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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

A moving roof and other failures

Neha Ghatpande, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, December 13, 2010
First Published: 00:40 IST(13/12/2010) | Last Updated: 00:41 IST(13/12/2010)

Their brief is complicated as it is - round up the neighbourhood children and sign them up at the local aanganwadi or government crèche, weigh and inoculate them regularly, keep track of their health, feed them at least one square meal, monitor the health of pregnant women and lactating mother, and keep an eye on the health of teenaged girls.

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Most aanganwadi workers must reach out personally to overcome superstitious fears and caste and communal barriers before they can get the children under one roof to begin with.

And then the roof moves.

"In my eight years, I have shifted almost seven times," said Kavita Jadhav, 32, who manages an aanganwadi in Wadala, central Mumbai.

Since Mumbai's aanganwadis, which are part of the national Integrated Child Development Scheme, don't have their own buildings, they operate out of rented rooms and community halls.

If the rent arrives late, the crèche is forced to move, forcing the underpaid and overworked staff to start from scratch.

"It's no better if we are operating out of a community hall," said Bharati Bagul, 41, an aanganwadi worker in Dharavi for 17 years.

"Every time there is a religious function or community event, we have to close the aanganwadi for the day, or change the timings, leaving parents confused."

Rajesh Kumar, commissioner of the Integrated Child Development Scheme in Maharashtra, admitted that the lack of space was a problem.

"Aanganwadis face infrastructure problems because of lack of land. We are trying to tie up with the municipal corporation or area development authority to get some space alotted."

Space, however, is not the only problem. At Jadhav's aanganwadi in Wadala, for instance, there are no toilets and no running water. It was the same in six of the seven such crèches HT visited across Mumbai.

The Wadala crèche had no windows either. "Hygiene cannot be maintained in these 100-square-feet rooms with 30 children eating together," said Vijay Dohiphode, project supervisor at LIFE Trust India, which has been working with the scheme for the betterment of aanganwadis for three years.

"And children eventually use the streets as their toilet because there isn't one at their government-run crèche," he said.


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