Wednesday, 20 September 2017

SAVE ICDS

‘Save ICDS’ Memorandum to the Prime Minister of India 
By the beneficiaries of ICDS and anganwadi workers and helpers


To
Honourable Prime Minister
Government of India
South Block
New Delhi 110 001

Sir,

We, the beneficiaries of the Integrated Child Development services (ICDS) Scheme and the anganwadi workers and helpers of the country, place before you certain issues related to ICDS for your consideration and immediate action.

The alarming levels of child malnutrition prevailing in the country where half of its children are undernourished, is a national shame. The agrarian distress resulting in farmer’s suicides and unprecedented migration of the rural poor may aggravate this situation. The unique scheme of ICDS, the biggest programme of its kind all over the world, has already been proved to be effective in containing the child and maternal mortality, child malnutrition and hunger to a large extend. Many studies by the governmental and other agencies shows the positive result of this ‘flagship programme’ of government of India, wherever implemented properly, thus leading to the direction of the Apex Court of the country for the universalisation of ICDS. Strengthening the ICDS with all facilities, making it a permanent anganwadi cum crèche will help improving the women’s work participation as well.

Recently, the Government of India had come out with certain measures for ‘Restructuring and Strengthening the ICDS’ converting it into ‘ICDS Mission’. We strongly believe that some of the proposals of the ‘ICDS Mission’, instead of strengthening it, will be detrimental to it and ultimately will lead to the dismantling of this crucial scheme.

Considering the importance of the services rendered in the anganwadi centres for the country in ensuring the right to food, health and education of the children of India, we have been demanding to make the ICDS permanent making it a department, instead of continuing it only as a ‘scheme’. We regret that instead, the government’s decision to convert it into ‘ICDS Mission’ makes it more short-termed.

The decision to hand over 10% of the anganwadi centres to Private Corporates, Corporate NGOs etc., allowing the diversion of its fund to private nursery schools, targeting, charging user fees, introducing packaged food as take home ration, etc are nothing but attempts to privatise the scheme siphoning public funds into the private hands. Already, states like Uttar Pradesh have ordered handing over of the preparation of hot cooked meal in the entire state to big corporate NGOs with centralized kitchen. Centralised kitchen is against the basic concept of providing locally available hot cooked meals to the children.

The CAG’s report on ICDS points out the lack of proper infrastructure in many anganwadi centres, and the government assured proper measures. But the financial allocation and the proposal is only for building 15% of anganwadi buildings. This you may also agree that grossly inadequate.

Another very important issue is about the working conditions of the grass root level implementers of this scheme, the anganwadi workers and helpers who are “the pillars of social development”. It is a national shame that these women workers who have been providing such crucial service to the future of the nation are not even recognised as ‘workers’ and paid minimum wages. Though their working hours have been increased, making them work full day, they are not being paid minimum wages as per the recommendation of the 45th Indian Labour Conference and Parliamentary Standing Committee. After 30-38 years of service they are forced to ‘retire’ without pension or any social security benefits. The Prime Minster of India’s promise to the trade union federation of anganwadi workers and helpers, AIFAWH, as early in 2006 to give them a ‘parting gift’ at the time of retirement and to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) in 2012 to give them ‘some assured minimum benefits’ are yet to be implemented.

We the beneficiaries of the scheme who receives the valuable services of ICDS at our doorsteps request your personal intervention and necessary and immediate action to ensure that ICDS is effectively implemented by the government itself. We demand that the following measures be taken immediately to ensure that ICDS meets its objectives:

Our demands:

• No privatisation of ICDS in any form including handing over to NGOs, Corporates, Self Help Groups etc
• Make adequate financial allocations for ICDS
• Improve infrastructure in anganwadi centres
• Regularise all anganwadi workers and helpers, provide them minimum wages and social security benefits

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