Sunday, 17 December 2017

STOP MISLEADING THE PEOPLE;
CLARIFY THE STEPS BY THE MINISTRY OF WCD
STOP THE PROPOSALS FOR DBT/CCT AND PACKAGED FOOD IN ICDS

The Ministry of WCD on 12 October 2017 issued a statement that the There is no proposal to discontinue Supplementary Nutrition Program under ICDS and replace it with Conditional Cash Transfer”. The statement says There have been reports in the Media that the Ministry of Women and Child Development is contemplating to dismantle the supplementary nutrition component of the ICDS programme and replace it with conditional cash transfer. It is pointed out that these reports are not based on correct factual position”(underline added)

The media reports which appeared in most of the National dailies on 20th September 2017 contained two statements from the Ministry of WCD – first one quoted the Minister for WCD Smt. Maneka Gandhi addressing a meeting of officials from 130 districts on 19 September 2017. As per the reports she said that “our delivery system has always been dependent on anganwadis. Anganwadi stopped being an effective delivery system 20 years ago.” So, the minister reportedly suggested that nutrient packages should be delivered through post offices. “Thirty packages can be delivered through the post office to every family that has a baby and a pregnant mother. Since it is not vegetable or rice, it cannot be misused or sold in the market,” she said.

Secondly the media reported media briefing by Shri. Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, WCD Ministry that the Centre is considering cash transfers under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) instead of take home rations for children under three and pregnant and lactating mothers in Anganwadis. He is quoted “DBT (direct benefits transfer) is being considered in the Ministry (Women & Child Development), and a decision will be taken soon.”

The news report quotes a ministry official says “In the first phase, we will cover 300 of the most backward districts where, as per data, the extent of malnutrition and stunting of children is the highest. This will be followed by the remaining districts a year later.”

Based on the above statements and also on various other statements and documents by the ministry, various organisations, activists and concerned individuals has given representations issued statements and organised protests against these moves.

All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers has always been opposed to the replacement of freshly cooked locally available food to be served in anganwadi centres as envisaged in the very basic design of anganwadis to combat malnutrition with either packaged food or with cash transfer.

AIFAWH had organised protests throughout the country on 22/23 September 2017 itself against these proposals by the ministry and submitted memorandums to the concerned governments. In many places of the country various programmes are continuing. Many other organisations and movements have also represented to the ministry as per reports. That may be the reason behind the clarification by the ministry which came as a Press Information Bureau release dated 12 October 2017.

But simply saying that “There is no proposal to discontinue the supplementary nutrition programme under ICDS and replace it with conditional cash transfer. The reports appearing in the Media therefore are factually incorrect” will not be enough. The people of the country would like to have some clarifications from the Ministry.First of all, the Ministry has not denied the reported statements by the WCD Minister Smt. Maneka Gandhi or the Secretary Shri. Rakesh Shrivastava. It has to clarify whether they deny these statements or must explain what the minister and secretary meant by these statements.

Secondly, the Ministry in its statement made to clarify regarding same cash transfer and linking of Aadhar, issued on 9th  March 2017 states that “There have also been complaints about the quality of Take Home Rations (THR). Therefore, the Government is considering ways to improve the system and to make it more transparent. It is also exploring the possibility of Conditional Cash Transfer in lieu of THR in select districts as a pilot as one of the options. However, a final decision is yet to be taken in this regard.”

The Ministry shall clarify what is the result of its “exploration” and what is the “final decision” regarding this and who is taking that decision. If on 9th March 2017 the Ministry says the decisions on the Pilot projects are yet to be taken, how come the Ministry in its letter no F No.19/10/2016-WBP dated 5th January 2017, directed the Governments of Delhi, Uttarakhand and Odisha to immediately start implementing the pilot innovation projects under ISSNIP replacing THR with Conditional Cash Transfer?(Copy enclosed).

The Ministry has to clarify that whether they have directed other states as well to implement pilot projects replacing THR with cash transfer. In many states like West Bengal, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar etc, the state departments are directing the anganwadi workers to link the beneficiaries’ Aadhar number with their parents’ bank accounts for cash transfer. Moreover, it is not clear from any of the ministry’s statements that whether they are implementing a direct benefit transfer or conditional cash transfer.

It was always been a tactics by the ruling classes to give different opinions at the same time (here different statements by different officials/ ministers) to mislead the people. AIFAWH demand that the ministry declare that it will not implement DBT/CCT or packaged food in place of freshly cooked food in anganwadis.

AIFAWH calls upon the affiliated unions and the anganwadi workers and helpers to intensify the campaign and struggles for strengthening the ICDS and for the rights of the anganwadi workers and helpers.

A R Sindhu
General Secretary