Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Reducing child malnutrition on cabinet agenda


Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 23, 2013


First Published: 21:40 IST(23/9/2013) | Last Updated: 21:42 IST(23/9/2013)

The cabinet on Tuesday is likely to approve a multi-sectoral initiative to curb India’s high child malnutrition rate, described as a “national shame” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.     

 India has one of the highest -- 42 % -- number of malnourished children in the world. According to government data every second child under the age of three is
 malnourished in India, a reflection of how poorly various schemes/programs launched over the years to tackle the issue have fared.
As part of the nutrition initiative, the government has proposed to set up nutrition councils at state and district level which will focus on incorporating

specific pro-nutrition elements in different schemes of the government and ensure that they reach targeted beneficiaries.
 Rs. 1161 crore program will be launched across 200 high burdened districts –where child malnutrition rate area alarmingly high -- in phases. During 2013-14, it will take off in 100 districts that have the worst maternal and child health track record. In the second phase it will be scaled up to include 100 more districts.
Multi sectoral programs involving different ministries such as women & child development (WCD), health, rural development, panchayati raj, etc. will be introduced to address maternal and child nutrition.
Specific nutrition action plan will be drawn up keeping in mind specific requirement of districts to ensure prevention and reduction in under-nutrition and anemia among children under three years, adolescent girls and lactating mothers.
The WCD ministry which will implement the plan will work in close coordination with the state government and other stakeholder ministries.
The plan was being pushed by the Prime Minister’s National Council on India’s nutrition challenges.
“Currently, different ministries running nutrition related schemes were working in silos. It was felt that convergence between ministries with sectoral commitment to nutrition will be more effective in addressing the problem,” said a WCD ministry official.




How can India tackle child malnutrition?

Experimentation in development economics can help us in understanding how this problem can be fixed efficiently

Prakarsh Singh 


First Published: Mon, Sep 02 2013. 03 26 PM IST

One way to fix the problem is to teach mothers about the right nutrition for their children or to incentivize them through conditional cash transfers. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint


Close to 1.3 million children die every year in India because of malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Ninety nine per cent of all under-five deaths occur in developing countries, with the most common causes of death being pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. These are illnesses to which children are particularly vulnerable, especially when they are malnourished, a condition that weakens their immune systems. Malnutrition contributes to more than a third of all child deaths.

Worldwide, over 100 million children are underweight. While it is a serious problem in sub-Saharan Africa, even higher rates of stunting are found in South Asia, particularly in India. Along with Nepal and Bangladesh, India has the world’s highest rate of malnutrition.

One way to fix the problem is to teach mothers about the right nutrition for their children or to incentivize them through conditional cash transfers. Distributing information is an important part of a solution, although it does not always lead to behavioural changes. Mothers are advised that when their child has diarrhoea they should increase their child’s fluid intake and continue to feed them normally. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) -3, nine out of 10 mothers do not follow this recommendation. In fact, four out of 10 mothers actually reduce their child’s fluid intake.

Medical solutions to the problem of malnutrition include de-worming and nutritional supplements. De-worming campaigns are quite effective and have been conducted in many daycare centres and health encampments. The treatment has been especially popular in Kenya and other parts of Africa, and now in India, the practice has become compulsory in all schools. Popularly used nutritional supplements include vitamin A, zinc, iron, and various minerals. In addition, iodised salt has been a popular weapon of the government of India as it continues to try and promote its consumption over normal salt.

There is also a behavioural approach, which has very little to do with the advances in science and technology, but instead attempts to simply alter the behaviour of mothers and workers who interact with the child. This includes giving children the right type and amount of nutrition. We can focus on trying to change behaviour towards calorific food and encourage the consumption of a variety of foods.

My research focuses on the slums that surround the city limits of Chandigarh, a union territory located in northern India. About 50,000 people live in these slums. Less than 5% of the houses have working water filters. At the same time, however, 70% of the households own mobile phones. The people living in these slums are typically migrants from rural areas where wages are extremely low. The mothers in this treatment group are women who send their children to daycare centres in the slums.

India is home to the world’s largest child care programme, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), which started in 1978. There are currently over one million of these daycare centres (anganwadis) run by the government across India. Each daycare centre serves around 30 children on an average. The children go to the centre every morning at 9 am and are fed their midday meals by daycare workers. The meals are prepared by a good local agency that the government hires on contract. The workers are given training on child health and nutrition when they are hired by the government.

