Aamir Khan to be govt's mascot against malnutrition

Chetan Chauhan

New Delhi, Aug. 28 -- The government's fight against malnutrition will have some glamour -- Bollywood star Aamir Khan. The UPA government will be roping in services of Khan for Rs. 298 crore campaign to create awareness against malnutrition and anemia among children. Khan, who had raised social issues through his 13 part successful television series Satyamev Jayate, had asked people to raise voice against atrocities against women and children in India and make government act.

His strong message against social evils through Satyamev Jayate, whose television viewership had dipped after initial brouhaha, appears to have convinced the UPA government that he could be the best possible mascot to create awareness and change perception, especially that against the girl child, in society.

"Aamir Khan has offered pro-bono (for the public good) services for a campaign against malnutrition," Women and Child Development ministry said in a RTI reply to this reporter. A senior ministry official added that "the government was agreeable" to his proposal.

As per National Family Health Survey-3, around 42.5% children below the age of five were underweight and 69.5% of children between six to 50 months were anemic in 2005-06. Madhya Pradesh has 60% of children malnourished whereas 78% of them in Bihar are anemic.

Ranjana Kumar of Centre for Social Research said: "It is a shame that children health of emerging economy such as India is worse than that of sub-Saharan Africa. I hope that Aamir can make a difference."

The government believes that presence of a strong personality such as Aamir Khan will have positive impact on parents, who will listen to tips given by him to improve health of Indian Children. And, the Prime Minister's Office asked the WCD ministry to utilise Aamir Khan's services for information, education and communication campaign, government sources said.

The Prime Minister's Council on India's nutrition challenge had approved a two-year long campaign of Rs. 298 crore. The WCD ministry said the campaign will become part of the government's flagship child nutrition scheme Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), for which the finance ministry has already approved Rs. 1,20,000 crore for the 12th plan (2012-17).

The RTI reply, which came almost two months after the application was filed, also made it clear that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will be providing support for production of Khan's campaign, which is yet to be launched. "Production details are being worked out," said a senior UNICEF official.

Five worst child malnutrition states

Madhya Pradesh: 60%

Bihar: 55.9%

Jharkhand: 56.5%

Meghalaya: 48.8%

Chhattisgarh: 47.1%

Five worst child anemia states

Bihar: 78%

Madhya Pradesh: 74.1%

Haryana: 72.3%

Andhra Pradesh: 70.8%

Karnataka: 79.4%

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.