Governance · Law · Public Policy

Integrated Child Development Scheme: The Propitious Years

“There is no trust more sacred than the one world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they can grow up in peace.” – Kofi Annan

Poverty is one of the primary issue hindering the growth and development of our country.  As a matter of fact India is home to largest young population in the world with one third of its population below the age of 18 years of age.  The majority of children in India have an underprivileged childhood and they grow up without having an access to basic amenities like health care, food, shelter, education, etc. According to the official data, 1 out of 16 children die before they attain the age of 1, and 1 out of 11 die before they attain the age of 5. When a child takes birth in India the most important concern is survival. According to a report on the status of India’s new born, the health challenges faced by newborns in India are bigger than those experienced by any other country in the world. Around 2.5 million children die in India every year, accounting for one in five deaths in the world, with girls being 50% more likely to die.

In 1972 inter-ministerial survey revealed that child care programs in India were not having the desired results due to various reasons including lack of resources, inadequate coverage, and fragmented approach. It was against this background that Integrated Child Development Scheme was launch in 1975 with 33 projects all over the country, in accordance to the National Policy for Children in India. The Integrated Child Development Scheme typifies one of world’s largest and most unique programs for early childhood development. This scheme focuses on the challenge to provide proper healthcare facilities, education, food, etc to children in order to break the endless loop of mortality rate, malnutrition, lack of education, among others. It also seeks to empower mothers to take better care of their children.

Objectives of Integrated Child Development Scheme are:

  • To improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age group of 0-6 years.
  • To lay the foundation for proper psychological, social and physical development of the child.
  • To reduce the incidents of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout.
  • department to promote child development, and
  • To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.

There are various services under IDCS to fulfill its goal and objectives. Anganwadi is one the key mechanism which serves the purpose of ICDS scheme. It was started by the Indian government as a part of the ICDS scheme to overcome the issue of malnutrition and child hunger. Anganwadi centers in villages provide multiple healthcare facilities to women and children including contraceptive counseling and supply, nutrition education and supplementation as well as pre-school activities.

The ICDS was started in 33 areas in 1975 and in the next fifteen years the outreach of ICDS increased to 2426 blocks. Basically it doubled in its next fifteen years of growth. Presently there are around 6000 blocks. It is recommended that there must be one Anganwadi centre (AWC) per 1000 population in rural/urban areas and per 700 populations in tribal areas. Under the direction of Honorable Supreme Court of India in 2004, population norms for sanctioning an AWC were relaxed. Revised norms are one AWC per 800 populations in rural/urban areas and 500 populations in tribal area. As of November 2011, there were 13 lakh AWCs/mini AWCs operational in India, which is 95% of the sanctioned number. However in 2004, a review from Bihar showed that ICDS is operational in only 44% of the blocks in the state. Efforts are being made to universalize the scope of ICDS so as to ensure its outreach to every settlement and each child. The evaluation of the ICDS at the national level has been conducted by only two authorities. One has been conducted by National Institute of Public Co-operation and Child Development (NIPCCD) in 1992, and the second by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) IN 1998. The NIPCCS and NCAER study covered almost 90% of the States and Union Territories. According to their study:

  • NCAER study in 2001 reported that 40% of AWC had pucca structures, 50% had adequate cooking spaces and 75% AWC reported to have weighing scales. In 2006, a study by the NIPCCD found that around 75% of AWC had pucca structures, more than 90% had weighing scales, but less than half had toilet facility and learning kits.
  • Most of the functionaries were residing in the village which gave them adequate time for dispensing services and for building rapport with the community.
  • One out of two AWWs was found to be educated at least upto matriculate level across the country. Gujarat and Rajasthan had the lowest percentage of matriculate functionaries.
  • About 84% of the functionaries had received training, and the training was mainly pre-service training. In-service training remained largely neglected.
  • On an average, an AWC functioned for 24 hrs out of 30 days in a month for about 4 hours each. Environmental factors did not affect their functioning.
  • It was found that co-ordination between departments at the micro level had been weak. The main problem appeared to be lack of supervisory staff.
  • On an average, nearly 66% of the children and 75% of the eligible women were registered at AWCs.
  • It was found that 80% of the children were immunized against all major diseases.
  • The importance of supplementary nutrition and pre-school education has been widely recognized, inadequate availability of inventories, supply of poor food items and inadequate space were the major obstacles.

Recently, the government has introduced a five tier monitoring and review mechanism at different levels (National/State/District/Block and Anganwadi) in order to strengthen the performance of the ICDS. This introduction has been a result of emerging irregularities in the ICDS scheme. Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has attributed these irregularities to absence of a system of monitoring from the last 40 years of ICDS existence. The main problem highlighted by the government is lack of training of Anganwadi workers and lack of check on the quality and quantity of food distribution by Anganwadi workers. The Ministry of Women and Child Development seeks to solve this problem by providing Anganwadi workers with tablets for real time monitoring of nutrition levels of food, and nutrition laboratories will be set up to test the quality of food being supplied under ICDS scheme. The scheme of Sneh Shivirs is being implemented in 200 districts in which a community approach is being followed by forming team of mothers. Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi had said in a conference,”It has been observed that this approach has made a substantial difference to the nutrition level of children/pregnant mothers.” To conclude, ICDS scheme is a notable platform for improving the condition of children and mothers in India. The outreach of ICDS increased enormously during eighth, ninth and tenth five year plan. With improved infrastructure and basic amenities, it has wide potential to improve the health and mental conditions of children in India.

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About the Author

Ankita SrivastavaAnkita Srivastava is a first year law student pursuing her 3 year LL.B. from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. She has completed her graduation in Political Science from Miranda House, Delhi University. Besides LL.B, she is learning Spanish as well. She is a trained paralegal. Her hobbies include reading, travelling, watching movies and playing guitar.

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