5th November 2009


Smt Krishna Tirath
Hon’ble Minister for Women and Child Development,
Government of India,
Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi 110001


Sub: Measures to make ICDS more effective

The ICDS is the only programme of the government of India for the holistic development of children below six years, the future human resources of the country. Several studies have shown that it is an effective programme, but there are certain shortcomings which need to be improved to make it more effective so that it can yield the desired results.

As a socially conscious and committed organisation, the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers has discussed the issue of making ICDS more effective several times during the last few years. It held several national seminars on ICDS in which eminent social activists, economists, and Planning Commission members like Prof Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik, Dr Syeeda Hameed, former Minister for state for Social Justice Smt Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan and others participated. The activists of the Federation have also approached around 2 crores beneficiaries on the issue of improving the functioning of ICDS and collected their signatures on a memorandum to the Prime Minister.

The issue of making ICDS more effective was also discussed in its recently held Sixth Conference in Chandigarh, which expressed deep concern at the disastrous impact of some of the changes that are being made in its implementation in the name of reform.

On the basis of all these deliberations, we strongly feel that the following measures need to be taken on an urgent basis to make ICDS more effective -

1. Make adequate financial allocations for ICDS to ensure that it is universalised by 2010 to cover all the eligible children in the country

The government has committed to universalise ICDS by the end of 2008. But as per the 2008 – 09 Annual Report of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, only 7,12,22,892 children below the age of 6 years, i.e. only 42.90 percent of the 16.6 crores children entitled to the services of ICDS are covered by it.

The financial allocations made to ICDS have been paltry. As you are aware, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has tentatively revised the budget requirement for ICDS during the 11th Five Year at Rs 72,877.52 crores. However, according to the Annual Report of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (2008–09), the total allocation made for ICDS in the 11th Five Year Plan was only 42,400 crores. And the budgetary allocations in the first three years of the 11th Plan period have been only Rs 18,298 crores.

We are sure you would agree that ICDS cannot realise its full potential in improving the nutritional status of the children and pregnant and lactating mothers in the country which is abysmally poor, unless enough financial allocations are made for its universalisation and effective implementation.

Hence, we request you to ensure that at least Rs 15,000 crores should be allocated for ICDS in the 2010 -11 Budget.

2. Stop opening ‘mini anganwadi centres’ and convert all of them into regular anganwadi centres

We welcome the decision of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to revise the population norms for sanctioning anganwadi centres and make them more accessible to the children, particularly those belonging to the SC/ST and other sections.

But, a large number of anganwadi centres sanctioned during the recent period are ‘mini anganwadi centres’ and not full fledged anganwadi centres, particularly in the tribal areas. More than 1 lakh out of the total anganwadi centres sanctioned during the last five years are the so called ‘mini anganwadi centres’.

Since 2005, all the services available in the regular anganwadi centres are also made available in the ‘mini anganwadi centres’. This is a welcome measure. But, no helper is appointed in the ‘mini anganwadi centres’ and the remuneration of the anganwadi workers in these anganwadi centres, is only half that of the anganwadi workers in the regular centres.

Calling an anganwadi centre providing all the services a ‘mini anganwadi centre’, only results in discrimination between the anganwadi workers and denying the workers in the ‘mini anganwadi centres’ their due remuneration.

Hence, opening of mini anganwadi centres should be stopped immediately and all the existing ‘mini anganwadi centres’ should be converted into regular anganwadi centres. Helpers should be appointed in these centres and the anganwadi workers in these centres should be paid on par with those working in the regular anganwadi centres.

3. Take urgent measures to improve the infrastructure in the anganwadi centres

A large number of anganwadi centres do not have proper infrastructural facilities. The Rapid Facility Survey of Infrastructure at Anganwadi Centres conducted by the NCAER found that only 46 percent anganwadi centres were running from pucca buildings and around 10 percent were running in open air. More than 40 percent anganwadi centres across the country are neither housed in ICDS buildings nor in rented buildings; most of them except in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa were functioning from community buildings. Only 39 percent had the facility of hand pumps.

The National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) reported that 77 percent of anganwadi centres had either no toilet facility or unsatisfactory toilet facility; 37 percent had no materials or aids for nutrition and health education; 50 percent had no space either for storing the materials or for the children to sit inside or play outside; around a third did not have utensils either for cooking or for serving. It has also reported that the supply of supplementary nutrition was disrupted for an average of 41.3 days in a year in 54 percent of the anganwadi centres, the reason being non supply of food items.

This pathetic situation after more than 34 years of the ICDS being in existence indicates the utter apathy of the government towards child development.

