A smokeless kitchen, a garden in the backyard, where fresh vegetables can be sourced, child-friendly toilets and proper waste management.

A network of non-governmental organisations, women's groups, educationists and members of trade unions, working for the Forum for Creche and Childcare Services in Tamil Nadu (TN-FORCES), is on a drive to make anganwadis in the State eco-friendly.

The campaign ‘Green Anganwadis', which started around five months ago, through sensitisation programmes is also aiming at bringing down the dropout rate in these child care centres.

According to K. Shanmugavelayutham, convener, TN-Forces, a non-governmental organisation that works in the advocacy of child rights, there are 54,439 anganwadis in the State but some of them are in poor condition, functioning out of small, rented spaces and with little hygiene.

For instance, one block consists of 120 to 200 anganwadis. Of 98 toilets, 45 need repair, says Mr. Shanmugavelayutham.

A study was also conducted around two years ago by TN-FORCES on factors influencing poor enrolment of children in the ICDS anganwadi centres within Chennai Corporation limits. “Especially, in municipal and Corporation areas, there is an exodus from ICDS to private day care centres due to poor facilities,” he said.

The government's initiative to replace chulas with LPG or other environment-friendly options in anganwadis is under way in a phased manner, say NGOs. The district administration in Tiruvarur has launched a pilot project where fresh vegetables are raised in the garden to help reduce malnutrition among children in the age group of 0-6 years.

Besides sensitisation programmes carried out by different groups, the coordinators say the participation in some villages is encouraging as they support by offering teaching materials and other utilities. “We are also going to observe November 21 as anganwadi day — all these would bring the issues closer to the government for a review,” Mr. Shanmugavelayutham added.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012