In Bihar’s Dalit hamlets, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) has not reached over half of the eligible children in the stipulated age group of zero to six years, a survey conducted by the NGOs Bihar Lok Adhikar Manch (BLAM) and Child Rights and You (CRY) has revealed.
The survey was conducted in 20 of Bihar’s 38 districts. It covered 200 of the 45,381 ICDS centres in Dalit and Mahadalit hamlets of these districts. There are 91,677 ICDS centres in Bihar, as per the 2011 census. The survey found that only 45 per cent of the total child population in the zero to six years category were not covered by the ICDS, and the ICDS centres were not up to the mark.
Most of the ICDS centres were found to be running out of private buildings. A dismal nine per cent of them had toilet facilities, while 38 per cent had access to safe drinking water. “Even the State government’s annual report for 2011-2012 on ICDS states that only 50 per cent of the children are being covered under the scheme,” pointed out Saradindu Bandyopadhyay of CRY at a consultation held here on Sunday.
For instance, hardly “one per cent of malnourished children” in need of immediate attention were referred to healthcare centres as the anganwadi workers were not aware of the services. According to the survey, “no referral services were found” in 66 per cent of the ICDS centres surveyed. Despite good reviews of the scheme by people in certain places, “glaring gaps” remained. Although the survey had a small sample size of 200 centres, it hinted at a trend that could help strengthen the demands for improving the quality of the anganwadis, and their reach, Mr. Bandyopadhyay said.
He added that around 25 per cent of the centres “did not maintain birth and death records for disabled children.” There was also a lack of communication and coordination in the ICDS delivery chain.
Manoj Chaudhary, ICDS Procurement Officer, Bihar, said it was important to have independent ‘Anganwadi Bhavans’. If the villages were ready to give land for the purpose, the government would name the facilities as per the wish of the villagers, he said. He conceded that toilet and drinking water facilities were lacking at the centres. Mr. Chaudhary said that the expansion of ICDS in the State was on the cards. With the creation of ward-wise centres, around 40,000 centres new centres were expected to be added. Nisha Jha, the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) chairperson, welcomed the findings of the report. While saying that the government would focus on the lacunae pointed out by the report, Ms. Jha called for regulations that prevented particular families, for instance those related to the anganwadi workers and helpers, from having a monopoly over the ICDS delivery mechanism in an area or village. She favoured imposing fine in cases of violations or irregularities rather than resorting to suspending officials.