CAG report points out tardy implementation of ICDS scheme

Kerala’s claim to robust health indices has received a jolt with a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India saying that as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) growth standard, the percentage of malnourished and severely malnourished children in Kerala is 36.92 per cent and 0.08 percent respectively as on March 2011.

Kerala lags behind neighbouring Tamil Nadu which has 35.22 per cent malnourished and 0.02 per cent severely malnourished children.

In Assam, the figure is 31.32 per cent and 0.46 per cent. Madhya Pradesh has a better track record with 28.49 per cent and 1.88 per cent respectively.

The CAG’s report on ‘Performance audit of ICDS scheme’ on January 17 this year pulled up the Union and the State governments for their failure to achieve even the halfway target of the country’s flagship Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme even after three decades of its launch.

The report said, “The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development failed to ascertain the extent of malnourishment in the country on World Health Organisation (WHO) Growth Standard for timely intervention to mitigate its consequences. It failed to implement the policy of universalisation of the ICDS scheme in full.”

The audit for the 2006-07 to 2010-11 period said, “Despite high incidence of malnutrition and severe malnutrition among children and Supreme Court directions to ensure universalisation of services under the ICDS by the year 2008, was yet to be achieved.”

It said that of the Rs.50,587 crore spent on the ICDS scheme during 2006-2011, only Rs.30,861 crore (61 per cent) was spent for providing nutrition.

Under the scheme, 50 per cent of the funds are provided by the Union government and the remaining by the State government.

The CAG said, “India’s status on key child development and health indication did not compare well with its own target and with that of neighbouring and other regions.”

Quality of services

“The Union government failed to sanction the required number of Anganwadi Centres (AWCS) and the State government failed to operationalise even the sanctioned ones.

Thus, the quality of services available to the beneficiaries was seriously compromised on account of inadequate infrastructural and logistic support.

The government was not in a position to give assurances on coverage of habitations, especially those having predominantly Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and other weaker section population under the scheme.”

The CAG report said that in the community mobilisation scheme, the shortfall of funds in Kerala was 47 per cent as against the 42 per cent in Madhya Pradesh.

Kerala found a place among States where the gap between eligible beneficiaries and actual beneficiaries was more than 50 per cent, the report said. Kerala also figured among States that did not off-take foodgrain under the Wheat-Based Nutrition Programme (WBNP).

The report also said that Kerala, Assam, Bihar, and Delhi did not disburse any amount for providing flexi fund to the AWCS. Kerala failed to procure medicine kits for the AWCS despite availability of funds. The failure of States to procure medicine kits on an annual basis had a direct bearing on the availability of the same at the AWCS.