No plans to replace ICDS beneficiaries with cash transfer: WCD Ministry

No plans to replace ICDS beneficiaries with cash transfer: WCD Ministry

The Centre will not replace supply of supplementary nutrition to women and children with provisions for cash transfer in the bank accounts of the beneficiaries under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry will rather keep its focus on “further strengthening” the delivery mechanism brought in place to streamline the implementation of nutritional programmes under the scheme.

In a report titled 'Nourishing India,' the Niti Aayog had in February suggested for replacing the supplementary nutrition with conditional cash transfer provisions under the ICDS.

It, however, had also suggested to test the feasibility of its recommendation by implementing it in some of districts in select States as pilot.

“There is no proposal to discontinue the supplementary nutrition programme under ICDS and replace it with conditional cash transfer. The ministry is in the process of further strengthening the delivery mechanism of supplementary nutrition by use of IT basedreal time monitoring system,” the Ministry said on Thursday said, ending all speculations on the issue.

The Ministry's clarification comes months after the Niti Aayog's recommendations. Some of the newspapers recently came up with reports that Ministry was considering replacing the supply of food items under the ICDS with conditional cash transfer.

Supplementary nutrition services under the ICDS programme is a legal entitlement under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

According to the NFSA, the nutritional standards for children in the age group of 6 months to 3 years and those in the age group of 3 to 6 years as well as pregnant women and lactating mothers required to be met by providing “take home rations” or “nutritious hot cooked meal” under the ICDS.

However, the Niti Aayog came up with a suggestion for replacing the current system of providing nutritional support with the conditional cash transfer into the Jan Dhan accounts of the beneficiaries in view of the complaints of “leakages, poor quality food supplement supply and vested interests.”
 
The Niti Aayog was also of the view that the introduction of cash transfer alone would not work as “a magic bullet”, saying it must be accompanied by enabling conditions, service guarantees; an improvement in complementary government services, particularly primary health, nutrition and food security. 

In this context, the Aayog was of the view that Government should work out a plan for "behavioural change communication.”

“The Ministry is working on these suggestions,” official sources said.

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