Technical glitches in app lead to troubles for anganwadi workers

Starting August 17, anganwadi workers have started returning the insufficient phones provided to them the Centre to the state women and child department (WCD).
Anganwadi workers have returned around 1,000 mobile phones so far. (HT FILE)
Anganwadi workers have returned around 1,000 mobile phones so far. (HT FILE)
Updated on Aug 19, 2021 11:52 PM IST
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ByRupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai

Arti Salve, 39, an anganwadi worker (AW) in Beed, bought a smartphone worth 4,000 in April 2020 for her 12-year-old son’s online school education. But since last month, she has taken away his phone to upload details including photographs of malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating mothers on the centralised application — Poshan Tracker. The smartphone with 2GB RAM that the Centre gave to her in 2019 is unable to support the Poshan Tracker, and Salve doesn’t have the money to buy another smartphone for herself.

“We are responsible for collecting data on height and weight of kids to maintain a record of malnourished children, as well as daily data on lactating mothers and pregnant women. This work can’t be done by sitting at home. We are always on the field even amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Salve who gets 6,000 as monthly remuneration.

Salve’s story is not an isolated case. There are around 125,000 anganwadi workers in the state, earning a monthly income between 4,500 and 8,000, depending on their years of experience, who are facing the same hurdle with smartphones and the app.

Getting no recourse despite repeated complaints and grievances, starting August 17, AWs have started returning the insufficient phones to the state women and child department (WCD) that will continue till the end of this month, as a mark of protest. Since the launch of the protest at least 1,000 phones have been returned, said MA Patil from Maharashtra Rajya ASHA Gatpravatak Karamchari Kruti Samiti.

Warranty period is over, AWs asked to pay from their pockets

Around six months ago, under the Union women and child development ministry, Poshan Tracker app was launched in India with an aim to monitor nutritional outcomes in real-time which will be vital in improving maternal and child health.

“The app keeps hanging every time they try to upload a photo. So, they have to reinitiate the uploading process repeatedly,” said Patil.

The warranty of the phones expired in March. Since then, AWs have to pay for repair from their own pockets, which becomes financially constraining. “These phones are not of good quality. So, often cameras malfunction or hardware gets damaged. Hence, these need repairing which costs between 500 to 2,000. AWs with such a low salary cannot afford it,” added Patil.

Not wanting to stop their work, many AWs like Salve have started using their private phones. However, AWs are not getting the money to charge their internet package. “AWs get 599 for a three-month package. But those who are using their private phones are not getting the money. So, they are paying the money from their pockets,” said Kamal Parulekar, secretary, Anganwadi Sevika Union.

Additionally, there have also been reports that the app is infringing the privacy of Aws, as without their authorisation the app is automatically uninstalling social media apps like Facebook among others.

In July first week, Anganwadi Karmachari Sabha approached the Bombay high court (HC) seeking intervention in the matter. “The payment of AWs’ honorarium is linked to logging in data into the app. These technical errors are affecting the income of AWs. We have, therefore, approached HC with the demand that the pay shouldn’t get deducted,” said Patil.

Anganwadi workers have filed complaints with state WCD minister Yashomati Thakur who claimed that the Central government has not released the fund. Despite repeated attempts, Thakur was unavailable for a comment.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, many families have lost their livelihood which has affected their income. This has also affected the nutritional intake among children which can increase cases of malnutrition in the state, said activists. “Thus, it is essential to maintain accurate data for the formulation of policies and schemes. If this continues, it will have a long-term impact on the health of children and mothers amid the ongoing pandemic,” said Parulekar.

Poshan Tracker riddled with loopholes

“Almost 90% of anganwadi workers have completed Class 10 and have mostly studied in Marathi medium schools. They cannot read English, but the application is completely in English. On a daily basis, they have to seek help from neighbours or their children to fill up the forms,” said Patil.

Also, there is no option to delete a form. “So, if someone has typed a wrong name in English, AWs cannot delete it from the app. This is leading to inaccurate reporting,” Parulekar.

The application doesn’t upload updated information automatically which is further hindering the nutrition plan of the needy children and mothers. The nutrition scheme of the children is divided into three age-wise categories — newborn to six-month-olds; six-month to three-year-olds, and three-year to six-year-olds. But when a three-year-old child becomes a year older, the application doesn’t update it. Thus, the child keeps getting a nutrition package of the second age category.

Similarly, women remain enlisted in the category of pregnant even after her delivery. So, she keeps getting the nutrition package of a pregnant woman. Whereas the nutrition requirement of a lactating mother is completely different,” said Parulekar.

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Sunday, December 05, 2021