Another aspect of the daycare workers’ responsibilities is to visit and communicate with the mothers whose children attend the centre, giving them advice on how to keep their children healthy. The daycare centres offer two potential channels by which to help children living in the slums. The first is by the distribution of the midday meal and the second is by providing information and counsel to the mothers. However, a World Bank report on the ICDS finds leakages in the provision of meals and almost no effective communication between workers and mothers. A total of 145 daycare centres were sampled for this study.

The experiment tackles the question of whether it is the lack of information on nutrition given to mothers, or the lack of child care worker motivation that makes child malnutrition persist. The total children weighed twice (before and after an intervention) were 4,101 with around 1,000 in each one of three treatment groups (subject to an intervention) and a control group (not subject to any intervention). In the first treatment group, mothers receive recipe books written in Hindi. As around half of these mothers cannot read, the information is also distributed to other family members, including fathers, older sons and daughters. Government workers may also assist by reading and sharing information from the recipe book. The recipe book is designed with the help of a local nutritionist and contains 10 recipes, which provide an array of vitamins and minerals as well as sufficient calories.

In the second treatment group, I provide incentives for child care workers to perform better. They are paid bonuses of Rs.100 for each child whose weight they successfully increase so that he or she is no longer classified as malnourished after three months. For each child under their care, the workers are given a goal card with the weight at which the child will no longer be considered malnourished. If a child at a normal weight becomes malnourished, however, I subtract Rs.100 from the total. This motivates the worker to make the necessary household visits.

To test how the two types of treatments interact, the informational and incentives treatments are combined in the third group. Complementarity may exist if incentivized workers are able to be more effective with nutritional information available to the mother. On the other hand, one of the two treatments may be sufficient for improving weight. A separate set of centres form the control group where no intervention is assigned.

Results show that malnutrition is reduced significantly in three months for children in the combined treatment group by 4.2% but there are negligible effects in the individual treatment groups. The combined treatment effect persists for a year even after the incentives are removed after three months. One estimate suggests that the country gains Rs.20 for every rupee spent on the combined treatment in terms of increase in future wages for these children due to an improvement in health and attendance.

I believe that policy recommendations should be based on evidence from experiments and that increasing fixed wages to child care workers will not solve the problem. Similarly, offering performance pay is likely to be ineffective unless mothers have nutritional information available to them. Not only does this empower them, but it also facilitates communication between mothers and workers which enables a behavioural change to occur. Mothers receiving the combined treatment feed their children more protein and calories. A small push is required on both the demand side as well as the supply side to target child malnutrition in India. Further experimentation in development economics can bring us closer to understanding how this serious problem can be fixed efficiently and permanently.

Reprinted with permission from ISB Insight, the quarterly research publication of Indian School of Business (ISB) and Ideas for India (www.ideasforindia.in), a policy portal.



Monday, 23 September 2013

Malnutrition, not hunger, ails India

According to Unicef, India houses one-third of the stunted, wasted and malnourished children of the world

Arvind Virmani   Charan Singh 


First Published: Sun, Sep 22 2013. 08 31 PM IST

Food availability has reached a large segment of the population and the gap between the rural and urban percentages has narrowed appreciably. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Updated: Sun, Sep 22 2013. 08 32 PM IST

Malnutrition is a persistent problem in India, though it is often confused with hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 18% of India’s population was undernourished in 2012.

Undernourishment is the main cause of children’s deaths, and according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), India houses one-third of the stunted, wasted and malnourished children of the world.

Different rounds of the National Sample Survey (NSS) suggest the proportion of households in rural areas, getting enough food every day of the year increased from 94.5% in 1993-94 (NSS 50th round) to 99% in 2009-10 (NSS 66th round). The proportion of rural households not getting enough food every day for some months of the year declined from 4.2% to just 0.9%, while those not getting enough food every day for all months of the year declined from 0.9% to 0.2%. In the urban areas, where, to begin with, shortage was much less, a similar story has unfolded. Food availability has reached a large segment of the population and the gap between the rural and urban percentages has narrowed appreciably.

In the survey undertaken from July 2009 to June 2010, the National Sample Survey Office reported that percentage of households not perceiving themselves as getting adequate food throughout the year was 2.1% or less in all major states except West Bengal (4.6%) and Odisha (4%). In urban India, similar percentage was less than 1.3% except Madhya Pradesh (1.4%).

