Integrated Child Development Scheme in Manipur
A MALNOURISHED SCHEME
By Seram Neken Singh
The flagship schemes of government of India are worthy of applause in terms of their provisions on papers. However, they are always sick at the implementation stage. This has been proved by the findings of a survey recently conducted by Manipur Alliance for Child Rights in seven districts of Manipur. Integrated Child Development schemes (ICDS) in Manipur is far from attaining desired results due to apathy of state government. ICD Scheme in Manipur needs to be nourished well, before it nourishes the millions of under nourished children of the state.
Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) was introduced in Manipur on 2nd October 1975 as a pilot project in Ukhrul district. Social Welfare department is the nodal agency for implementation of the scheme. At present, the scheme has covered almost all districts of Manipur with around ten thousand Anganwadi Centres. Objective of ICDS is to improve the nutritional and health status of children below 6 years of age. Besides caring for proper psychological, social and physical development of children, ICDS aims to reduce the mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school drop-outs among children. ICDS services are delivered through Angawadi centres established in villages and run by a worker and a helper. All children, pregnant women and lactating mothers covered under an Angawadi Centre are provided supplementary nutrition 21 days a month. Those suffering from severe malnutrition are to be provided special supplementary nutrition and referral services. Although the scheme appears to be all-inclusive and beneficial to the millions of poor mothers and children of the country, the programme lacks proper implementation to reach the intended targets.
The Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR) recently conducted a survey to assess the working of the Angawadi Centres of the state and produced a report along with recommendations for improvement in the scheme’s implementation. The fifty-four page survey report published with support of Child Rights and You (CRY), Kolkata is indeed an apocalypse of how the Social Welfare department of Manipur has been implementing the programme during the last 37 years. Had the implementing agency been sincere enough in carrying out the programmes, the children of the state would not be where they are today.
ICDS has now covered nine Community Development Blocks, 32 Tribal Development Blocks and one Urban centre of Manipur. Total number of active Angawadi Centres by October last year is 9795 providing services to 1,76,437 children below 3 years and 1,79,287 children of 3-6 years. 74,287 pregnant women and lactating mothers are being served by these Centres. Regular health check-ups and immunization are important components of the scheme. Four Anganwadi Workers Training Centres run by government and non-government agencies are regularly imparting trainings to the hundred of Anganwadi workers.
The survey report amazingly depicts that only a little more than half of the Anganwadi centres (56.25%) are providing supplementary nutrition regularly, while remaining centres are giving food on intervals. Around 69 percent of the centres surveyed provide quality food, while around 28 percent of the centres are not availing of quality food. 2.5 percent of the respondent centres are getting very poor quality food from the state government. The report says that only 10 percent of the centres surveyed retain the children for four hours, while around 9 percent of the centres keep children for only half an hour. Hot cooked meal is not provided in 10 percent of the Centres surveyed, while parents collect the food from another 10 percent of the centres. There are also Centres distributing food items at the doorsteps of the children. 10 percent of the Anganwadi centres are not having playing materials for the children and only 50 percent of the centres conduct regular health check-ups. Only around 17 percent of the respondent Centres reported involvement of community leaders in monitoring the centres and engaging with workers. The payment of staff honorarium is so irregular that only 7.5 centres reported regular receipt of their honorarium. Majority of Angawadi centres have the complaints of irregular distribution of ration, while most of them themselves are reportedly bearing the transport expenses of foodgrains. Lack of proper infrastructure including sheds and kitchens features in many Angawadi Centres surveyed by the agency.
Manipur Alliance for Child Rights (MACR), which has been actively working in the field of child rights preservation in Manipur and which is the only agency to successfully sensitize on this issue in the state, has put up 17 point recommendations to the government. The state government needs to properly the monitor the infrastructural facilities including kitchens of the Angawadi centres in Manipur. Active sensitization and involvement of local leaders, community leaders, civil organizations, educationists, parents and guardians in the implementation of ICDS programmes are highly called for in order to nourish the intended children and mothers. Children with HIV and with special needs are to be encouraged to join Angawadi centres to avail of services just like normal children. The state social welfare department needs to channelize the working its huge staff recruited for the scheme.
Now as the central government is all set to implement another flagship programme for providing food security to the poor families under the food security act, it must well be remembered that the children of the country have already been provided the food security under the ICDS programme and the Sarva Siksa Abhiyan. The only concern is improper implementation of such schemes at the grassroots level.