50 of 58 leaders skip meet on underfed kids

Despite MiD DAY's sustained reportage on malnutrition deaths, political apathy reigns supreme, with 3 ministers and 5 MLAs attending a meeting on the state of undernourished children

It appears the elected representatives in the state do not have time to dwell on the fate of children dying of starvation in their constituencies. In a meeting called by the Women and Child Development department last Monday to discuss the fatal problem of malnutrition among kids, only three ministers and five MLAs, of the 58 dignitaries invited, were concerned enough to show up.

Held at the Sahyadri guesthouse at Malabar Hill, the objective of the meeting was to discuss the draft of a white paper the state government has decided to publish, but thanks to empty chairs, the discussion remained inconclusive.

The initiative came after MiD DAY's sustained coverage on malnutrition in Nashik and alleged maladministration in the procurement of supplies for underprivileged children. This paper highlighted the issue through a series of in-depth articles, after 619 deaths were reported due to the malady.

"The MLAs, invited from tribal and slum pockets, were to discuss the issue and offer suggestions for the effective implementation of the government schemes to fight malnutrition," said a Mantralaya officer. Some 45 MLAs had confirmed their participation.

"Following the poor turnout at the meeting, it was decided to forward a request to the Chief Minister to call a meeting at his level, to ensure maximum attendance," he said.

Citing restrictions to reveal the names of the legislators who did not turn up, the officer said, "Most of them represent the tribal regions of Thane, Nashik, Nandurbar, Dhule, Nanded, Gondia, Gadchiroli, Amravati, Chandrapur, Pune and other districts, and other represent urban slum pockets."

Ministers speak
Minister of Women and Child Development, Varsha Gaikwad, who had called the meeting, said, "Some of the legislators had conveyed their inability to attend the meeting due to personal problems. I have now decided to call another meeting where prominent members of the state legislative council will be invited to offer their views. We have taken the issue seriously and are making all efforts to avoid recurrence of malnutrition in future."

Said Medical Education Minister Dr Vijayakumar Gavit, "Every scheme implemented in the areas affected with malnutrition should be analysed every three years to establish its outcome. Families from remote areas should be provided with clean and pure drinking water to avoid diseases. Anganwadi centres should be awarded for their performance in reducing deaths and spreading the message of healthy living."

Present at the meet
Women and Child Development Minister Varsha Gaikwad, Medical Education Minister Dr Vijaykumar Gavit, and Minister of State for Tribal Development Rajendra Gavit were present at the meeting, along with MLAs Annie Shekhar, Amin Patel, Ashok Jadhav, Abu Azmi and Dr Namdeo Usendi.

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