of Drinking and Water sanitation.
A report by Niti Aayog has said that efforts must be stepped up in Poshan Abhiyaan to meet the targets by the Centre to reduce stunting, wasting, and anemia by 2022. There are certain challenges in this scheme and these challenges were brought about recently. There is a need to further strengthen the scheme and to meet the twin challenge ( zero hunger and ensuring nutrition) among the people of India. In these contexts, this scheme will have frequent updates and impacts on current affairs. So, it will be helpful to understand the current affairs on this topic if you have strong knowledge of the basics of Poshan Abhiyaan.
Why is Poshan Abhiyaan important for the country?
Good Nutrition is essential for the growth and development of an individual. At the macro level, if we need to ensure the growth and development of the human capital of a country, there is an important need to improve maternal health, the children’s health, the learning outcomes, adult protectivity, strengthening gender equality, etc. So, for all these, good nutrition is a very important component.
Poshan Abhiyaan highlights the strong focus on convergent actions that are meant from the National to the village level. So this scheme is very significant.
- The targets of this scheme are to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia, reduce low birth weight. So primary focus is given to these 4 action points.
- Target is to bring down the stunting of the children in the age group of 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by the year 2022.
Due to all these reasons, it is an important scheme in the Indian context.
What is the status of Poshan Abhiyaan in India?
The nutritional security of the country is directly linked to the food and Agriculture of the economy. For nutritional security to be attained, the focus has to be given to the food and agricultural sector. But if you look at the scope of this Poshan Abhiyaan, we will see that the agricultural sector does not fall under the scope of Poshan Abhiyaan. However, there are many areas where the agricultural sector or food productivity can directly help this Poshan Abhiyaan to achieve its objectives.
The objective is to attain nutritional security. Nutritional security and food security are interconnected. In this context, the agriculture sector could have been given a little more focus or importance under this Poshan Abhiyaan. This is one of the challenges to ponder in the context of the Indian economy.
According to the State of food security and nutrition in the world 2018 report, there are 821 million people who suffer chronic undernourishment. Out of these 821 million people, 196 million reside in India. It is very clear that a high proportion of the total undernourished in the world come from India. Through this latest report, it is clear that the nutrition security of the country is very poor and Poshan Abhiyaan schemes are very relevant to the Indian economy. But it should be implemented in its true sense.
In India, there is a twin burden. One is undernutrition and another is overweight and obese. This is contradictory to each other and if we observe other countries worldwide, the same pattern co-exists in many other countries. There is undernutrition on one side and there is overweight and obesity on the other side. It will cost the global economy equivalent to $3.5 trillion a year. This symptom is seen in the Indian context as well. So Poshan Abhiyaan stands very important.
The reverse trend means an excess or increase in the production of horticulture crops, fruits, and milk. Normally in an economy, the food crops will increase more significantly than the increase in horticulture crops, fruits, and milk. But in the case of India, for the last few years, there is record production of horticulture crops, fruits, and milk.
Example: In 2017-18 India produced 165 million tonnes of milk but in 1980 it was only 35 million tonnes. The milk production itself has contributed to a lot of employment generation, especially among rural women.
Another Example (fruits and vegetables): India ranks second after China in the production of these fruits and vegetables. The National Horticulture database of 2016 and 2017 has shown that India produced 19.2 million metric tonnes of fruits and 169.1 million metric tonnes of vegetables. The area under cultivation of fruits is 6.3 million hectares and vegetables are 10.1 million hectares.
The above example shows that there is a reverse trend in India. Poshan Abhiyaan must try to utilize this reverse trend as fruits, vegetables, milk, etc can contribute to reducing or removing undernutrition in the country. So this reverse trend has to be utilized by the Poshan Abhiyaan which is one of the challenges of Poshan Abhiyaan.
What is the problem with Poshan Abhiyaan?
It focuses on undernutrition only. Overweight and obesity are not given much focus properly. So there should be some more schemes which will provide more focus on overweight and obesity because the expenditure or the cost of this twin burden is very high and this can be utilized by meeting the targets of undernutrition.
What can be done to overcome these challenges faced by Poshan Abhiyaan?
1) Enhanced Focus
The focus of the Abhiyaan should be made on increasing the production of targeted nutrition-rich crops. Production of food crops or cereals will not be enough, but Nutri cereals are those food crops that will enhance the level of nutrition. This can be done through diversification of agricultural production towards fruits, vegetables, aquaculture, etc. So focus must be given to the production of nutrition-rich crops rather than food crops or cereals.
Triple-A (AAA) approach can be adopted. The first A stands for building the capacity of ASHA, the ASHA workers. The Second A stands for building the capacity of Anganwadi workers. The 3rd A stands for building the capacity of Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM).
These three stakeholders can be involved in the process of enriching nutrition, their capacity can be leveraged in the agricultural extension services of the country. They can act as agents of change for nutritional intervention. This can be done by leveraging modern technology to impart nutrition linked messages for bringing about sustainable behavior changes towards food and nutrition. They can help at the grass-root level by bringing a behavioral or attitudinal change towards food and nutrition.
FAO ( Food and Agricultural Organization), the UN agency can provide support and this support can be utilized for planning or for developmental activities under the mission. This can also be used for fostering research on the areas of biofortification and enhancing production diversity etc. The support of an international organization can be used in bringing dietary diversity.
