The city has 500 anganwadi centres, mostly being run in colonies. Anganwadis enroll children up to six years of age and these centres look after the children till noon when the mid-day meal is served to them. The anganwadis centres are being run under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) of the social welfare department of Chandigarh.
Majority of the buildings from where anganwadis are being run are in pathetic shape, which is evident from the meager sum of Rs 750 each centre get from the government for paying rent and upkeep of the accommodation.
The staff at the anganwadis claimed that no one was interested in their problems. The deterioration in the conditions at the government-run crèches and anganwadis started after 2007, when the honorary secretary of Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW) was made the UT director, social welfare.
Most of the anganwadis don’t conduct hobby classes nor they have sets of toys to sharpen their brains.
The Hindustan Times team found that anganwadis were being run as a formality with little scope for their mental development due lack of space and trained staff. Children are confined to a room for about four to five hours till their parents come to pick them up. In the anganwadis, majority of the children are from families belonging to the lower strata of society.
Commenting on the prevailing situation at the childcare centres, the general secretary ICCW employees’ union Bihari Lal, said “Somebody’s responsibility needs to be fixed. In every crèche there is one problem or the other but no one listens to us. To give quality and safe environment to the children, the authorities need to get a little more serious or else the situation will worsen further.”
In a small dull room around 15 kids are confined and the building has not been renovated for years. The kids are made to sit on a sheet of cloth with hardly any toys to play. The staff say the authorities don’t respond to complaints and they have to make some stop-gap arrangements on their own.
In a 9-foot by 15-foot room as many as 25 kids have to sit or play. To make the matters worse, the room also has belongings of a former tenant. There are no toys for the little ones. Children have to drink the tap water stored in a container. There is hardly any space to children to play.
The small room here accommodates as many as 20 children, with hardly any toys to play with. Water shortage in absence of a storage tank makes the things worse.