Legal Correspondent

Anganwadis still not operational in their States

Dismal progress despite orders

A sad reflection on governments

NEW DELHI: Expressing concern at inaction by five States in making operational sanctioned Anganwadi centres, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Chief Secretaries of Rajasthan, Kerala, Bihar, Orissa and Himachal Pradesh to personally appear in court on August 30 —for contempt.

The Anganwadi centres, with funds provided by the Union Government, supply nutritious food to children, adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.

The court earlier directed that the backlog in setting up Anganwadi centres be cleared by July 15 and the centres, sanctioned for the period up to September 2006, be made operational and functional.

Wednesday’s direction was given by a Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia on an application from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties alleging that the five States had not complied with the earlier orders. The Bench said: “Despite our previous order, the pace at which the sanctioned Anganwadi centres are made operational is a sad reflection on the State Governments.”

Even with respect to the centres sanctioned up to 2005, the progress in the States was dismal.

“A glaring example is in Rajasthan, Kerala, Bihar, Orissa and Himachal Pradesh. It needs no reiteration that our previous orders laid emphasis on sanction of the Anganwadi centres.” When counsel for Orissa pointed out that 80 per cent of the sanctioned centres had become operational, the Bench said: “You have not done charity to this court. You will understand once your big bosses go to jail. The scheme is for the people below the poverty line, pregnant and lactating mothers.”

If this was the sanctity shown to the needs of these people, then the Chief Secretaries needed dressing down.