The Bombay high court on Monday directed the state government to form a high-level committee for identifying space for anganwadis to be started in slums across the city.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Roshan Dalvi has also directed the committee to consider the issue of merging balwadis and anganwadis so as to ensure effective implementation of the integrated child development scheme (ICDS) in the city slums.
The directive came after Vandana Krishnan, secretary, women and child development department informed the judges that though some anganwadis are being run under ICDS in Mumbai, the quality of services provided was very poor primarily because of lack of adequate space.
The judges also directed the state to increase its contribution towards provision of nutritious food distributed to children through anganwadis. The directive came after Krishnan pointed out that the present financial provision was grossly inadequate for handing over contracts to self-help groups or women’s organisations for supplying cooked food with even minimum constituents – 500 grams of calories and 10 grams of proteins.
According to her, the present contribution of Rs2 per child per day by the state and the Centre totaling was grossly inadequate and as per the market price of the calories and proteins plus labour charges and transportation cost, provision of at least Rs10 per child per day is required.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation, filed by city-based activist Simantini Dhuru, seeking directions to the state and the Centre to provide compulsory pr-primary education and primary childhood care in schools across Maharashtra apart from raising concern about apathetic approach towards the norms and standards set by the Centre for pre-school teachers’ programme.
As on Monday, 84,854 anganwadi centres covering 29,56,471 children aged between 3 to 6 years are run across Maharashtra. Only persons having pre-primary education certificate ought to be treated as eligible for teacher at pre-primary level, said Dhuru. In Maharashtra, untrained anganwadi teachers are appointed resulting in the deterioration of quality of pre-primary education.