Sunday, 5 June 2011

MALNUTRITION: India: Apology for an anganwadi

Uttam Mukherjee, May 25, 2011,

LOHARDAGA: Anganwadi centres, originally started by the central government in 1975, to combat child hunger and malnutrition, are languishing under apathy and neglect, at least in Lohardaga. The 10-year-old centre at Oyena-Alakdiha village can safely be singled out as a typical example of the state of anganwadis across the district.
While the focus of the centres, run by women helpers called sahayikas and sevikas, is to provide nutritious food to under-five children and their mothers, the ambit of the centres was expanded over the years to include games and creative activities for all-round development of pre-school children. however, children at Oyena-Alakdiha centre can only be seen playing with their food plates, till the time some boiled rice is slapped on to them in the name of a nutritious meal. For its 40 registered but the average presence of 25 children, the centre has only two small plastic balls (of tennis ball size) and a pair of play pots in the name of activities, apart from the single dose of rice served to the children daily.
On Monday Leelavati Devi, a non-matriculate sevika, was not present at the three-room centre. About 22 children were playing with their plates waiting for rice being cooked by sahayika Manki Devi on the same verandah at about 11 am.
When asked what facilities the centre offered, Leelavati counted a couple of kitchen utensils, a register, rice, two balls and a pair of play pots. About the absence of slates, a weighing machine, activity charts, a noticeboard and sports kits, she said, "Sab saman kharidna hai par paisa nahin mila hai (have to buy everything but money has not been provided)."
The sahayika blamed Leelavati for not taking enough interest in teaching the children. "The sevika does not take any interest in the education of the children. Most of the time she stays away," said the sahayika, adding that she cooks with whatever ingredients that are given to her by the sevika. She further accused her of not spending money on nutritious food for the children.
Apart from lack of hygiene and cleanliness, the small toilet built outside the centre looked non-usable because of lack of proper walls and a door for privacy. Neither was there a septic tank. The toilet was built last winter.
District social welfare officer, L S Kureel, when contacted said he would look into the matter and take action.

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