Three years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced his government's decision to revamp one of the country's oldest child nutrition programme, that had failed to address India's abysmal maternal and child health track record, the cabinet Monday approved a nearly three-fold increase in the scheme's budget.
The cabinet also cleared the proposal of the women & child development (WCD) ministry to convert the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) into mission mode and approved Rs. 1,23,580 crore for the scheme during the 12th Plan (2012-17) period. In the 11th plan period, Rs. 44,400 crore was allocated for the scheme.
ICDS launched in 1975 to adress nutritional concerns of children in the 0-6 age group, pregnant and lactating mothers has failed miserably. India continues to have one of the highest - 42% - of malnourished children in the world.
Even the Prime Minister, in January, described it as a "national shame." Poor infrastructure, lack of resources, overburdened staff, lax monitoring leading to pilferage and poor enforcement has reduced the efficacy of this child intervention program.
"The restructured ICDS will focus mainly on early childhood development. It will target 200 high burden districts - which have the highest prevalence of malnourished children - each year till 2017," WCD minister Krishna Tirath told HT.
Besides, the staff strength at child care centres (anganwadi's) will be increased. The working time of these centres is also being increased from four to six hours. Special centres would be set up periodically to monitor growth of severely malnourished children.
As part of strengthening and restructuring of ICDS scheme, the WCD ministry has set a target to prevent and reduce young child under-nutrition by 10 percentage points in 0-3 years, enhance early development and learning outcomes in all children below six years of age and improve care and nutrition of girls and women and reduce anaemia prevalence in young children, girls and women by one-fifth during the plan period.
A look at ICDS:
•ICDS badly managed ever since its inception in 1975.
•Poor infrastructure, lack of resources, overburdened staff, lax monitoring leading to pilferage reduced its efficacy.
•At present 74% of the 11 lakh functional centres run from buildings, either of its own or rented.
•Of these only 57 % have drinking facilities, 46% have toilets and 25% have separate kitchen.