There are a few states in which food inadequacy appears to reach a peak during some months, illustratively, Arunachal Pradesh (January, February, November and December), Odisha (February), and West Bengal (February). Inadequacy of food is being addressed through the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) and a wide network of fair price shops. Therefore, the incidence of food inadequacy has declined in major states such as Odisha and West Bengal, as well as across the country from 2004-05 to 2009-10.

Some organizations measure hunger in terms of average calorie deficiency relative to a global norm. This calorie deficit is an average, which under the assumption that the calorie distribution is normal, suggests that people at the lower end of the distribution may be consuming inadequate food. India’s calorie deficit is the highest in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group. But this is not surprising given India’s per capita gross domestic product is the lowest among the BRICS. The primary justification for the Indian public distribution system (PDS) was to ensure that all Indians get adequate cereals (calories). It is widely accepted that the enormous leakages in the PDS need to be plugged and the administrative costs reduced so that higher proportion of the expenditure reaches the intended beneficiaries.

A sharply focused effort needs to be made to identify the hungry and calorie-deficient households, who may be living in remote and hilly areas, or families with dysfunctional male heads (drugs, alcoholism), aged or with serious disabilities or female-headed households.

There is still another persistent but separate issue of malnutrition which is the main cause of underweight children. For instance, in Rajasthan in 2004-05, there was no food inadequacy, but substantial malnutrition as measured by underweight children was reported. This could be due to poor sanitation represented by non-existence of sewerage systems, open sewers, toilet facility and access to piped water. A reduction in malnutrition can be achieved by a focused nutritional and public health policy, better drinking water facilities, better drainage and sewerage system, education and public campaign about nutrition, hygiene and disease precaution. 

Arvind Virmani and Charan Singh are, respectively, head of ChintanLive.org and former chief economic adviser to government of India, and RBI chair professor of economics at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Comments are welcome at otherviews@livemint.com



India shamed by high child mortality rate


Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 21, 2013

First Published: 19:08 IST(21/9/2013) | Last Updated: 04:10 IST(22/9/2013)

Nitesh British Columbia

Just 81 districts in India accounted for more than one-third of child mortality below five years of age in 2012 and half of these deaths were of girls, a new study published in the international journal Lancet has said.

The black spots for the Indian children are widespread with even districts in well-off states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka being on the worst performing districts’ list.

The study on child mortality in 597 districts done by Indian and foreign academic institutes and published this Friday describes the finding as astonishing because it indicates that some parts of the country have not benefitted from the government’s interventions to reduce under-five child mortality.

Of the three districts where under-five child mortality has increased in 2012, two are in rich states -- Vadodara in Gujarat and Raichur in Karnataka. The third one is Jorhat in Assam. In all, six districts in Gujarat had high child mortality rate, five in Andhra Pradesh, three in Arunachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one each in Himachal and Karnataka.

In 2012, 1.5 million under-five child deaths were reported in 597 districts of which 71% were in the nine poorer states, which accounted for half of India’s population.

Rayagada in Orissa had the highest under-five child mortality rate of 133 deaths for 1,000 live births, even more than an African country like Kenya. Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh was second worst with 130.8 deaths. Even Delhi’s neighbourhood town of Ghaziabad had a higher child mortality rate than Dibrugarh district in Assam.

The slow pace of reduction in under-five child mortality meant that India reported 57.3 deaths for 1,000 live births in 2012. Based on this finding, the study calculated that the country would miss the millennium development goal target (MDG) of 38 deaths for 1,000 live births. Only 222 of 597 districts are on track to meet the MDG by 2015 whereas the remaining would meet the target by 2020, the study said.

The study also showed that the probability of a girl dying within five years of her birth was higher than a boy. For 100 boys who die within five years of their birth, 131 girl deaths were 
reported, the study based on government data for child mortality states.

“Female mortality at ages 1-59 months exceeded male mortality by 25% in 303 districts in nearly all states of India, totalling about 74,000 excess deaths in girls,” the study’s lead author Prabhat Jha said.

Uttar Pradesh had highest number of districts recording higher girl deaths than boys followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan.  The trend is also noticed to a lesser extend in richer states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.




