300 anganwadi workers protested yesterday, alleging supply of low-grade food and lack of space
The state of welfare schemes for children in Maharashtra is not what one would call ideal, as MiD DAY has pointed out through a series of articles recently. In continuation of the motif, here's another group that accuses the state of poor implementation of the Centre's Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.
Pot luck: Anganwadi workers carry flour bags on their heads in a show
of protest against ropey quality of food supplies.
Around 300 members of the Maharashtra Rajya Anganwadi Karmachari Sangh, a state-wide union of anganwadi staff, gathered at the ICDS office in Raigad Bhavan in Navi Mumbai to mark their discontent with the alleged low-grade food items being supplied to children under the scheme by the state government, in spite of regular complaints made by the union.
MA Patil, president of the Sangh, said, "The food packets supplied as THR (Take Home Ration) are devoid of any nutrition and taste. Children and parents are reluctant to take these raw food items home, as they are made of low-grade ingredients, which get spoilt in a short period of time."
He continued, "We have had to throw these packets in garbage after finding fungi and termites in them many a time. However, the Commissionerate of Women and Child Development has not taken any significant step to ensure quality food, despite various requests and written applications."
Under the current scheme, packets of various raw food items are given to children between 6 months and 3 years of age across the state. Self-help groups are assigned to provide these food packets to anganwadi centres.
In addition, anganwadis in the Mumbai metropolitan area do not have enough space to store the food packets or function properly, allege workers. They add that they have to face parents raging against the quality of food items and scarcity of space in anganwadi centres.
Chitra Waghmare, who works at the anganwadi centre in Trombay, said, "The government hasn't given us a building to run the anganwadi. We are running it from a small rented room, too small for the number of children.
In addition, we have to use this room to store THR food packets. As parents refuse to take these packets home, they get spoilt in here."
In Trombay, there are around 150 anganwadis with 35-40 children each. Most operate out of small rooms.
The union is not ready to buy the ICDS joint commissioner's claim that the food is checked for quality, and warns of further agitation. "Around a lakh members of the union will protest at the Azad Maidan on October 12, if the government does not ensure supply of good quality food items to the anganwadi centres," said Patil.
The Other Side
MD Borkhede, Joint Commissioner for ICDS (Commissionerate of Women and Child Development, Pune), said, "We have a proper system in place to ensure supply of good quality THR food items to the anganwadis.
However, we have given all project officers orders to test the food items from any national accredited lab and take necessary action against the self-help groups found supplying low quality food items. We are also working over the issue of scarcity of space for the anganwadis."