Fifteen years after the formation of Jharkhand, more than half of anganwadi centres in the state are still running in rented accommodations, a document from the state child and woman welfare department has revealed.
Out of the 38,432 anganwadi centres in the state, only 18,935 have their own buildings, while the remaining 19,497 run in rented quarters, the document says.
State social welfare minister Louis Marandi claimed that the anganwadi centres were running on rent due to unavailability of land. “No availability of land caused a delay in construction of anganwadi centres. Once we get the land, we will have our own buildings for all anganwadis,” Marandi said.
The anganwadi, which literally translates to “courtyard shelter” in Hindi, is a government sponsored child-care and mother-care center in India. It caters to children in the 0-6 age group. They were started by the Central government in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition.
In Jharkhand, anganwadi centres play a crucial role due to the high rate of malnutrition in the state, particularly among the tribe groups. According to Unicef’s Rapid Survey on Children report for 2013-14, 47% children in the state are stunted while 42% are underweight.
However, the proportion of stunting among children in the tribal state has fallen from 49.8% a decade ago. There has been similar improvement in other measures of malnutrition in the state. The malnutrition rate among children under the age of five has fallen from 56.5% to 42.1%.
Activists claim that running these centres on rented accommodation causes several problems including dearth of space, lack of pre-school education for children and hurdles in medical checkup of pregnant and lactating mothers.
“In many villages, anganwadis do not have the space to keep food grains. So, they keep it in separate storerooms, many of which are unhygienic,” said Anup Hore, Right to Education and Right to Food activist from NGO Plan India.
Hore said that technically there should be an anganwadi centre for every 700 people. Jharkhand has a population of 32.9 million, which means it should have at least 47,000 anganwadi centres, and falls short by 8,000 at present.
State social welfare director Ravindar Prasad Singh said that around 6,000 new anganwadi centres were being constructed under the 13th finance commission. “Land is a problem in urban areas, not rural…We will have new anganwadis very soon,” he said.