Friday, 20 September 2013

In India, Hundreds March on Parliament to Demand End to Child Labor

By Nilanjana Bhowmick / New Delhi @nilanjanab    Aug. 29, 201311

Ahmad Masood / REUTERS

A boy carries coal at an open cast coal field at Dhanbad district in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand on Sept. 20, 2012.

More than 300 citizens and representatives of national and international civil society groups walked to India’s parliament Thursday to demand an immediate halt to child labor. Their aim was to deliver a petition of one million signatures — collected via avaaz.org — to lawmakers, hoping to spur them into passing anti-child labor legislation that has been pending since last May. “Child slavery in India is a tragedy,” said Debra Rosen, a director at anti-slavery advocacy group Walk Free, who was among the crowd. “India’s children deserve more.”

The legislation New Delhi is currently considering would prohibit employment of children under 14 years old, outline stricter punishments for those who profit from underage labor and provide better monitoring mechanisms for suspected cases. “For every day that this bill is delayed, millions of children in India will continue to be at risk,” the petition reads.

There are currently an estimated 12 million vulnerable children in India (up from around 11.3 million in 1991). They toil everywhere from stone quarries and carpet factories to rice mills. In addition, children are bought and sold into bonded slavery for the sex trade or to work as domestic servants. “Children as young as five years old are kept from school, forced to work seven days a week for up to 18 hours a day and end up with crippling injuries, respiratory disorders and chronic pain,” the petition says.

Campaigners are demanding an end to hazardous work for those under 18 and an outright ban of employing children under 14 in accordance with the Right to Education Act (2009), which makes basic schooling a fundamental right for all Indian children between the ages six and 14. “The future of our children is at stake here,” says Global March Against Child Labor chairperson Kailash Satyarthi.

A stronger law and frequent prosecutions can act as a deterrent, the petition says. In India, according to a December 2012 U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education report, there have been just 4,000 prosecutions over the last two decades. That needs to change and soon, say activists. “Stealing children’s childhoods through harmful labor will destroy India’s future,” said Alex Wilks, campaign director at Avaaz. “Members of Parliament must stop dragging their feet and immediately pass the bill to stop all forms of child labor.”



August 28, 2013, 11:47 am 21 Comments

Malnutrition Ravages India’s Children


Malavika Vyawahare

Shakuntala Kirkire, at her aunt’s home in Koshimshet village in Thane district of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.

BANDRICHIWADI, India — On the morning of July 23, Shakuntala Kirkire, a housewife in Bandrachiwadi village in the western state of Maharashtra, carried her 10-month-old daughter in her arms and walked in rain down the slope of a hill on which her village stands. Her husband, Ajay Kirkire, walked close to her, holding up an umbrella to protect their sick child as they tried to reach the government-run clinic in a neighboring village.

A few minutes later, Mr. and Mrs. Kirkire stopped midway. Priya, their child, had died. She had been born healthy but had lost weight rapidly over the months. At the time of her death, Priya weighed 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds), four kilograms less than what is considered normal for her age. Doctors listed pneumonia as the cause of her death in government records.

Bandrichiwadi is a picturesque and poor village in the mountainous Jawhar area in the district of Thane. Jawhar, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the megacity of Mumbai, is home to various tribes, who are among the most marginalized sections of Indian society. About 8.7 percent of Maharashtra’s 112.4 million people are tribals, according to the 2011 central government census. Intense public attention was focused on the area in the early 1990s, when hundreds of children died of malnutrition in 1992-93 in Jawhar and the adjoining Mokhada and Vikramgarh subdistricts.

Little has changed in the past 20 years. In July this year, 12 children under the age of 6, apart from Priya, died there. In June, it was 11 children. In May, another nine. Between July 2012 and July 2013, 80 children died in the Jawhar subdistrict. The official causes of death, listed in the medical records of the children who died in June, include pneumonia, aphasia and febrile convulsions, which are usually not fatal. But the government records also show that the deceased children were malnourished, and more than half were severely malnourished, like Priya.

“Malnutrition is a precipitating cause, so we speak of deaths that are attributable to malnutrition,” Victor Aguayo, chief of child nutrition and development at Unicef India, explained in a recent interview in New Delhi.

In 2011, the infant mortality rate, expressed as the number of children younger than 1 who died per 1,000 live births, was 44 in India, which translates into 1.19 million infant deaths, according to data collected by the Registrar General of India. In 2010 the under-5 mortality rate stood at 59, one of the highest in the world.

