Doctors of a community health centre (CHC) in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district on Thursday made a shocking discovery that food supplements meant for children and pregnant women at anganwadi centres were kept in packets labelled “mince beef”, bearing a British firm’s name.
The matter was reported to the women and child department in the district, following which a probe was ordered to find out how the packets found their way into the anganwadis in villages of eastern Rajasthan. The packets of British firm Waitrose were found in at least 10 centres.
Anganwadi, meaning courtyard shelter, was started by the Indian government in 1975 as part of the integrated child development services (ICDS) programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
Children and pregnant women are given food supplements under the ICDS scheme on mother and child health day, observed every Thursday. On January 21, when a team of doctors from the Nagar CHC was inspecting the anganwadis in the area, they found that the supplements were kept in packets labelled “mince beef”.
Dr Lalit Vyas, Ayurvedic medical officer at Nagar CHC, who was part of the inspection team, said when they asked an anganwadi worker about it, she claimed to not know anything about it as the labelling was in English.
“I have reported the issue to higher officials for further action since this could spark a communal crisis,” said Dr Vyas.
The women and child development department outsources supply of food supplements to local self-help groups (SHGs).
Deputy director of the department in Bharatpur, Meenakshi Meena said Rita SHG supplied food supplements to the anganwadis where the beef packets were found. “I got this information on Thursday noon and immediately rushed to the anganwadi. I even spoke to the SHG, which said it was only today that they supplied ‘poshahar’ in these packets procured from a shopkeeper in Nagar town. We even went to the shop but couldn’t find the owner so we will go to him again on Friday to find out where he got these packets,” she said.
Rita SHG has been supplying supplements to the 10 centres where the suspicious packets were found for the last six months. Meena noted that the SHGs are actually supposed to use packets which bear their name and weight of its contents.
Banshi Gurjar of Rita SHG said the women of the group had procured the packets from a local shop and that he didn’t know what was wrong with the packets. He, however, assured the packets would not be used anymore.