HYDERABAD: The Constitution has enshrined enough safeguards for the protection of child rights and included provisions to enable children receive their share in terms of nutritious food, health and education, which contribute to their holistic development. However, even after 60 years of independence, these objectives still remain elusive and unmet.
In his book - The Integrated Child Development Services: A Flagship Adrift - retired IAS officer KR Venugopal holds up a mirror to the way the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) has been faring since its launch in 1975.
The Telugu version of the book titled Udakani Methuku will be released on April 26 in Hyderabad in the presence of principal secretary, Telangana government Suresh Chanda(health, medical & family welfare), child rights activist Shantha Sinha, former chief secretary of AP K Madhava Rao, former IAS officer Chaya Ratan, CSD member Pushpa Bhargava and director of the Deccan Development Society Satheesh among others.
The English version released in 2012 was well received but the author believes his effort to sensitise the stakeholders involved in implementation of the programme “fell flat”. Hence, the Telugu version. The book is based on the social audit of the ICDS programme carried out by the author in Anantapur district in 2008-09. Comprehensive in scope, the social audit was conducted in 154 anganwadi centres in 129 villages.
“There are reasons to believe shortcomings in the ICDS seen in Anantapur district are by no means confined to this district alone, but reflect the situation generally prevalent in the country,” the author opines. The social audit is the result of financial support of the Council for Social Development (CSD), New Delhi and various NGOs.
KR Venugopal retired in 1995 after serving in various capacities, including as secretary and additional secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) between 1990 and 1995. He represented India at several international fora - as PM’s personal representative at the SAARC Summit of 1991 and India’s chief negotiator at the UN’s preparatory process in 1994-95 for the World Summit on Social Development among others. He served as a senior policy adviser on poverty policy for SAARC in 1996. He was incharge of the ICDS programme during his stint in the Union HRD ministry. As an AP cadre IAS officer, he also helped in designing a comprehensive public distribution system for the composite State of AP in the 1980s. Venugopal has also authored Deliverance from Hunger: The Public Distribution System in India.
ICDS in a Nutshell
Sensing the need to avert a looming human resource crisis, the Central government in 1975 launched its flagship ICDS programme - commonly called the Anganwadi programme. The scheme is aimed at meeting the basic needs of health, nutrition and education of children in the age group of 0-6 years in a holistic manner through an integrated package of services. It is, perhaps, the largest such programme covering pregnant women, nursing mothers and children in the world. Such is the significance of the scheme that it continued for past 32 years.
Audit in 3 Stages
The draft report of the audit was discussed and reviewed in three stages. First, at a meeting in Anantapur attended by two Cabinet ministers, and principal secretary, women and child welfare department of the AP government. It was further fine-tuned at a meeting in Delhi with eminent experts in the field and Central government officials. The draft report was also placed before the Planning Commission for its views. The report was finalised after taking into account the views expressed by different experts.