20, Oct 2015
NEW DELHI, Oct 19, 2015, (Reuters) –
India’s main program to fight child malnutrition has been hit by budget cuts that make it difficult to pay wages of millions of health workers, a cabinet minister said on Monday in a rare public criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies.
Modi’s government in February slashed social sector budgets to boost infrastructure spending in a bid to fasten the pace of economic recovery. States were asked to fill the gap from the larger share of federal taxes they receive from New Delhi.
But the cuts drew criticism for blunting India’s efforts to tackle one of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition. Four of 10 stunted children in the world are Indian and about 1.5 million children die annually before turning five.
Maneka Gandhi, the women and child welfare minister who oversees a scheme to feed more than 100 million poor people, said the current budget was only enough to pay salaries of her 2.7 million health workers until January.
“We still have problems because our cut has still not been restored. Literally, it’s a month-to-month suspense on whether we can meet wages,” Gandhi told Reuters in an interview.