ICDS centres a picture of disintegrating development scheme
Buildings that are falling apart, toilets that do not exist, water that is clearly unsafe for drinking – welcome to the world of the child who goes to an ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) centre in Tamil Nadu. Day in and day out, they seem to have to negotiate an obstacle course, and perhaps it is sheer luck that hangs like a charm over the children, ensuring they don’t come to harm.
You don’t have to go by the recent study on the ICDS centres in Tamil Nadu, a trip to the nearest one will do. Gaping holes in the roof, unsteady walls, damaged flooring, besides kitchen fires burning in the room the kids occupy, overworked staff and no electricity – their list of woes is unending. Any anganwadi has at least one, or a combination, of these problems.
But let us go by the study, which is a comprehensive social audit of the state in 500 ICDS centres in 20 districts in the State. With fieldwork done between June and December last, the conclusions of the study were presented in the city on Thursday. The study was done by Thozhamai, a voluntary organisation, and funded by CRY.
“While there are a lot of problems with the centres in Tamil Nadu, the biggest challenge today is infrastructure, and that must be addressed immediately,” stresses A. Devaneyan, of Thozhamai, who was part of the study. “When children come every day, they run the risk of a roof falling over them, or the wall collapsing on them. This is completely unacceptable, considering the anganwadi centre is meant to be a child-friendly place,” he adds. In 67 centres, roofs are damaged; in 67, the walls; and in 54 centres, the flooring.
The need of the hour is for the State government to ensure infrastructure improvements in all these centres. While 63 per cent of the centres are running in private buildings, Mr. Devaneyan stresses that the government should build standardised child-friendly structures and shift all anganwadis to its own buildings.
Additional anganwadis also need to be started, he adds. The base rule is to have one anganwadi per 800-1000 population and in tribal areas, one per 300 population. The Supreme Court has also said that there must be one anganwadi for every 30 children below the age of six, he adds.
A huge spoke in the wheel, he says, however, is the fund allocation for the meal. While rice, pulses, oil and eggs come free from the State, an allocation of a mere 56 paise (shared by the Centre and State at a 60-40 ratio) per child is not sufficient at all.
Of this, 25 paise go for buying vegetables and 10 for firewood. In 369 centres, employees reported that there was insufficient provision for fuel in terms of firewood, kerosene or LPG. This, understandably, affect the quality of the food, and water boiled at the centre.
A good per cent of the centres were also ill-equipped to conduct vaccination, detect disability early, measure or monitor weight and nourishment.