The Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Amrut Ahar Yojna offered to carry/lactating tribal women was meant to arrest severe malnutrition among tribal kids. Launched on completion of one year of Fadnavis government with much fanfare, this ‘flagship scheme’ now stands as a classic example of how poor planning and bad homework can mess up even best of the projects. This is one hot full meal that the government will serve.
Most anganwadis in the state are yet to start the scheme, as funds were awaited till as late as this week, thanks to complex fund transfer mechanism. To make things worse, the tribal development department hasn’t made any budgetary provision for cooking-gas and utensils.
The Tribal development department is spearheading the scheme in collaboration with the Women and Child Development Department. The officials had also visited Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to study similar “successful schemes” before the scheme was rolled out here. A visit to another Anganwadi at Shramiknagar had more to reveal. Three of the five women, who were having a meal on the day, said that it was the first time they are having it while the other two said it was their second meal. This was despite the Anganwadi staff claiming that the meal was being served for many days now.
As DNA inquired with the officials of other districts, it emerged that the anganwadis, which are supposed to run the show, has already raised the red flag due to lack of funds and resources.
An official pointed out, “The money is being transferred from the accounts of tribal commissionerate to chief executive officer Zilla Parishad to the chief development project officer of Integrated Child Development Scheme before it reaches the joint account of anganwadis. This is taking months.” The deadlock has led to a situation that the most beneficiaries are neither getting ready-food as per the previous scheme nor the new ‘hot rich meal’.
Also, among the 1.2 lakh-odd anganwadis in the state, close to 70% don’t have own cooking facilities, said sources. “We don’t have kitchen or gas connection. Food for kids is being procured from the nearby self-help groups. The scheme offers Anganwadi sevika Rs 250 a month as remuneration for cooking. From this meagre amount, I can’t ask them to find money for fuel,” said Sandhya Deshmukh, who supervises over 60 anganwadis in Igatpuri taluka.
- The scheme offers every tribal woman in her third trimester of pregnancy a free and nutritious hot cooked meal of her choice, every day, which will be continued for three months after delivery so that the babies will be healthy.
- The menu constitutes bhakri/roti, rice, pulses, green vegetables (cooked in iodized salt), jaggery, groundnut laddoos and boiled eggs/banana/nachni halwa and soy milk.
- Tribal secretary Rajagopal Devara admitted, “Some operational issues exist. After your feedback, we would sort them out at earliest.” However, he claimed that the scheme does have provision for fuel (Re 1 per person) and most anganwadis have cooking facilities. “Those who are giving excuses don’t want to implement the scheme,” said Devara, indirectly pointing out at the non-cooperation on part of ICDS officials. He also assured to ease out the complex fund transfer mechanism.