Expressing concern over the poor infrastructure of many Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres and deficiencies in the services offered through them in Tamil Nadu, Thozhamai, a voluntary organisation, has called for a separate Act and increased funding to ensure universalisation of the scheme.

The organisation, which recently conducted a research study on 500 ICDS centres in 20 districts across Tamil Nadu with the support of CRY (Child Rights and You), has suggested the introduction of a separate early childhood care and education system under the scheme.

Currently, the ICDS scheme is burdened with various elements which affect the delivery of services, especially with regard to early childhood care and education, it said.

Providing details of the study findings in Tiruchi and neighbouring districts on the sidelines of a zonal-level consultation meet on “status and problems of ICDS centres in Tamil Nadu” here on Wednesday, A. Devaneyan, director, Thozhamai, said 31 ICDS centres were covered under the study in Tiruchi district, 16 in Thanjavur, 13 in Perambalur, and 18 in Karur.

The study had revealed that about 52 per cent of the 31 centres covered in Tiruchi district were operated from old buildings.

Asbestos or sheet roofing were found in 29 per cent of the centres and the concrete roof was found damaged in 22.6 per cent. Floor damages and poor ventilation were found in some centres. Many ICDS centres were functioning from private/rented buildings, he said.

Lack of adequate teaching aids and toys, toilets, space, and poor sanitation were among the other problems identified. Pre-school education was not offered in 19.4 per cent of the centres which were covered under the study in the district. Play-way method was not practised in many of these centres.

Mr. Devaneyan said the money sanctioned for the centres was not adequate for grocery and vegetables. “At the current allocation, just about 25 paise is available for vegetables for each child. Will this be adequate to overcome the problem of malnutrition among children?” he wondered. Most children attending the ICDS centres are from marginalised sections of society, including Dalits, he said.

ICDS centres and workers in the State were being burdened with other work from the local authorities.

Calling for an effective monitoring system, the organisation demanded that village panchayats be given powers to monitor the implementation of the scheme.