शुक्रवार, 18 जनवरी 2008

CDPO ACCUSED OF DEMANDIING COMMISSION FROM ANGANWADI WORKERS

In Bihar, there are 60, 587 Anganwadi Centres under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) project. In Bhojpur and Buxar there are 1,658 and 1,139 Anganwadi Centres respectively.

In a 2006 study by the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development commissioned by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, it is observed that the ICDS scheme has performed considerably well. Nearly 76.2 per cent of the pregnant mothers had received tetatnus toxoid immunisation and the records of all vaccinations were maintained properly by the anganwadi centres, says the study. The institute had conducted a similar study in 1992.

Following an agitation of Anganwadi workers and helpers for recognition as government staff.

In reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha on July 31, 2006 the Minister stated that the ICDS scheme envisaged anganwadi workers and helpers as honorary workers, who volunteered to render services on a part-time basis at the anganwadi centres; that they were grassroots functionaries in view of their honorary status; and that it would not be possible to treat them as government employees. In sum, the government believes that they are `social workers'.

The role of these workers is important in a state like Bihar 65 lakh (6.5 million) families have been declared BPL.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was launched initially in 33 blocks, on October 2, 1975, that is, 30 years ago. Today, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is on of the world's largest and most unique outreach programmes for early children. It is widely acknowledged that the young child is most vulnerable to malnutrition, morbidity, resultant disability and mortality.

The Early years are the most crucial period in life., when the foundations for cognitive, social, emotional, language, physical/motor development and life long learning are laid, recognizing that early childhood development constitutes the foundation of human development, ICDS is designed to promote holistic development of children under six years, through the strengthened capacity of caregivers and communities and improved access to basic services, at the community level.

The programme is specifically designed to reach effective disparity reduction. The programme provides an integrated approach for converging basic services for improved childcare, early stimulation and learning, health and nutrition, water and environmental sanitation targeting young children, expectant and nursing mothers and women's a/ adolescent girls' groups. They are reached through nearly 60,000 trained community-based Anganwadi Workers and an equal number of helpers, supportive community structures/women's groups- through the Anganwadi centre, the groups system and in the community.

ICDS is powerful outreach programme to help achieve major national nutrition and health goals. Embodied in the National Plan of Action for Children. It also contributed to the national goal of universal primary education. ICDS provides increased opportunities for promoting early development, associated with primary stage and by releasing girls from the burden of sibling care, to enable them to participate in primary education. Poised for universal coverage by the turn of the century, ICDS today reaches out to roughly on million expectant and nursing mothers and roughly 5 Million children (under six years of age), of disadvantaged groups in Bihar. Of these, 2.5 million children (three to six years of age) participate in centre-based pre-school education activities.

The network consists of 393 projects, covering nearly, 72 percent of the state community development blocks and the services are being provided through 60587 Anganwadi Centers are as follows:

· Improve the nutritional and health status of children below the age of six years.
· Lay the foundation for the proper psychological, physical and social development of the child.
· Reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropouts.
· Achieve effective coordination of policy and implementation among various departments to promote child development.
· Enhance the capability of the mother to took after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child, through proper health and nutrition education.

Health

· Immunization
· Health check-ups
· Referral services
· Treatment of minor illnesses

Nutrition

· Supplementary feeding
· Growth monitoring and promotion
· Nutrition and Health Education (NHED) Early Childhood Care And Pre-School

Education

· To children in the age groups of three to six years.

Convergence

· Of other supportive services, such as safe drinking water, environmental sanitation, women's empowerment programmes, non-formal education and adult literacy.

In the three-decade-old Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), anganwadi workers and helpers play the key role in its implementation.

Anganwadi workers are involved in various government schemes such as pre-school and health education, maintenance of records of births and deaths, administration of pulse-polio drops, and provision of supplementary nutrition to pregnant and lactating mothers and children up to the age of six. Their services are used to achieve family planning targets. They constitute the backbone of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), completed 32 years. The ICDS is a major Central government programme administered by the Women and Child Development Departments in the States.
On November 28, 2001, the Supreme Court directed the Central and State governments to ensure that there was a functional anganwadi (child-care centre) in every settlement. In April 2004, the court reaffirmed that the ICDS should be universalised without delay to cover all habitations.

On September 22, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, in keeping with its to "universalise the ICDS scheme to provide a functional anganwadi in every settlement and ensure full coverage for all children", sanctioned 467 additional ICDS projects and 1,88,168 anganwadi centres.

Anganwadi centres are required to impart pre-school education, the prime objectives of which are to motivate children to attend school and to improve retention. According to All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, there are six lakh anganwadis in the country as against an estimated 17 lakhs required for universal coverage.
Supplementary nutrition is provided to 3.4 crore children, as opposed to 16 crore children (half of whom are undernourished) in the zero to six age group.

In the Health and Family Welfare Department, the anganwadi worker's job is to create awareness about oral rehydration therapy, upper respiratory tract infections, and directly observed treatment system for tuberculosis and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and provide education on birth control methods.

The responsibilities of these workers vary from State to State. In some States, they are required to conduct surveys to identify below-poverty-line families and diseases such as leprosy and filariasis, and even help in cattle census. Under the ICDS, they are required to work for four hours a day but usually put in eight to nine hours given these extra responsibilities.

ICDS itself needs to be institutionalised and converted into a regular department and integrated with the Department of Women and Child Development. Lack of funds is often cited as a reason for the non-regularisation of anganwadi employees.

At present the centres cater to meeting the supplementary nutrition demands of infants.

The Child Development Project Officers [CDPO] demands commissions from these women to release the honorarium. Anganwadi workers have to make appeals at various levels repeatedly, from the sarpanch to the CDPO, to get their due. The Federation also received complaints from its members in several States.

Barring anganwadi workers, others employed under the ICDS either hold a regular job or are on contract.
They are not regular government employees and yet people see them as government representatives. Still it is the anganwadi workers that have to face the music, not the sarpanch or the CDPO.

Anganwadi workers suffer all forms of exploitation. They are expected to reach the block headquarters at any cost, whenever meetings are held. In the process, they are exposed to several risks. In several States, in the name of empowering the panchayats, the sarpanchs are authorised to sign the attendance certificates of anganwadi workers. Often these women would be told to come in the evening or in the night to collect the certificates.

An anganwadi worker gets an honorarium of Rs.1,000 a month and a helper Rs.500. The Federation has collected 10 million signatures from the beneficiaries of anganwadi services and submitted them to the Women and Child Development Department at the Centre.

Only the Left parties have supported the demand for the regularisation of anganwadi workers. After all, the demand is in the interest of child and maternal mortality. The NAC has stated that the best means of providing immediate protection to vulnerable children is to universalise and improve the ICDS. According to the National Family Health Survey 1998-99, nearly half of all Indian children are undernourished and the country has the highest level of child under-nutrition in the world, along with Bangladesh and Nepal.

The allocation for the ICDS is itself low. It is barely Rs.1,600 crores (as per the 2004-05 Budget) and the combined expenditure is less than one-tenth of 1 per cent of India's gross domestic product. The reach of the ICDS has to be tripled in order to provide essential health and nutrition services to 16 crore children.

Anganwadi workers have waited for 32 years for a policy to regularise their services. The entire ICDS infrastructure has to be strengthened, financially and administratively.
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