Facing flak from the Opposition over deaths of several tribal children in Maharashtra due to malnutrition, the state government has mooted a two-tier model for the implementation of its schemes for them.
The government is adopting best practices to reduce the malnutrition cases and this has shown tremendous results, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said.
Under the two-tier model, there will be a steering committee headed by the chief minister. Besides, another programme implementation committee led by the chief secretary will monitor the implementation of schemes of various departments, an official in the Tribal Development Department said.
He said the Maharashtra government has taken cue from a similar model of tribal development in Gujarat, where a steering committee headed by the chief minister takes review of the implementation of various schemes every six months.
To overcome the problem of lack of coordination between various departments and ego clashes among bureaucrats, the Gujarat government set up another programme implementation committee, headed by the state chief secretary.
Every three months, this panel reviews the implementation of various schemes, fund allocation and its utilisation, the official said. Since the committee is duty-bound to inform the chief minister about the progress made, no department secretary can ignore his directives, he said.
“The Tribal Development Department’s annual budget is around Rs 6,000 crore, and 50 percent of it is spent on fees of tribal students, hostel and meal allowances. The rest of it is spent on creating infrastructure, like constructing ashram (residential) schools, dormitories, hostels, roads, health centres and other facilities,” he said. He noted that these issues are related to women and child welfare, public health, food and civil supplies, social justice, public works and school education departments.
The other departments send proposals for funds meant exclusively to be spent in tribal areas, but the tribal development department has no control over their implementation, the official said. Though the Women and Child Development Department and Public Health Department are responsible for taking steps to eradicate malnutrition in tribal areas, the Tribal Development Department is held responsible in cases of death of adivasi children due to malnutrition, he said.
“With no other department willing to take the responsibility, the government has now decided to follow the Gujarat model,” the official said.
Fadnavis said the practices being adopted by the government have resulted in significant reduction in cases of malnutrition. “The Palghar district, which has off late been the epicentre of malnutrition, has shown significant reduction in such cases in two years,” he said.
As many as 396 children died due to malnutrition and other reasons in Palghar district in 2017-18, State Women and Child Development minister Pankaja Munde had said in March. Some activists and NGOs had also filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court earlier this year, claiming that 318 children died due to malnutrition and lack of medical care between September 2017 and January 2018 in the Melghat region of Vidarbha and its neighbouring areas.