Patna: It was meant to be a scheme to wipe out hunger and malnutrition and ensure basic education for children. Under the Integrated Child Development Services launched in 1975, many states set up anganwadis that offered a range of services to pregnant women, young mothers and children in the under-five age group.
Running the anganwadi centres in Bihar is, however, emerging as quite a challenge. Less than half the centres in the state open daily; and of the children enrolled in them, less than half show up.
"In view of the poor functioning of the anganwadi centres, the government has initiated several measures to improve them," Social Welfare Minister Parveen Amanullah told a news agency in an interview.
"Only 46 percent anganwadi centres open daily; the presence of children at the centres that open is low. On an average, 24 of 46 children come to a centre," the minister said, citing two surveys, one of which was conducted under the aegis of Britain`s Department for International Development.
The minister, however, expressed confidence that the functioning of the centres could be substantially improved in just a year`s time: "We are committed to improving the functioning of anganwadi centres, and we have taken steps to ensure that there is a marked improvement in a year`s time," she said.
Punitive action has been taken against officials found wanting in the discharge of their duties: 1,593 anganwadi sevikas (workers, mostly women) have been relieved of their charge; three Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) have been dismissed, 35 have been suspended and 20 others face punishment. Departmental proceedings have also been initiated against some women supervisors and clerks.
In a bid to keep a closer watch on the anganwadi centres, the social welfare department has decided to introduce web-based reporting of the functioning.
"By making monthly reports of the centres available online, Bihar has become the first state in the country to implement web-based reporting of the functioning of anganwadis," Rajit Punhani, secretary, department of social welfare, said.
Punhani was sanguine that the web-based reporting would also help check corruption. "Details of anganwadi centres, including distribution of take-home ration and presence of children, will be available online," he said.
The department has also introduced the e-dak software that will facilitate instant communication with CDPOs.
Punhani said that the web facility already covers 60,603 of the state`s 80,000 anganwadi centres.
About 6.5 million children, 2.3 million adolescents and 1.3 million pregnant or lactating women are covered by the different programmes offered under the ICDS in the state.