Montek criticises Renuka's decision on anganwadi food

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New Delhi, Mar 21 (UNI) Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has criticised the Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury's proposal to serve centrally procured packaged food to malnourished children in anganwadi centres as involvment of contractors would lead to pilferage.

''We are against centralised purchase of packaged food to tackle malnutrition. In the Commission, we have received complaints from several experts on leakages of centralised procurement which is difficult to monitor and check. It has been brought to our notice that if contractors are employed, then there is no way to check pilferage,'' Mr Ahluwalia told a weekly.

Even Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh, who is on the steering commtitee for sustainable nutrition, said, ''Renuka is barking up the wrong tree. There can be no substitute for hot cooked meals.' Advocating replication of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh models of successfully serving nutritious meals to children, he said there was no reason why these models could not be replicated in other states.

However, Ms Chowdhury said that Commission's role was advisory and could just make recommendations but at the end of the day, ''we are the constitutional authority.'' Convinced that packaged food is the answer to child malnutrition, he said, ''I cannot allow food to be cooked in unhygienic conditions where the quality of water is not tested. And often lizards and rats are found in food.'' However, Mr Ahluwalia said ''a lizard can very well drop into the food we cook in our homes. It could happen anywhere. The objective should be to serve nutritious food to malnourished children, which can be fulfilled best by local self help groups and communities.'' UNI AJ VD AS1724

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