Chennai's relocated children at risk of malnutrition due to inadequate anganwadis
Only 11 of the 58 anganwadis are functioning at the relocation sight in Perumbakkam.
CHENNAI: The children relocated from the informal settlements in Chennai to the city’s outskirts are deprived of nutrition and childcare as the resettlement colonies have insufficient anganwadis.
According to officials, only 11 anganwadis are functioning out of the 58 built by the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board in Perumbakkam, a resettlement colony located 25 kilometres away from the city.
Out of these 11 centres, only six have been full-fledgedly run by the Integrated Child Development Services, a central government childcare development program. The board officials said that the other five are being run with the help of sub-staff from outside,
With near to thousand families having been relocated over the past month, the children are prone to malnutrition, productive pre-schooling, and also loss of income for parents.
G Sarala, a mother of a 2-year-old child, said that she is not able to go to work as there is no place to leave her child for care facility.
‘‘Earlier, we gave our children to neighbours and went for daily work. Here, since the Anganwadis are insufficient, we can’t do that also,’’ added Sarala.
In their previous neighbourhood, the residents gave their children to their neighbours, whom they were familiar with. However, in Perumbakkam, since they are housed among unknown neighbours, the residents find it unsafe to leave their children to the neighbours.
In Anganwadis, children get healthy food including dal and egg but here children miss that also. Since most of the relocated residents are below the poverty line, the childcare centers are a necessity for them.
‘‘With the child on our hips, we clean the house, cook, and take care of them. This can’t continue forever, as we also need to go out and earn some hundreds for a livelihood,’’ added Sarala.
Residents said that even the existing Anganwadis do not have proper facilities like fans, utensils and gas cylinders. During a visit, Express found that some Anganwadis functioned from the slum tenement buildings itself. It lacked a play area too.
According to an assessment report jointly done by the Information and Resource Centre For The Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), New Delhi, 25 percent of the functioning centres did not have basic education material.
In September 2019, the IRCDUC in its petition to South Chennai DMK Parliamentarian Tamilizhachi Thangapandian wrote that 5 childcare centres in Perumbakkam did not have teachers nor helping workers. The petition also stressed on the need for ten more centres in the area.
Following this, the MP wrote a letter to TNSCB in October requesting the board to provide all the basic facilities to the relocated people at the earliest. However, TNSCB officials cited lack of funds and staff with ICDS as a reason for the delay in taking over Anganwadis.
Policy Researcher Vanessa Peter of IRCDUC told Express there was a lack of data of the total number of children ageing between zero and five. ‘‘Lack of funds can’t be cited as a reason when it comes to children. If there was a proper social impact assessment before relocation, this would not happen,’’ she said.
She added that women from the relocated community itself can be appointed in Anganwadis to take care of children.
‘‘Even when different communities bring the crisis of Perumbakkam through research reports and petitions, no action has been taken. This is an act of negligence,’’ she added.
1) Number of Anganwadis required: 79
2) 11 out of 58 Anganwadi buildings occupied
3) Only 6 centres have regular staff
4) 3 centres does not have adequate vessels, gas connection
5) 4 centres lack pre-school education materials, wall paintings