Concerned about the lack of nutritious food to the children with adverse impact on their health, the Union Government conceived a project way back in 1975 called Integrated Child Development Scheme country. Under this mega scheme Anganwadi centres were opened in large numbers where infants between the age of 2 and 5 were to receive nutritious food. The scheme specified the food items that would be purchased and provided and the entire system was thoroughly regulated. The scheme was adopted in J&K also and thousands of Anganwadi centres were opened.
In our State, the project is given in the charge of Social Welfare Department. The procedure adopted at the time of implementation of the scheme was essentially centred in the district administration and a purchase committee under the control and supervision of the Deputy Commissioner was constituted to take care of purchase and supply of food items for the Anganwadi centres. As per reports, the system worked well for some time but later on authorities felt that it needed modifications for two main purposes. One was to provide standard food items in time and the second was to ensure that no mismanagement happened in implementing the programme. The fact is that mismanagement and corrupt practices had been suspected and, therefore, some change in the system was needed.
Incompetence and lack of sense of duty on the part of functionaries of the Social Welfare Department under which the scheme is run has resulted in thousands of these centres going dry. The purchase committee has failed to place orders through contractors in time despite the fact the Union Government has been releasing the funds in time and this year even in advance. Why the purchase committee has been delaying purchase of food items like atta, oil, haldi etc. is inexplicable though, of course, rice is lifted from the FCI. Rice alone does not make the nutritious diet. In this way 800 Anganwadi centres in district Samba are lying dry for the last nearly three years now. In Jammu district also, there is no supply except CAPD rice during June this year. No edible oils, even the salt and haldi have not been supplied in the centers as the new contract committee framed at State level failed to make the purchases even at the fag-end of this year.
Assuming that the existing system of DCs as the nodal authority for purchase of food items was flawed necessitating reformed system, the question is that shift from old which may be called obsolete was to be replaced by a progressive and transparent system, the transition should have been smooth and hassle free for the Anganwadi centres. These centres should not have been starved for want of food items. Delayed and deferred purchases have often forced the in charge functionaries to purchase food items from their pocket in a bid not to let the attendance of kids fall. Notwithstanding that in many centres the kids have left because the parents feel they are not fed and there is no sense in sending them to the centres. All this indicates that the scheme is heading towards collapse.
The Minister in charge of Social Welfare Department has exuded confidence that the officials are at work in streamlining the shift from old and obsolete order to new order and that it will be very soon that the system will start functioning properly. It may be that but what about non supply of food items to thousands of Anganwadi centres and the impending threat of lapse of no less than 300 crore rupees which the Union Government is providing to the State for running the scheme. Who is responsible for denying lakhs of kids of the state the nutritious diet as was envisaged under the scheme. Somebody shall have to answer the question. There are already so many complaints against the Social Welfare Department’s functioning that make us suggest to the Minister in charge to bring these complaints under notice and address them so that the department functions in manner expected of it.