A study published by the British charity Save the Children in 2012 estimated that 1.83 million Indian children die every year before the age of 5.  “Most of the deaths occur from treatable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and complications at birth,” the study noted.

“The child may eventually die of a disease, but that disease was lethal because the child was unable to fight back because of malnutrition,” Mr. Aguayo said.

The Indian government has not updated its national statistics on nutrition, known as the National Family Health Survey, since 2005-2006. Even its smaller and poorer neighbor, Bangladesh, has conducted three such surveys in the past decade. India’s data from 2005-2006 showed that 42.5 percentage of children under the age of 5 were underweight, a measure of acute and chronic malnutrition.

Half a decade after the last National Family Health Survey, the levels of malnutrition remained startlingly high. A 2011 Hungama survey, carried out through a collaboration between several independent organizations, showed that among the children under 5 in 100 districts of the country that have historically fared poorly on child nutrition indicators, 42 percent are underweight. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded to the findings of the Hungama survey by describing malnutrition as a “national shame.”

According to the official records at the Bandrichiwadi village council office, 25 out of the 42 children under 6 in the village are malnourished. A wave of malnutrition-related deaths in the village is also exacerbated by the lack of pediatricians in rural hospitals.

“We are not pediatricians,” said Vijay Sangle, a doctor at the public hospital where the Kirkires had once sought treatment for their child. “We are not even equipped to diagnose a respiratory infection as pneumonia.” Dr. Sangle and his colleagues refer most patients to a bigger hospital at Jawhar, about 5 kilometers away.

Malavika Vyawahare

A farmer working in a field in Jawhar sub-district in Thane district of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.

Bandrichiwadi sits atop one of the many hills that rise up on the lush green landscape of Jawhar, dotted by small seasonal streams and muddy pathways seeping through. The frequent rainfall lends a perpetual mistiness to the upper reaches of hills. Along the only road that runs from Jawhar to the villages, a sturdy surfaced road gives way to a mushy rocky track leading up to Bandrichiwadi, on which hardly any motorized vehicles ply. Passing through are laborers on their way to work and women, some with water-filled pots on their heads, others with children clinging to them.

There is no public transport after dusk. The night before Priya died, the doctors at the village hospital had told the Kirkires to take her to the Jawhar hospital. “It was evening, there was no way for us to get there,” Mrs. Kirkire recalled.  “No one told us that we could get an ambulance to go there.”

The Kirkires are from the Varli tribe, which is listed in the Indian Constitution as a scheduled tribe, groups recognized as historically disadvantaged, isolated from the Indian mainstream, which qualifies them for affirmative action policies. Scheduled tribes make up 8.6 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion, according to the 2011 census.

Among tribal populations spread across 10 states in the country, 52 percent of preschool children (between 1-5 years) were underweight, a National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau survey noted. In the tribal districts of Maharashtra, 64 percent of preschool children were found to be underweight, with 28.8 percent considered severely underweight.

The Varlis, who are known for their folk art, wall paintings made from rice paste, are mostly either daily wage agricultural laborers or subsistence farmers. “The root cause of malnutrition is the loss of control over food production and food security,” said Milind Bokil, a sociologist and writer.

Although the Kirkires grow rice, millet and finger millet on their 2.5 hectares of land, the produce is not enough to sustain them throughout the year. Mr. Kirkire, like most men in his village, supplements their meager income by working as laborer in the sand-mining industry in neighboring districts for most of the year. Mrs. Kirkire, like most village women, has to walk three kilometers to get drinking water from a well.

Malavika VyawahareThe house of Ajay and Shakuntala Kirkire in Bandrichiwadi village of Maharashtra, on Aug. 17.

A photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Kirkire hung from a wooden pole supporting the roof of their single-room mud house. A broken clock hung by a bamboo pole next to the photograph. Since their child’s death, Mr. Kirkire has been spending his days by roaming aimlessly in the village fields. Mrs. Kirkire moved out and has been living in her parents’ home, about an hour away.

“I cannot bear to be in that house,” said Mrs. Kirkire. “I can still hear the cries of my child.”

Mrs. Kirkire’s pain is compounded by the awareness that breast milk was crucial for the health of her child, but she suffered from a condition known as inverted nipples, in which a mother’s nipples retract inwards and make it difficult for the baby to suckle. Mrs. Kirkire had to feed powdered milk to her child, which cost 300 rupees ($5) for two tins. But because they couldn’t afford any more tins, the Kirkires switched to rice starch. “Our family hardly makes enough to sustain ourselves,” said Yashwanti Kirkire, Mr. Kirkire’s mother.

