Report No. 259
5.2.6 The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992, is an important enactment from the point of view of protection of infant health. As stated in its preamble, the Act was adopted to regulate the production, supply and distribution of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods. In the statement of objectives presented in Parliament during the discussion of this Act, it was pointed out: "Inappropriate feeding practices lead to infant malnutrition, morbidity and mortality in our children.
Promotion of infant milk substitutes and related products like feeding bottles and teats do constitute a health hazard." 41 Acknowledging the importance of breastfeeding, the Act sought to prohibit any kind of promotion of infant milk substitutes, feeding bottles and infant foods to protect breastfeeding from commercial influences; educate pregnant women and lactating mothers about breastfeeding to create awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding.42
In order to ensure effective implementation of this Act, as amended in 2003, the National Steering Committee on Breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding was constituted in 2013 to review the progress on enforcement of the Act and suggest corrective measures for its effective implementation.43 No doubt the Act constitutes a positive step in the direction of protection of health of children but the provisions are applicable to infant food for the 0-2 years age group only while in practice even children above 2 and below 6 are given all kinds of products and thus resulting vulnerability to their health.
41 Protecting IMS Act: Balancing Trade Interest and Child Health, available at
42 Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992, Section 7- Educational and other materials relating to feeding of infants to contain certain particulars.
(1) Every educational or other material, whether audio or visual, dealing with pre-natal or post-natal care or with the feeding of an infant and intended to reach pregnant women or mothers of infants shall include clear information relating to- 5 (a) the benefits and superiority of breast-feeding; (b) the preparation for, and the continuance of, breastfeeding; (c) the harmful effects on breast-feeding due to the partial adoption of bottle feeding; (d) the difficulties in reverting to breast-feeding of infants after a period of feeding by infant milk substitute;...
43 Press Information Bureau, Government of India, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=103199
5.2.7 In our context, the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 constitutes one of the most important step in the positive direction. This Act significantly recognizes the different needs at different stages of childhood and specifically uses the word "entitlements". Under Section 5 of the Act, the entitlements for nutritional needs include the following:
"(a) in the case of children in the age group of six months to six years, age appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local Anganwadi so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II: Provided that for children below the age of six months, exclusive breast feeding shall be promoted".
Section 6 provides that "The State Government shall, through the local Anganwadi, identify and provide meals, free of charge, to children who suffer from malnutrition, so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II." The Act also recognizes the special needs of pregnant and lactating women. Section 4 provides that these women shall be entitled to "a) meal, free of charge, during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, through the local Anganwadi, so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule II".
The Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2015, have made provision for different categories of beneficiaries under the ICDS, including children in the age group of six months to six years. The Rules are primarily designed to bridge the gap between the recommended dietary allowance and the average daily intake, and also lay down rules for monitoring and enforcing quality standards for meals.
5.2.8 No doubt above is a positive development in regard to health of young children but those involved in field feel that there is need for clear and greater details of how the provisions are to be implemented.
It is pointed that for instance, under Section 6 that provides that the State Government shall, through local Anganwadi, identify and provide free of charge to children who suffer from malnutrition so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in Schedule-II. There is need to make adequate provisions or guidelines for identification of children suffering from malnutrition and proper mechanisms for referring children suffering from acute malnourishment to appropriate healthcare providers.
Similarly, Section 4(b) that provides "that subject to such schemes as may be framed by the Central Government, every pregnant woman and lactating mother shall be entitled to maternity benefit of not less than rupees six thousand, in such instalment as may be prescribed by the Central Government, however, those in regular employment of the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertakings shall not be entitled to such benefits.
No doubt it is good intend law, but the modalities for putting this into practice have not been spelt out and thus it is needed to provide these modalities. Finally, it is recommended that there be a provision so that the nutrition recommendations in Schedule II could be regularly revised in keeping with the latest scientific studies based on calorific value, age, sex and food items (grains, milk, fruit, vegetables).
5.2.9 Further, as the above provisions of the NFSA are required to be implemented by the Centre and the States working together, and the political consensus to cooperate on this issue has not been fully manifest, neither level has taken sufficient responsibility for implementation, which has thus been inadequate. Another relevant aspect from the point of view of the right to ECD is that the provisions for the entitlements of young children figure in the same legislation as the entitlements for adults.
Keeping in mind that children up to the age of six form a distinct category in themselves, creating a separate regime of justiciable rights for them would not only bring more focused and effective implementation but would also ensure proper allocation of resources. Half-hearted approach becomes more evident when one notes that only 11 States and Union Territories have implemented the NFS, 2013 and thus the beneficiaries and in our case young children have remained out of reach of whatever positive is created through this legislation.
5.2.10 Just as is the case with food security laws, other existing laws that are applicable to young children approach them as a subset of another target group or as part of the general population. For instance, the Persons with Disabilities Act (PDA), 1995, urges governments and local authorities to "take measures for pre-natal, parental and post-natal care of mother and child".44
This is important because the right to ECD ought to be a universal right accorded to all children, and children with disabilities require a special focus in order to make rights accessible to them. Here again, a legislative enactment focusing on young children as a group with special provisions for children with disabilities and undernourished children would help ensure better protection for them.
Just as in the case of the NFSA, the PDA has faced problems in implementation which have reduced its effectiveness across all of its target population, and its usefulness as a legal mechanism furthering the rights of young children has suffered as a result. A legislative classification of young children under 6 years as a discrete group with specific entitlements deserves serious consideration.
44 Section 25(f), Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.