Hence, urgent steps should be taken on a war footing to improve the infrastructural facilities at all the anganwadi centres. Health and nutrition education materials, toys and other safe play materials, stationery, medicines etc should be provided to all the anganwadi centres. In most of the states medical and pre school education kits are not provided to the anganwadi centres. The anganwadi workers are forced to spend from their own pockets even to purchase the necessary registers and records and for photocopying.

4. Freshly cooked food should be distributed in the anganwadi centres. There should be no Take Home Ration or Ready To Eat food

Nutrition experts recommend that locally acceptable freshly cooked food not only helps in improving the nutritional status of the children but also improves attendance. But in several states, Take Home Ration is being supplied to all the beneficiaries because of the lack of proper cooking and storing facilities in the anganwadi centres. In some states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the job of preparation of food is sought to be handed over to NGOs having centralised kitchens like the ISCON. In Orissa, Vedanta has been given the job of supplying food to the anganwadi centres in Kalahandi district. Ready to Eat food is also sought to be promoted in some states.

In our country where traditional cultural practices do not allow women to take food without sharing with the other family members, it is not possible for pregnant and lactating mothers to consume the food given to them as THR according to the daily prescribed proportions. Food cooked in centralised kitchens and transported to the anganwadi centres would not be fresh and it cannot be ensured that it would reach the anganwadi centres on time. Ready To Eat food is often not relished by the children.

Hence, we demand that there should be no THR or RTE and only food freshly cooked by the anganwadi helper in the anganwadi centre should be distributed to the beneficiaries of supplementary nutrition.

5. Supply, preparation and distribution of supplementary nutrition should not be given to SHGs, Mothers’ Committees, NGOs, Corporates etc

In some states, the responsibility of supplying and distributing of supplementary nutrition is given to the Self Help Groups, Mothers’ Committees, and NGOs etc. This is leading to irregular supply of the food materials, misuse of funds, interference in the proper functioning of the anganwadi centres and harassment of anganwadi employees.

In Chattisgarh, it is found that the Self Help Groups distribute THR once in a week, only on Tuesdays. If a particular Tuesday is a holiday, no THR is distributed for that week. In many states it is found that the quality food supplied by the SHGs or NGOs is bad and the quantity less. Anganwadi workers who demand regular supply of food in specified quantities are often harassed.

Hence, the responsibility of regular supply of good quality supplementary nutrition in sufficient quantities should lie entirely with the CDPO. It should not be handed over to SHGs, Mothers’ Committees or NGOs etc.

6. Provision of supplementary nutrition under ICDS should be included as a statutory right in the Food Security Bill to be placed in the Parliament.

The government intends to enact legislation for Food Security and has circulated a draft bill. But we are sorry to note that it has no mention of ICDS, which is one of the major interventions of the Government of India to provide some food security to the poor children and pregnant and lactating mothers. This anomaly should be corrected by including the provision of supplementary nutrition under ICDS in the draft Food Security Bill

7. Anganwadi workers and helpers should be provided proper pre service as well as in service training to discharge their responsibilities more effectively. Monthly meetings should be conducted regularly for anganwadi workers as well as helpers to guide and help them in overcoming practical difficulties while discharging their duties

The job of an anganwadi worker is a skilled job and the job performed by the anganwadi helper of looking after the cleanliness and hygiene of the small children is of semi skilled nature. To ensure the physical, mental and social development of the children in the anganwadi centres as well as for the health and nutritional education of the women, it is essential to properly equip the anganwadi workers and helpers. This has to be done by providing not only adequate initial training but also repeated in service training.

But, the training period for anganwadi workers and helpers has been drastically reduced during the recent period. The training period for anganwadi workers after recruitment, which was 3 months earlier has been brought down to around 45 days or even less in some states. In many states, in service training is almost non existent. The NCAER evaluation has also observed that ‘in service training of anganwadi workers remains largely neglected’.

The monthly meetings, which provide an opportunity for the anganwadi workers to place their difficulties before the supervisors and CDPOs and seek their guidance, are also being dispensed with in many states. In most of the states, no monthly meetings are held for the helpers.

Hence, we request you to ensure that anganwadi workers and helpers are provided with adequate initial training as well as in service training and also regular monthly meetings are held for anganwadi workers and helpers to provide proper guidance in their work.

Similarly, proper training and retraining on pre school education should also be provided to the anganwadi workers to strengthen the pre school component of ICDS

8. Stop unwarranted interference in the functioning of the anganwadi centres

Unnecessary and uncalled for interference in the functioning of the anganwadi centres has greatly increased in the recent period in many states, particularly where they are handed over to the Panchayats, NGOs etc in the name of community participation. While in some states like Kerala the anganwadi centres receive support from the Panchayats in the form of land, construction of buildings or provision of additional food materials, in most of the other states, the anganwadi employees are harassed by local high handed individuals or vested interests. Often anganwadi employees become the targets in settling village level political scores or to demonstrate the power and authority of local powers that be. This is leading to deterioration of the functioning of the anganwadi centres.

