'Reports of malnutrition deaths of 24,000 children partially true'
Maharashtra government today admitted as "partially true" reports of death of over 24,000 children in the state due to malnutrition.
"Partially true," Minister for Women and Child Welfare Varsha Gaikwad told the legislative assembly in a written reply.
Jitendra Awhad and Shashikant Shinde (NCP) and Sudhir Mungantiwar (BJP) had, through a starred question, wanted to know from the government if there was truth in reports that there were 10,67,659 malnourished children in the state of whom 24,365 had died.
In her reply, Gaikwad said action had been taken against some government employees found selling readymade food packets meant for distribution among children in Dahanu Taluka and steps initiated to check the recurrence of such incidents.
A police case has been filed and employees instructed to distribute nutritious food in the presence of village heads.
Later, speaking to reporters, Gaekwad claimed that incidence of malnutrition had come down and only 11% of the infants had been found malnourished till January this year. She said 21% infants weighed less that the required average weight to qualify as malnourished last year.
She claimed that due to various initiatives by her department, the government has been successful in controlling the infant deaths in the age group of 0 to 6 years.
Gaikwad said the figures cited by questioners were "incorrect".
The starred question also said that 37% of the infants were underweight.
However, BJP legislator Devendra Phadanvis told reporters that the figures cited in the question were mentioned in various government surveys published from time to time and alleged there was large-scale corruption in distribution of nutritious food to the targeted beneficiaries.
The questioners had alleged that there were more than 10,000 malnourished pregnant mothers and infants in Thane district alone and the nutritious food meant for them was given to pet animals.
According to them, malnourishment was rampant in tribal areas of Yavatmal and Gadchiroli districts as well.