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SJM wants fresh cooked food to fight malnutrition in kids

New Delhi, Aug 23 (PTI) Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), an economic wing of the RSS, today urged the Centre to frame a "clear policy" to promote use of fresh cooked food instead of ready-to-use eatables by states to treat malnutrition among children.

SJM All India co-convener Ashwani Mahajan told PTI that there is a policy of the central government, which focuses on fresh cooked food, among other measures, to tackle malnutrition but some of the state governments are not implementing it.

Mahajan alleged that some of multinational commercial groups have a "game plan" to push for ready to use therapeutic foods (RUTF), which he claimed is projected as the "only solution" to check severe acute malnutrition (SAM).

He claimed that RUTF has proved to be "ineffective or less effective" in tackling the problem and the solution lies in promoting fresh cooked food among other measures.

In a letter to Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, Mahajan said, "We request you to frame a clear policy to guide the states on most sustainable and local solutions, which are indigenous, economical and culturally relevant. We look forward to hear from you and to work with you closely on this important matter," he added.

Mahajan said more than 44 million children under the age five remain chronically undernourished in the country and India is currently reducing child under nutrition at the rate of 1 per cent per year.

He said the recent data indicates that number of SAM children is increasing in the country.

"Childhood undernutrition is a deep rooted and multi- dimensional problem. It needs sustainable solutions," he said, adding food security, promoting and supporting breastfeeding and preventing early child bearing, strengthening preventive and curative health systems, are some of fundamentals to be in place to eradicate malnutrition.

"Our concern is that the current drive of managing this problem is only through treatment of SAM children, that too with commercial RUTF.

"This is an entry point for food industry and such packaged foods will satisfy the hungry for profits food industry and not our children who need real food," he wrote in the letter.

He said the SJMs concerns are based on the "global push" for RUTF approach.

Mahajan alleged there is a "nexus operating" on nutrition and the international agencies support it.

"These vested interests do like to promote magic bullet and market-led approaches. Such approaches are misleading and undermine local, bio-diverse and sustainable food cultures," he said in the letter.

"We understand that SAM children do need be treated, but RUTF does not seem to be the solution for treatment," he added.

Mahajan said there is need to further define take-home rations (THR) -- which is provided as supplementary nutrition to children below the age of three at Anganwadis -- so that RUTF, as projected by the vested interests lobby, does not get accepted as the norm to check malnutrition.

"India cannot afford to allow this dangerous trend to come in and tear apart its food system," he added.

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