The authority given to the Panchayats to appoint anganwadi workers is being misutilised in many places. It is being used to exercise control over the anganwadi centres and the anganwadi workers and helpers. There are several instances of arbitrary termination of the services of anganwadi workers and helpers, even of those who have been awarded ‘best anganwadi worker’ certificates; instances of corruption have also been widely reported. These practices result in the disruption of effective functioning of the anganwadi centres

We request you that the appointment of anganwadi workers should be only through the Selection Committee on the basis of well defined procedures, which should be uniform throughout the country. Similarly proper procedure should be formulated for the appointment of the anganwadi helpers.

While we are not against community monitoring, such unwarranted interference in the functioning of the anganwadi centres ultimately disrupts the functioning of the anganwadi centres and creates difficulties to the beneficiaries as well as the anganwadi employees.

Hence, the government should take immediate measures to curb any sort of uncalled for interference from any quarters and protect the anganwadi employees from such harassment to ensure smooth functioning of the anganwadi centres.

9. Convert the anganwadi centres into anganwadi cum crèches.

Most of the poor women workers, be it agricultural workers or unorganised workers, particularly in the rural areas do not have any facilities to take care of their children when they are away for work. As a result, they are forced to loose work or entrust the responsibility to their elder children. The older children, particularly girls are withdrawn from school adversely impacting their education and development.

Several agencies including the Planning Commission have recommended converting the anganwadi centres into anganwadi cum crèches so that the women can leave their small children in the anganwadi for the whole day. As anganwadi centres are being established in all villages and habitations, this will be of a great help to the poor working women, particularly in the villages and urban slums. This will also have a positive impact on the education of girl children.

Hence, we request the government to convert the anganwadi centres into anganwadi cum crèches, by providing all the necessary facilities.

10. Provide two meals to the children attending the anganwadi centres throughout the day

The government has decided to increase the working hours of the anganwadi centres to five. But, the amount of food being provided to the children attending the anganwadi centres has not been increased. In some states, the same amount of food is being asked to be distributed in two portions.

As you are aware, small children need frequent feeding and it is necessary to provide them with two meals when they stay in the anganwadi centres for five hours. Dividing the quantity being provided now into two portions will not help in satisfying their nutritional needs or hunger.

Hence, it is necessary to increase the quantity of feeding supplied to the children in the anganwadi centres and provide feeding for two times in a day.

11. Fill up all the vacant posts in ICDS

10,33,338 anganwadi centres are reported to be operational by the end of 2008 according to the 2008 – 09 Annual Report of the Ministry of Women and Child Development. But even in these reportedly operational anganwadi centres, thousands of posts of anganwadi workers and helpers remain vacant. Besides, a large number of posts of supervisors, CDPOs and other officers are vacant in many states creating difficulties in the functioning and monitoring of the anganwadi centres.

In some states, the practice of giving an anganwadi worker additional responsibility of another anganwadi centre for several months, with a nominal additional remuneration, continues. This practice adversely impacts the functioning of both the anganwadi centres and should be at once discontinued and alternative arrangements have to be considered in case any anganwadi worker has to take leave for long time e.g. in case of maternity or ill health etc.

In the absence of supervisors in many projects, some anganwadi workers in the sector are forced to do her work, particularly related to registers and records, not only putting additional work load on them but also disturbing the regular functioning of the anganwadi centres.

Hence, we request that all the vacant posts of anganwadi workers and helpers, supervisors, CDPOs etc should be filled up at once. It is also necessary to ensure that the functionaries of ICDS, particularly the anganwadi workers and helpers are not given other responsibilities.

12. Regularise the anganwadi workers and helpers as Grade III and Grade IV employees providing them all the attendant benefits including social security benefits

One of the major drawbacks of the ICDS is that its key functionaries, the anganwadi workers and helpers are not recognised by the government as its employees, even after working for decades. In view of their very important role in moulding the children of our country and developing them into physically, mentally and socially healthy citizens, the anganwadi workers and helpers should be regularised as Grade III and Grade IV government employees and provided all the attendant benefits including social security benefits like gratuity, provident fund, pension etc.

Any intervention cannot be fully effective when the key functionaries are denied justice, decent wages and working conditions and are kept dissatisfied.

Hence we request that the genuine demand of the anganwadi workers and helpers for regularisation of their services as government employees should be met immediately to utilise the full potential of their services and the ICDS for the development of children.

We hope that you will give consider the above points favourably and take the necessary measures to make ICDS more effective.

Thanking you
Yours sincerely

Neelima Maitra          AR Sindhu            Saroj Sharma             Hemalata
President                    Secretary               Treasurer                    General Secretary

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