NANDAPUR (ANGUL): Until a few months ago Rubi Sahu, a member of Mothers' Committee (MC) of Berhampur Anganwadi centre in Nandapur Panchayat of Angul district was unaware of what a child is supposed to get in a Hot Cooked Meal (HCM) and the lactating mothers should get in Take Home Ration (THR).
As a member of the Jaanch Committee (JC) of the Anganwadi centre Niyati Dehuri was supposed to know the entitlements so that she can keep a tab on the whole process, but she was never briefed about her roles and responsibilities.
Thanks to Angul Pusti Adhikar Abhiyan (APPA), an on-going community movement, the members of both the committees are now aware of the entitlements of beneficiaries enrolled under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.
"Earlier we did not know what children and women are entitled to get. Now we can realise that we were being cheated since years. Beneficiaries were not only subjected to short supply of ration, quality was also compromised more often," said Niyati.
The committees having five members each as per the prescribed guidelines now not only demand rations as per their entitlements from the supplier, but also raise their voice if they find any discrepancies. "We are now empowered. Nobody can cheat us," said Rubi.
In another Anganwadi centre at Harijan Sahi, nearly one km from Berhampur, neither the beneficiaries nor the members of the two committees have any clue about their entitlements and the guidelines. Moreover, the centre doesn't have its own building and runs in the nearby Rajiv Bhawan building.
"Forget about the entitlements, I came to know that I am member of MC two months back when the Anganwadi worker invited me for a meeting. While children in the centre are served half egg each, beneficiaries of THR have never received more than one packet of chhatua and eight eggs per month," said Sujata Behera, mother of a three-year-old.
Two Anganwadi centres located in close proximity present a picture of contrast. A recent social audit conducted in six districts in KBK region revealed that only 39 per cent (pc) beneficiaries have got their entitled THR and there is a substantial 60 pc increase in number of beneficiaries getting entitled THR from the previous year.
What is shocking is that even 44 years after the launch of ICDS, the largest nutrition scheme of the country, for early childhood care and to meet health and nutritional needs of pregnant women and lactating women, many beneficiaries are not yet aware of their entitlements.
This is the State of affairs when as per National Family Health Survey - 4, 35.3 pc of the children under 5 years of age are stunted and 35.8 pc of children are underweight in rural Odisha.
While primary responsibility of JC is to ensure that all feeding programmes maintain prescribed standards of quality and quantity, the MC is supposed to ensure proper management of ICDS services in Anganwadi centres.
More than 2000 members of MCs and JCs have been trained under the APPA campaign in Angul district so far, but it is not enough as the model should be replicated in all 30 districts. Convenor Bidyut Mohanty said things are changing after the members of the committees were sensitised on their roles and responsibilities.
"The State Government should take initiative to make the committees active after thorough sensitisation to address the nutritional deficiency among children and nursing mothers. Mobilisation of resources on training and monitoring is the need of the hour," he suggested.
Know your entitlements
- ICDS beneficiaries are supposed to get six services including supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, immunisation, health check up and nutrition and health education
- Pre-school children are entitled for raggi/besan/atta/ground nut-jaggery ladoo or sprouted moong as morning snacks
- Cooked rice with egg and vegetable curry for five days a week and rice and dalma on Monday in lunch with lemon a must for all six days
- Pregnant and lactating women and children are entitled for 12 eggs a month besides 4.9 kg and 2.45 kg of chhatua respectively under THR
Anganwadi centres are supposed to display the names of members and menu