Why is government planning to stop the Integrated Child Development Services programme?

Why is government planning to stop the Integrated Child Development Services programme?

New Delhi, October 9: Is it that government is planning to stop the Integrated Child Development Services? The Integrated Child Development Services programme is the world’s largest food security project. The programme provides food, preschool education and primary healthcare to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.

This programme receives Rs 16,000 from the central government annually and state governments spend around Rs 16,000 crore annually. Around 14 lakh Anganwadi workers implement a bunch of schemes related to healthcare, sanitation, livelihood and women empowerment at the village level. Maneka Gandhi, the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development is planning to replace the hot cooked meals and Panjiri given under the programme with direct cash transfers.

The Integrated Child Development Services programme plays a major role in a country that is home to around 190 million undernourished people. The Supreme Court order was clear and precise. Kids under three will be given panjiri while those between three to six years of age will be given a hot cooked meal preferably using local foods to be cooked by local community women.

The financial allotment for pregnant and lactating mothers is Rs 7 per day while for every child is Rs 6 per day. The Integrated Child Development Services programme provides meals at these rates because the  Food Corporation of India gives them grain at subsidized rates. The Integrated Child Development Services programme buys Rs 4 per egg while the market price is Rs 8 per egg.

But the cast transfers are very less effective in Integrated Child Development Services programme and that the prospective beneficiaries are entirely women and children. The illiteracy in females, distance from banks and unable to directly access and control bank accounts will ensure that if at all the money reaches into the accounts, ill go into the hands of male family members and will be diverted for spending on items other than nutritious food.

Apart from the Anganwadi workers, around 25 lakh women are employed in the programme to cook and serve the food. Is the government going to get rid of them also?

Replacing fresh food with packaged food that contains preservatives are damaging the health of young children. In Maharashtra, moves were made to replace freshly-cooked meals with ready-to-cook packed food and tenders were also issued. The Ministry of Women and Child Development had been fiddling with this proposal to provide ready-to-cook packed food for children with severe malnutrition but this proposal was rejected by the health ministry. So, Ministry of Women and Child Development backed off and Maharashtra was forced to cancel tenders for the scheme.

The Integrated Child Development Services must be restructured and should be linked with the government’s Early Childhood Care & Education policy. The  Early Childhood Care & Education policy mainly focuses on developing the cognitive, socio-emotional and creative skills of kids under six and also to provide a synergy with their health and nutrition requirements.

But instead of expanding The Integrated Child Development Services and including such progressive measures, the government seems to be going one step backward. But India’s impoverished, underfed and often uneducated mothers and their children need much more than just some cash in the bank.