Anganwadi workers and helpers working at over 55,000 centres in Andhra Pradesh have threatened to boycott the Face Recognition System (FRS) through which the government is supplying nutritious food to pregnant and lactating women, saying that it is becoming ‘extremely difficult’ to reach out to the beneficiaries, especially those living in the hostile terrains, to confirm their identities.
The Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Department introduced the FRS at 55,607 anganwadi centres in the State a few months ago for implementing the YSR Sampoorna Poshana and YSR Sampoorna Poshala Plus schemes.
The beneficiaries need to visit anganwadi centres during the first week of every month and get their identities verified through the FRS installed in the mobile phones of the aganwadi staff before availing of the kits. The government is supplying rice, oil, dal, eggs, milk, atta, chikkies, ragi flour, dry dates and jaggery to the beneficiaries.
The pregnant and lactating women said that it was difficult for them to walk to the anganwadi centres every month to avail of the kits. The mandatory FRS verification at the anganwadi centres where the names of the beneficiaries are registered has made it difficult for the women who have gone to their parents’ houses for delivery to avail of the kits.
“It is very difficult for us to travel in the hilly areas to anganwadi centres. Climbing up multiple stairs is not advisable,” said a group of pregnant women who are living in hilly areas in Moghalrajpuram, Gollapudi, Kristurajupuram, Gunadala and other areas in Vijayawada.
Some women complained about technical glitches. “The government supplying quality nutritional diet through YSR Sampoorna Plus scheme is a welcome move. But, may a time the FRS does not work which means the beneficiaries need to visit the anganwadi centres again to get their identities verified. It is difficult for us to visit the centres again and again for ration,” said Kunjam Durga Devi, a pregnant woman hailing from Devipatnam mandal in Alluri Sitharama Raju (ASR) district.
Andhra Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Federation (affiliated to the IFTU) State president J. Gangavathi said that the government was introducing new apps frequently, creating problems for the staff and the beneficiaries as well.
“Doctors advise bed rest for some pregnant women. Some new mothers are also advised not to venture out of their homes for a few months. Many women don’t have attendants. How will they collect their Take Home Ration (THR) kits?” asked Anusha, a woman hailing from Gokavaram village.
“My family members are not allowing me to go to the anganwadi centre and collect the YSR Sampoorna Poshana kits. But, the staff are insisting on verification through FRS,” said Priyanka, a seven-month pregnant woman from NTR district.
Women Development and Child Welfare (WD&CW) Project Directors of some districts said that the pregnant and lactating women were not coming to anganwadi centres to collect the THR kits due to health and other issues. But, the anganwadi staff are distributing the kits at the doorstep of the beneficiaries if the FRS verification can be done there. At times, the FRS does not function due to poor signal and technical glitches.
Meanwhile, A.P. Pragathiseela Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, A.P. Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, affiliated to the AITUC and CITU, said that they would boycott the FRS at all anganwadi centres in the State.
“In Agency areas, women are facing trouble in crossing streams and the anganwadi staff cannot deliver the ration kits by trekking hills in Rampachodavaram and Paderu areas,” said affiliated Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union State president P. Prasad and general secretary K. Polari.
Anganwadi staff will boycott the FRS at all anganwadi centres, said general secretary of the union, V.R. Jyothi. She demanded that the Face Recognition System (FRS) be wrapped immediately.