The core of this Abhiyaan can be diverted towards the National nutrition mission, to contribute to the targets of the World Health Assembly. The next target is the sustainable development goals, where the target is to meet zero hunger. The Poshan Abhiyaan presents an opportunity for inter-sectoral collaboration. Through the collaboration of various sectors and the collective actions of different sectors can improve these stages of nutrition in the country and achieve the goal of zero hunger.
This is our view, there may also be other views.
NITI Aayog and Poshan Abhiyaan:
NITI Aayog has played a critical role in shaping the POSHAN Abhiyaan. It is a national-level coordination and convergence body on nutrition. The council is also called the National Council on Nutrition or NCN. The NCN offers policy directions to address nutritional challenges and review programs for the same.
The National Nutrition Strategy, released by NITI Aayog in September 2017 presented a microanalysis of the problems persisting within this area and chalked out an in-depth strategy for course correction. Most of the recommendations presented in the Strategy document have been subsumed within the design of the POSHAN Abhiyaan and now that the Abhiyaan is launched, NITI Aayog has been entrusted with the task of closely monitoring the POSHAN Abhiyaan and undertaking periodic evaluations.
With the overarching aim to build a people’s movement (Jan Andolan) around malnutrition, POSHAN Abhiyaan intends to significantly reduce malnutrition in the next three years.
The four-point strategy/pillars for the implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan:
- Inter-sectoral convergence for better service delivery
- Use of technology (ICT) for real-time growth monitoring and tracking of women and children
- Intensified health and nutrition services for the first 1000 days
- Jan Andolan
As a part of its mandate, NITI Aayog is required to submit implementation status reports of POSHAN Abhiyaan every six months to the PMO. The first bi-annual report was prepared and presented at the third National Nutrition Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges (which is housed within NITI) in November 2018.
The task of implementation of POSHAN Abhiyaan is to be carried out through the Technical Support Unit (TSU) established at NITI Aayog which, in addition to the M&E, will also provide research, policy, and technical support to the Abhiyaan
POSHAN Abhiyaan – a Jan Andolan movement
POSHAN Abhiyaan looks to synergize all these efforts by leveraging technology to achieve the desired goals and on the other hand, intends to convert Nutrition Awareness into a Jan Andolan. Poshan Abhiyaan is thus envisioned to be a “Jan Andolan” and a “Janbhagidaari” meaning “People’s Movement”.
Key principles of Jan Andolan:
- They tap into people’s inherent goals and ensure motivation. Jan Andolan will aim to create a sense of aspiration, a shared identity, and closing the “say-do” gap.
- A personally relevant goal is good but not good enough. Jan Andolan will aim to create a perception of shared status for nutrition. Members of the movement will have a sense of collective identity.
- For converting intent to action, it is important that Jan Andolan creates simple, doable actions and nudges for people, and make it easy for people to join in and participate.
- Finally, appropriate rewards (which could be recognized among peers, appreciation letters from the government, and not necessarily monetary rewards) will spur frontline workers, peer leaders, and local champions to higher levels of engagement.
Objectives of Jan Andolan
Jan Andolan will work towards achieving the following objectives:
a. Build recognition across sectors in the country on the impact of malnutrition and ‘call to action’ for each sector’s contribution to reducing malnutrition.
b. Mobilize multiple sectors and communities to create an intent to consume nutrient-rich food.
c. Build knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intent to practice optimal breastfeeding, complementary feeding, maternal nutrition, and adolescent nutrition practices to prevent malnutrition, including SAM and anaemia.
The month of September 2018 was celebrated as Rashtriya POSHAN Maah. The activities in POSHAN Maah focussed on Social Behavioural Change and Communication (SBCC). The broad themes were:
- antenatal care,
- optimal breastfeeding (early and exclusive),
- complementary feeding,
- growth monitoring,
- girls’ education,
- the right age of marriage,
- hygiene and sanitation,
- eating healthy – food fortification.
More than 12.2 Crore women, 6.2 Crore men, and over 13 Crore children (male and female) were reached through the various activities undertaken during POSHAN Maah. It is worth mentioning that 30.6 Crore people were reached in 30 days. POSHAN Maah has given a major impetus to the Abhiyaan.
Who will Monitor Poshan Abhiyaan?
National Council under the Chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog and the Executive Committee under the Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Women & Child Development (MWCD) also monitor the progress of POSHAN Abhiyaan.
The results of the POSHAN Abhiyaan can be known after the program has completed its approved period. However, in the meantime, as per the report of the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) conducted by UNICEF, the prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight among children is 34.7%, 17%, and 33.4% respectively, which is an improvement and reduction from the levels reported in National Family Health Survey-4.
India has taken the right step in introducing Poshan Abhiyaan to ensure that the nutritional outcomes are improved among the people. We can say that agriculture should not be merely an activity that focuses on increasing productivity. It is not just about productivity but it is more about ensuring nutritional security to its population. The production of agriculture must be diverted towards those areas or to the production of those crops which will enhance the nutritional security of the country. Through that, we will be able to achieve the targets of Poshan Abhiyaan which is a very relevant scheme for India. Improvement in nutritional outcomes through Poshan Abhiyaan will undoubtedly increase the people’s productivity and their contribution to the economy thereby making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024.
You can refer the below links for the daily current affairs of Poshan Abhiyaan