Shri Rajiv Ekka
Secretary, Social Welfare
Dear Shri Ekka,
The Working Group for Children Under Six (of the Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan) has been closely following the efforts of the Government of Jharkhand with respect to children’s right to food and malnutrition.
We have been concerned to note a recent notice inviting tenders for production of Take Home Rations for children under three years of age (INVITATION FOR BIDS (IFB) No. 06/2013-14 ), that, while appreciable in listing ‘Self Help Group/Mahila Mandal/Village Community’ as potential manufacturers alongside companies, sets pre conditions that make it impossible for them to compete.
As you might consider, inviting Self Help Groups/Mahila Mandals/Village Communities to participate in public programmes such as the ICDS is a highly desirable objective in itself since it fosters community ownership and women’s empowerment over and beyond supplying some product for the programme. If that is understood, the State is expected to prefer such decentralized modalities of offering livelihoods to village women while at the same time creating valuable village assets in favour of children. This should be done as a matter of policyrather than cursorily doing the lip service of ‘allowing’ them to compete, that too with conditions they would find impossible to fulfill such as a bid security of Rs 1,25,00,000/- (Rs. One Crore Twenty five lakhs Only). As you know well, no genuine village based organization has access to capital of that magnitude.
Not only would procedures have to be created and simplified to actively foster such community based alternatives, the State would also have to assist by building the capacities of such groups to fulfill the criteria of food quality and food safety, financial procedures and so on. Rather than shy away from this responsibility, the GoJ should perceive this as a real opportunity to take action towards the distal determinants of childhood malnutrition such as poverty and gender, while at the same time organizing for THR using local produce and local human resource. This would also serve to demonstrate ‘good’ nutrition at village level and promote local nutritional foods.
We would like to bring to your attention that other States with a strong commitment to community-based processes, such as Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Kerala have set well defined processes that successfully facilitate such decentralized production (see annexures 1, 2 and 3 attached). Thus, State-wide models do already exist that provide evidence that decentralized production should and can be made a reality even while keeping safety and quality issues in mind. The additional resources of a dietician / nutritionist at district level through the ICDS restructuring further allows inputs and assistance to SHGs and Mahila Mandals during their learning curves. Convergence my also be sought from the Livelihoods Mission for capacity-building related to the production process itself. We may also point out the disastrous experience of Karnataka and other states when profit-making companies such as Christies Fried Gram have been employed (annexure 4). We would be pleased to share further details on all these models with you if you require them.
Thus, we urge you to reconsider your entire current approach to the ICDS and Community Management of Malnutrition, and demonstrate a comprehensive policy that promotes decentralization and community empowering processes. rather than following lazy short-term measures that are limited to acquiring some company product for distribution in the name of feeding small children and doing lip-service to ‘permitting’ SHGs to compete with commercial enterprises.
The Working Group for Children Under Six (of the Right to Food Campaign and Jan Swasthya Abhiyan)