Running in a makeshift community hall, an anganwadi leaves women and children without essential services.
As the Union Budget was announced in early February 2018, over 14 lakh of anganwadi workers expressed their anger at the insufficient fund allocations for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). Anganwadi workers form the backbone of the ICDS – the Indian Government’s flagship scheme that provides a pre-school education to children between 0-6 years, as well as nutrition, immunisations and health checkups to infants and pregnant women.
Anganwadi centres, or child care centres, are the first point of contact for children and women to access these essential health benefits. VV’s Community Correspondent Arti Bai reports from Batiyagarh village, Damoh district, Madhya Pradesh on the precarious circumstances of the local centre.
Started in 1995, the anganwadi currently serves 125 children between 0-5 years, 10 pregnant women and 12 new mothers. In the past 20 years, no dedicated building has been constructed for the centre and it instead runs out of the village community centre.
“This space is used as a care and learning centre when there are no cultural or community programmes being held in the hall. If there is an event, the anganwadi has to be closed. [Its] belongings are always packed to get out at a moment’s notice,” says Arti Bai.
The ICDS and anganwadi services saw a 7% increase in the 2018-19 Union Budget. Overall though, the budget allocation on vital schemes for children, including primary education, protection and health remains low at 3.23% of the total budget. The lack of finances means that anganwadi centres don’t get built; workers don’t get the salaries they need and children and pregnant/nursing women don’t get the nutrition they need.
“The land has been surveyed and measured but the funds haven’t been sanctioned by the government,” says Imarti Sahu, the Anganwadi Attendant in Batiyagarh. She adds that they were granted the permission to build last year, but have heard no further news. Imarti now hopes that with the appointment of new officers things will move faster and that her community will get a proper anganwadi centre soon.
You can support her by calling Mr Shivrai, the Women and Child Development Project Officer for Batiyagarh on +91 7746 887 851. Ask him to ensure that a proper centre is built at the earliest.
Video from Madhya Pradesh, by Community Correspondent Arti Bai Valmiki
Article by Kayonaaz Kalyanwala, a member of the VV editorial team