Workers with the government-sponsored Integrated Child Development Scheme place part of the blame on parents in these impoverished tribal areas being inattentive to the needs of their children, but crushing poverty forces most women to leave their young children at home and work in the fields during the agricultural seasons. “None of the women here sit at home and feed their children for the first six months,” said Surekha Patekar, the program caseworker at Bandrichiwadi.

The common practice is for 5- to 6-year-old children to start working with the parents in the fields or stay home to take care of the younger children. “Parents have to go to the fields leaving their child behind — there is no other way,” Ms. Patekar said “They will have nothing to eat otherwise.”

A few meters from the Kirkire house, a path led to a grove of trees. A small metallic bowl, empty bottles of medicine, and a plastic bag full of baby clothes lie beside Priya’s unmarked grave. The frequency of malnutrition-related deaths has given birth to a new superstition. “Every monsoon five people die in this village,” said Mrs. Kirkire. “It is a curse.”



Litigating the problem of Out of School Children in Karnataka


by Dolashree Mysoor posted on August 21, 2013

On April 1, 2013, the Karnataka High Court instituted a Suo Motu petition based on a newspaper report to effectively solve the problem of out of school children in India. The newspaper report stated that there were close to 50,000 children between 6 and 14 years who were out of school. The Bench deemed this as a massive violation of fundamental rights. Parties in this petition include Ms Kathyayani Chamraj (appearing in person), Mr Clifton Rosario (amicus curiae), Mr Aditya Sondhi (amicus curiae), the state government and Azim Premji Foundation.

The Bench has inquired into the various educational schemes that are present for encouraging children to enrol in schools. Reports regarding 20 such schemes have been submitted to the Court. APF suggested that a good child-tracking system be put in place in order to monitor enrolment, transfers and drop-out rates. Both the government and Ms Kathyayini Chamraj submitted that child-tracking systems are already in place, but they are not comprehensive. The Court suggested that the child tracking must happen from the time a child enters the Anganwadi system and the same effort must continue until the child completes elementary education. Ms Kathyayini Chamraj responded stating that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has already instituted a child-tracking system from birth and another child-tracking system would only duplicate the process. She submitted that the problem here is the fact that various departments of the government don’t talk to each other and emphasized on the need for coordination across relevant departments. The problem here is not merely coordination, but comprehensiveness of the child-tracking system. Ms Chamraj suggested that the duration to consider a child as having ‘dropped out’ of school be reduced from 60 days.

The Court has directed that a committee be formed comprising all parties to the petition, members from the Finance Department and the other relevant departments. The committee has been entrusted with the function of preparing a report which studies the depth of the problem and offers solutions. The Court will oversee the implementation of these recommendations. As first steps, the Bench suggested that parties to the petition meet in order to formulate a structure for the formation of the committee, coordinate efforts of the committee and implement suggestions. The Bench also suggested a three-pronged approach that the committee could adopt: 1) collection of data and other relevant research on the problem in Karnataka; 2) integration of the schemes; and 3) full implementation of all schemes. The Court observed that the government must not allow these schemes to go unused by citizens.

It is curious to note that when Ms Jayna Kothari (arguing on behalf of APF) submitted that implementation of the norms and standards and rules on transport facilities as one of the solutions to the problem, the Bench was not very keen on insisting on implementation of norms and standards. The Court’s focus is on 100% enrolment without deliberating drop-out rates. In doing so, the Bench has limited the scope of this litigation to merely ensuring enrolment. The emphasis on mere enrolment in schools seems counter-intuitive to the problem before the Court because without basic infrastructure in place, children cannot be expected to remain in school. Usability of bathrooms, availability of dedicated teachers, proper mid-day meals and all-weather classrooms are a few examples of the facilities required to ensure that children remain enthusiastic about attending school.



Evolve strategy for zero dropouts from schools: High Court

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday allowed Azim Premji Foundation to be an intervenor for assisting both the court as well as the State government in a public interest litigation petition related to the issue of out-of-school children in the State.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna passed an order on an application filed by the foundation pointing out that it is keen on working in collaboration with the State government and assist the court based on its experience in the field of education to ensure that programmes and policies are put in place to make sure that children do not drop out of school.

