Gandhinagar: Drawing ire for attributing Gujarat's high rate of malnutrition to young "beauty conscious" girls, Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday launched the 'Gujarat State Nutrition Mission (GSNM)', offering financial aid to village panchayats to combat the problem.

Aimed at combating malnutrition in Gujarat, the mission got off to a symbolic start with the CM distributing cheques of Rs 2 lakh each to headmen of a few panchayats out of around 18,392 panchayats in Gujarat, as per official estimates.

"Financial aid will be provided to panchayats keeping in view the number of malnourished children in their villages. The prime minister had expressed concerns on malnutrition. I respect his concern on the issue as it is a national problem. Gujarat today has taken the first step in this direction," Modi said, addressing a large gathering of sarpanches here.
In a recent interview carried in The Wall Street Journal, Modi had stated that the middle class is more beauty conscious than health-conscious, and he came under fire after women groups and opposition parties termed it as an insult to young girls in Gujarat.

As per India’s National Family Health Survey data of 2005-2006, some 52 percent of Gujarat's children under five years old were stunted, or too short for their age, compared to 56 percent in Bihar, 44 percent in Karnataka, 31 percent in Tamil Nadu and 25 percent in Kerala.

Anaemia is also a major problem in Gujarat, especially among women and children. Among children between six and 59 months, 70 percent were anaemic. Some 55 percent of Gujarati women are anaemic, according to the survey.


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