India has 48 million malnourished children, the world’s largest number. For most children, the problem starts in the womb because mothers are malnourished. In 2016, schooling and productivity losses of undernourished children were expected to cost India $38 billion (Rs 27,240 crore), or nearly as much as the budget for National Rural Health Mission (2019-20) that provides health services in rural areas. A two-year-old Andhra Pradesh government programme hopes to change that narrative by providing hot, cooked meals to pregnant and lactating mothers. A 2019 evaluation found the AP scheme boosted dietary diversity for mothers. Our report from tribal, rural and urban areas of AP’s East Godavari district found enthusiasm but also found unpaid anganwadi rent, staff salaries and staff shortages.
Earlier this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government formed the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog to fuel rural growth by using agricultural and entrepreneurial strategies centred around the cow. In an interview with IndiaSpend, the commission’s chairperson, Vallabh Kathiria, talks about raising the productivity of India’s indigenous cattle population, cow slaughter, and strategies to deal with ageing cattle. The cow slaughter ban will be extended to even states where it is currently legal, he says, while dismissing reports of cow-related lynchings saying, “There must have been 1-2 incidents of lynching.”