Only 56 paise allowed for purchase of vegetables, spices, firewood and cooking oil per child per meal
A meagre allocation of 56 paise for providing a meal for each child in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) or Anganwadis has failed to improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age group of 0 to 6 years.
Hence the scheme needs earmarked funds and also enactment of separate legislation for the children so that universalisation of ICDS can be achieved, according to a study.
The State level study carried out by Thozhamai, a voluntary organisation, on Status and Problems of ICDS centres in Tamil Nadu, reveals that insufficient allocation for food and infrastructure is a major bottleneck in the functioning of these centres.
A study in Salem Zone that covers six districts including Salem (37 ICDS centres), Erode (28), Krishnagiri (18), Nilgiris (20), Tiruvannamalai (14) and Vellore (25) reveals that an average of 30 percent of the children are malnourished and do not stay in the centre after lunch.
A meagre allocation of 25 paise for vegetables, 11 paise for spices, 10 paise for firewood and 10 paise for cooking oil for each child for a meal is insufficient, says A. Devaneyan, Director of the Thozhamai.
“Allocations should be more to meet the prime objective of healthy child,” he added.
Though ICDS are aimed at promoting holistic development of children, poor infrastructure invites children from the poor family and from the downtrodden.
More than 50 percent of the centres function in private buildings, under thatched or asbestos sheets without proper ventilation and electricity facility, apart from damaged walls.
Non-availability of water facility and toilet facility at many centres, absence of separate kitchen, cooking using firewood in the single-room centre and absence of methods to encourage child creativity are seen as major problems and challenges in these centres.
The study calls for introduction of separate ‘Early Childhood Care and Education’ and also implementation of the recommendations and measures put forth by the Supreme Court and various agencies regarding child care and protection.
The report was released in Salem on Wednesday by A. Xavier, Chairperson, Child Welfare Committee; A. Asokan, Advocate; M. Jeyam, Director, Salem People Trust; A. Ranganathan, Director, VRDP; R. Chandra Sekaran, Programme Director, HILLS, Sathyamangalam; and Aral, Director of Don Bosco Anbu Illam, Salem.