Facing flak for failing to check the high rate of child malnourishment, the Women & Child Development Ministry (WCD) is gearing up to revamp one of the country’s oldest programmes to monitor health and nutrition of children under six years.
The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a crucial centrally-sponsored scheme launched in 1975 to address maternal as well as child health and nutrition issues, has not been very effective in tackling the high rate of malnutrition in children. India has 42% — one of the highest in the world — of malnourished children in the 0-6 age group.The move to revamp the programme comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement on August 15 that an improved ICDS would be implemented in six months' time.
As part of this, the WCD that implements the scheme has proposed to increase the ICDS budget up to three times in the 12th Plan. In the 11th plan period (2007-12), Rs44,400 crore was allocated.
It has also proposed to construct permanent childcare centres (anganwadis), which serve as the last-mile link between the programme and its beneficiaries, so that parameters that can impact nutrition, like clean toilets, drinking water and clean kitchen can be provided.
At present, 74% of the 11 lakh functional centres run from permanent structures. Of these, while just 26 are run from government buildings, the remaining operate from school premises or rented buildings. Only 57% of the total centres have drinking facilities, 46% have toilets and 25% have separate kitchen.
Sources said WCD minister has finalised the proposal and sent it to the Planning Commission for its approval.
The ministry also plans to increase the staff strength at anganwadis and raise their working hours from four to six hours.