- Anganwadi workers are grappling with delayed payments
- Poor infrastructure is posing a huge challenge for workers
- Budget cuts for key nutrition scheme for children causing constraints
For seven years, anganwadi worker Vandana Gangurde’s one room home has doubled up as an anganwadi for children up to the age of six. It’s the same for Suman Deshmukh who runs an anganwadi from her home in Mokhada taluka in Palghar.
For this, they get Rs 200 per month as rent from the state government but the money comes at the end of the year, they say. There are minimum 15-20 kids per anganwadi with minimum two anganwadi workers – one of them is chief and the other is a helper.
An anganwadi worker gets Rs 5000 as monthly salary, but according to workers, the payments are erratic.
For providing nutritious food to the children, the government has set that they get an egg or 4 bananas in a week.
Ms Deshmukh says, “Sometimes we get salaries after 5-6 months. The government has fixed Rs 5 per child per day but in these days of price rise, the cost of one egg is Rs 6 in the market. We have to buy from the open market and the difference in the cost often ends up going from our pockets.”
While some anganwadi workers pay the extra cost incurred from their pocket, some do not provide egg or bananas to the kids.
According to the activists, there has been a 50% cut in the budget of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme.
Minister of State Finance and Planning Deepak Kesarkar had earlier told NDTV that there has been a problem with the funds but they will ensure that no child suffers.
Tackling malnutrition isn’t limited to the issues of frontline fighters like them but also the infrastructure.
The anganwadi structure in Swaminagar village in Mokhada that has over 100 families has been in a dilapidated condition for the last four years.
The structure has developed cracks and the walls are damp and covered with moss.
Bhalchandra Kale, a resident says, “We have had officials from the administration come see the place for themselves. Yet, nothing has changed.”
Vaccination is another issue that people in tribal-dominated Palghar are grappling with.
The appointed Child Development Project Officers have been transferred and all 13 sanctioned posts are vacant. 234 posts of anganwadi staff have not been filled and two-thirds of posts of medical superintendents are vacant.
Government hospitals in two of the worst-affected talukas, Mokhada and Jawhar, are handling patients more than they are equipped to.
Tribal Affairs Minister Vishnu Savara has assured the government is serious about tackling malnutrition. “You will see the difference in two months,” he says.
So far, these assurances have done little to calm parents who are struggling to provide for with their malnourished children.