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The Union Budget of 2022 witnessed a significant focus on health, amidst the ongoing pandemic. In addition to catering to the curative health care needs, which have manifested in augmenting healthcare architecture across the country and establishing a digital health ecosystem, preventive healthcare needs have also gained increased focus, strengthening the nutritional needs of the country.  

Nutrition is inherently a subject that transcends several sectors and often includes maternal and child health, infant and young child-feeding, micronutrient supplementation, food security, social protection, agriculture, WASH, among others. Although there has been a focus on initiating good food practices and ensuring clean water in remote areas, along with the promotion of chemical-free farming, domestic millet production and the Jal Jeevan mission, children are often excluded from this nutritional discourse.  

The finance minister aptly acknowledges the requirements of children against the backdrop of school closures and mobility restrictions and aims to address them through significant initiatives. For instance, incorporating audio-visual tools for the children in Saksham Anganwadis, in collaboration with the efforts already in place under the Poshan 2.0 scheme are welcome steps and will greatly complement each other to help the holistic development of the children.  

An estimated amount of 20,105 crores has been assigned to these initiatives. The PM Poshan programme, in particular, has been sanctioned 10,234 crores. This scheme focuses on providing mid-day meals to students aged between six to fourteen years and was previously known as the ‘National Programme of Mid-day Meals in School’. Estimates highlight that the country needs around INR 40,000 crores to fare well on nutritional outcomes for children. Thus, the budget has created significant scope for health and nutrition services to be expanded among children of the country. 

This is pivotal as the persistence of the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the gaps in the preventive health measures and disrupted the nutritional security of the country. The measures put forth in the budget will bridge these gaps and bring millions more into the fold of nutritional care. 

This article was authored by Srijata Deb.