Open defecation is one of the first lessons kids pick up in most of the State’s anganwadis, if one were to go by the results of a sample survey conducted by NGO Thozhamai. The survey, sponsored by children’s welfare NGO CRY, has found that as much as 60 per cent of the anganwadis in the State have no toilets and over 70 per cent have no water, making open defecation rampant. The survey, which was released in the city on Thursday was conducted between June and December last, covering more than 500 anganwadis in 20 districts of the State.
As many as 300 (60 per cent) anganwadis of the sample lot had no toilets and 359 (71.8 per cent) had no water. “Since there were no toilets or water in most anganwadis, open defecation is the order of the day. This is even when the Central government has lauded the State’s performance in the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) front, ” said Director of Thozhamai A Devaneyam.
Another key issue thrown up by the survey was the absence of government buildings for ICDS. Over 60 per cent of the anganwadis operated in rented or other make-shift buildings.
Absence of funds has meant that many of the anganwadis functioned out of whatever space was available in the locality; some were in closed sheds with no ventilation and some were running in the premises of neighbourhood temples.
Around 30 per cent of the anganwadis had asbestos roofing, 13 per cent had damaged roofs, 11 per cent had cracked walls and 10 per cent had damaged floors. “Some of them were in such a state that the roof seemed like it would fall on the children any time,” he said.
Despite the special emphasis being laid on clean and healthy food for children in the light of the recent mid-day meal tragedy in Bihar, more than 75 per cent of the anganwadis had no separate kitchens, about 60 per cent had no electricity and around 30 per cent had no separate store rooms. In some anganwadis, food was often prepared dangerously close to the children’s area.
The study revealed that many of the anganwadis were understaffed and that the workers had too many chores to attend to. “When the scheme began, each anganwadi had five workers. Now it has just two. If this was not enough, for every government scheme - be it one for senior citizens or MNREGA or Aadhar card provision - Anganwadi workers were used,” said K G Umashankar, a development consultant who was part of the survey.
Vaccination programmes were not carried out in 16 per cent of the anganwadis. As of now, the cost incurred for vegetables, fuel and spices for meals for children were as low as Rs 0.55 paise per day for every child. The survey recommended that this be urgently revised. As per the government allowance, the amount allocated for vegetables was 29 paise per day per child and 11 paise per day per child for spices.