The Bench was hearing the PIL petition initiated suo motu by the court based on a newspaper report on the issue of out-of-school children when the law mandates free and compulsory education to all children aged between six and 14.

Meanwhile, the Bench asked the State government, court-appointed amicus curiae Aditya Sondhi, the intervenors — Azim Premji Foundation, Kathyayini Chamaraj and others, to come out with a comprehensive strategy for achieving the goal of “zero dropouts from school” by next year.

While stressing the need for involving all stakeholders in addressing this issue, the foundation in its application pointed out that the 64th National Sample Survey (NSS) had indicated that 33 per cent of the children remain out of school as their parents are not interested in sending them to school, and in 22 per cent cases, the parents do not consider education as important. Financial constraint of parents is only the third reason (21 per cent) for not enrolling children to school.

‘High among girls’

Pointing out that dropout rate is high among girls, the foundation pointed out the statistics provided in the annual report of the Karnataka Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan for 2011–12 in this connection.

The report states that overall dropout rate in lower primary schools is 1.19 per cent and in higher primary schools it is 4.35 per cent. The dropout rate is 1.17 per cent and 4.64 per cent among girls in lower and higher primary schools respectively against 1.21 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively among boys.

Relying on the NSS data, the foundation said in Karnataka only 7.1 per cent students are given cash scholarship and majority incentive is in the nature of free books and midday meals. It said there was a need for diverse range of strategies to address the issue keeping in mind the availability of schools, infrastructure provided in schools, quality of education, etc.

Major reasons for non-enrolment

Parents not interested in education of children

– 33 per cent

Education not considered necessary – 22 per cent

Financial constraints

– 21 per cent




'Form panel to bring back school dropouts'

The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday directed the State government to form a committee of secretaries of various departments to bring dropouts back to schools and ensure proper implementation of the schemes meant for them.

During the hearing of a suo motu petition on enforcing the Right to Education Act, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice DHWaghela and Justice BVNagarathna said the committee should convene a meeting and come out with a plan for ensuring 100 per cent enrolment and retention of children by next date of hearing.

The Bench said the departments concerned should discuss preventing children dropping out from schools and ensure implementation of the schemes meant for them.

Social activist Kathyayini Chamaraj, in her submission said several eligible students were not getting scholarship. The Bench directed her to provide details of all the scholarship schemes, hurdles in implementing them and also suggestions on improving implementation.

On a suggestion to redefine the term 'school dropouts' by Chamaraj as well as the amicus curiae, Adithya Sondhi, government counsel R Devdas submitted that at present a student is considered as a dropout if he/she is absent unexcused for 60 days He submitted that the period of absence will now be brought down to seven days.

Chamaraj, however, suggested that the number of absentee days be brought down to three days.

The Court also allowed an impleading application by Azim Premji University which intends to help the State government monitor the programmes introduced by the latter.




Karnataka has over 47,000 severely malnourished children: Govt

Tag:    KarnatakaMalnourishmentBelgaum district

Last Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013, 21:28  


Bangalore: Karnataka has more than 47,000 severely malnourished children, according to government figures. 

As per the information made available by Women and Child Development Minister Umashree on Thursday, Belgaum district tops the list with 4896, followed by Raichur 4596 and Bellary 3613 in June of the total 47,101.

Hassan has the least at 301 among the 0-6 age category.

The number of moderately malnourished children is much higher at more than 10.86 lakh or 27.42 per cent of the more than 39.63 lakh kids weighed in 30 districts of the State which has a total population of more than six crore. 

The Minister held a meeting today with senior officials of Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Departments of Health and Family Welfare, Primary and Secondary Education and Food and Civil Supplies, Bangalore Medical College, Slum Development Board and voluntary organisations to discuss measures to fight malnourishment among children and improving infrastructure of Anganwadi kendras within BBMP limits.

Currently, the number of Anganawadi kendras in localities coming under BBMP and extension areas is 2097, and the Government has sent a proposal to the Centre to open additional 242 in BBMP areas.

Umashree said 40 temporary Anganawadi kendras would be opened on an urgent basis in DJ Halli here, which has a large number of malnourished children, adding, steps would be taken to distribute BPL ration cards to families of severely malnourished children.

The death of severely malnourished and physically challenged six-year-old Meghala in DJ Halli last month has brought the issues surrounding underweight kids into sharp focus.