Social Welfare Minister Kyrmen Shylla has reacted strongly to certain allegations regarding the Meghalaya government-owned rice that was seized by Assam police recently.
His department has taken out large advertisements in newspapers, including Highland Post, wherein the minister sought to clear the air regarding the supposed scam.
Assam police claimed that one lakh sacks of rice belonging to Meghalaya under the Fortified Nutrition Programme scheme were found stocked in a private company’s warehouse near Guwahati. Assam police said that the rice was being repackaged into East Sunrise bags, a brand that belongs to Continental Milkose. The state government has been at pains to deny that there is any such scam. Shylla, however, did not address these accusations directly.
One of the attacks against the government is that it has entrusted supply of food under the scheme to private corporations at the national level even though the Supreme Court has recommended that the food be sourced locally.
Today, Shylla said that his department has “engaged the services of 203 self-help groups (SHGs) in the procurement and transportation of foodstuff supplied as ‘Hot Cooked Meal’ under Supplementary Nutrition Programme in the Anganwadi Centres.”
The Meghalaya government is also mulling the idea of encouraging SHGs to become manufacturers in the procurement and supply of the ‘Take Home Ration’ (THR) if they can meet central government criteria.
Already, under the central Poshan Abhiyaan scheme, SHGs are already involved in promoting kitchen gardens and backyard poultry operations in the Anganwadi centres and at the community level “to bring about food security, nutritional diversity, behavioural change in food habits to combat all forms of undernutrition,” the minister said.
The clarification also stated that in September 2020, a special drive was conducted in Meghalaya to identify severely and moderately acute malnourished children (SAM and MAM in the jargon). In all there were 1,788 SAM children and 16,327 MAM children identified.
“With intensive interventions of providing nutrition, nutrition counselling, growth monitoring, creating awareness on the benefits of consumption of the THR and regular health check-up in convergence with the Health and Family Welfare Department and the facilitating support provided through the Community and Rural Development Department, a recovery rate of 93.85 percent achieved among the SAM children and recovery rate of 97.53 percent was achieved among MAM children,” Shylla added. “With this information and the due steps taken by the government, it is with this statement that all doubts cast upon my department are cleared from the minds of the people of the state.”
He concluded by taking a dig at the media and “NGO representatives”, saying that they should not make statements that “are far from true”.