Dr. Ram Chander Sharma
There are two mega centrally sponsored schemes exclusively linked with nutrition. One the Integrated Child Development Scheme
(ICDS) and two the Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) the largest nutrition programmes in the world under taken by Government of India (GOI) the former by Ministry of Women and Child Development and latter by Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD).
Under ICDS which was inaugurated on 2nd of October 1995 by Narsimha Rao Govt Aganwadi Centers are running all over In Urban and Rural areas, supplementary nutrition is provided to the children from the age group of 6 months to 3 years, 3 years to 6 years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers up to six months. For the age group 3 years to 6 years the AW Centre has to provide cooked hygienic meals and the rest of the categories take ration home. Each AW Centre is run by an Aganwadi Worker and a Helper purely on a honorarium fixed by the Government and not treated as Government employees. A set of guidelines are in place for recruitment, procurement of ration, provision of balanced nutrition, and monitoring of AWCs and a separate department of ICDS is functioning. For establishment of AWC a Govt accommodation has to be provided or a rented where there no building exists. Under the scheme the co location with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) primary school is essential. The location of AWC is purely based on village hamlet and has nothing to do with a ward. The selection to AWW and Helper is form the hamlet and in no case transferred or centre shifted from the hamlet. There is five tier monitoring and review mechanism to be followed all over India. Under procurement guidelines Wheat based nutrition programme (WBNP) has to be followed and Food Corporation of India has to provide wheat at Rs 2 per kg and rice at Rs 3 per kg subsidized rates and other nutrition items has to be purchased from the Co-operatives or local market as per the menu. An AWC has to maintain all the record, cooking system, weighment scales for distribution of ration or weighment of children. The WHO standards are adopted to see the health parameters of children. Besides this all the line departments are evolved for health checkup, immunization and distribution of medicines. But unfortunately the latest survey of child nutrition level in India are disturbing as 42 percent or the children up to age level 5 years are under weight.
Of late the Governor Administration in Jammu and Kashmir have issued Orders for procurement and monitoring to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to end rampant corruption and to have transparency in running AWCs in the state. But at ground level there are disturbing reports and all efforts are being made by the administration, police in connivance of the concerned department and the blackmarketeers to hijack the system. For last many decades there are no AW buildings and the centers are being run from the private residences of workers or helpers and even not from the hamlets notified. As per the rules when a worker or helper is married outside the village she has to be terminated and fresh appointment has to be made, the centre has be to at central place of hamlet and all the ration, record and cooking aids or hygienic and clean water and toilet are to be provided with clear sign board.
The Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) of cooked lunch to be provided to Primary and upper Primary School children in Government Schools and govt aided schools also runs parallel to ICDS. Both these are in fact in neck to neck competition in respect of rampant corruption or mismagement or implementation on ground level. India is a country of rural poor masses neglected by the govt apathy and corruption at all levels and the voices are silenced down by the mafias before public hears them.
This all colossal loss to Taxpayers money goes down the drain under a well connected nexus and to end this misfortune of down-trodden under-nourished a drastic decision has to be taken by the GOI . One, scrap all the Aganwadies and Mid Day Meal scheme, two put the elected Panchyats to select the eligible beneficiaries , adopt DBT Scheme to transfer the benefits to the beneficiaries and last but not the least seize all the previous record to punish the culprits.
(The author Sarpanch Siot Rajouri)
Dr. Ram Chander Sharma