ON ICDS Programme: Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi’s speech during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha on March 23, 2022

Congress President Smt. Sonia Gandhi said, “Sir, with your permission, I want to speak on an important matter, which affects the collective future of our country. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our children who also represent our future, have suffered the most. Out of all the institutions of the country, schools were the first to close and the last to open. When schools were closed, the system of mid-day meal also came to a standstill. It was due to the National Food Security Act and the orders of the Supreme Court that people were given dry ration, but dry ration for children is no substitute for cooked nutritious food.

It is true that the livelihood of our children’s families has faced the most serious of crises; A crisis such that had never been faced in the years gone by. But now, as kids are getting back to school, they need even better nutrition. Not only this, the mid-day meal scheme will also help in bringing back the children who had dropped out of school during this pandemic.

Respected Speaker sir, according to the National Family Health Survey 2019-21, in recent years, the percentage of children under the age of 5 who are extremely vulnerable has increased as compared to 2015-16. This is quite worrying and the government should do everything possible to fix the situation.

Therefore, Speaker Sir, through you, I urge the Central Government to resume the service of hot and cooked food under the ICDS programme and mid-day meal should also be started immediately. Reasonable provisions should be made to ensure nutritious food as well as hot, cooked food should be made available to children below the age of three years and pregnant and lactating women through Anganwadis and for this, provision of community kitchens should be made. So, Speaker Sir, I hope this will be implemented at the earliest.