New Delhi: As many as 775 children and eight pregnant women, enrolled in the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme of the Delhi government under which nutritious food and health facilities are provided to underprivileged women and children, died last year, a RTI reply says.
In a reply to an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act filed by child rights activist Manish Bhatnagar, an ICDS official said: "According to record, the number of children enrolled in ICDS scheme who died in Delhi last year was 775."
Eight pregnant women enrolled also died last year.
The ICDS scheme is a pilot project of the Delhi government`s women and child development department with an aim to improve nutritional and health status of children below six years and reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition.
"In 2009, seven pregnant women and 882 children enrolled with the ICDS died," the official said.
Women and child development department director Rajiv Kale said: "The mortality rate is not so high. We are covering approximately 727,000 children and only around one percent of them died."
Bhatnagar said: "The reason behind the deaths is yet unknown. However, the number of deaths is alarming as the scheme provides health facilities and food to children who are economically deprived in Delhi."
Ranjana Kumari, Centre for Social Research director, said: "The death figure is high. A total of 775 kids died in Delhi in 365 days. It is a matter of concern."
"There is need for serious investigation into the circumstances under which the deaths took place. People responsible for this must be punished and the government should be accountable," Ranjana Kumari said.
Currently, 55 projects are functioning under the ICDS in various parts of Delhi, covering approximately 727,000 children up to the age of six as well as pregnant and nursing mothers.
In addition, supplementary nutrition is being provided under the scheme to 648,000 children and women through 6,606 anganwadi centres.
Supplementary nutrition is provided at the rate of Rs 5 per child, Rs 5.30 per woman and Rs 6 per malnourished child per day for about 300 days in a year.
In partnership with the Delhi Social Welfare Board and non-government organisations, 60 anganwadi centres are also functional.
Six services -- non-formal pre-school education, supplementary nutrition programme,
nutrition and health education, immunisation, health check-up and referral services -- are being provided to the beneficiaries covered under these centres.
The ICDS services were started in India with 33 projects all over the country on October 02, 1975. It was launched in response to the challenge of meeting the holistic need of the child.