While the state boasts of having the lowest infant and child mortality rate, little effort is put in by the local bodies for the welfare of infants, especially in the case of those belonging to socially-backward areas.
A study conducted by Thiruvananthapuram-based NGO ‘Rights’ in the dalit-tribal-fishermen belt showed that anganwadis in these areas were in a neglected state. The study shows that 41 to 70 per cent anganwadis do not own buildings. However, a meagre amount of Rs 300 is provided by local bodies as rent.
Thus, most of the anganwadis in these areas function under dangerous conditions. Eventually there is no distinction between place of study, kitchen, storeroom etc, according to the study.
85 per cent of anganwadis lack electric connection while 73 per cent do not have drinking water facility. More than 50 per cent lack toilet facilities.
There is no kitchen space in 43 per cent of anganwadis and 73 per cent do not have gas connection.
These socially-backward children do not have a specific play area, toys or other study materials, according to the study.
The study was conducted in 14 panchayats across 7 districts. Of the 14 panchayats, five are in hilly areas, five in midland and four in coastal areas.
A look into the budget allocation for the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is enough to show the neglect faced by this area.
Though the state budget increased manifold during the 11th Plan period, budget allocation for the ICDS remained at 0.06 per cent. Meanwhile, there was a 60 per cent increase in the number of beneficiaries during 2005-11.
The study shows that the budget allocation for anganwadis from plan fund of local bodies was declining.
The budget allocation for anganwadis had shown a decline from 0.57 per cent in 2009-10 to 0.40 per cent in 2010-11.
Meanwhile, the budget estimate had seen a 54.03 per cent increase. Also the study finds that panchayats had no interest in allocating amounts for anganwadis from its own fund.
The budget spending of last three years had no clear record of its spending on anganwadis, which itself was a proof of local bodies neglect towards it.
‘Rights’ had conducted field survey among anganwadis in Amburi, Vithura, Puthur, Sholayar, Thirunelli, Kuttichal, Kanjiramkulam, Perumkadavila, Eraviperoor, Kurichi, Poovar, Maranelloor, Alappadu and Kadalundi.