INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICE: AN ANALYSIS
Priyamvada Singh, 3rd Year, Galgotias University
Recent data shows that almost two-thirds of Indians are victims of poverty. This aggregates for a majority of them being poor. The average expenditure of approximately 70% of India’s population amounts to a total of Rs. 150/- only. This translates to around $2 per day. To put this into perspective, the minimum wage in the United States is approximately $8 per hour. This is roughly Rs. 4,000 every sixty minutes!
Going by these standards, India is one of the biggest sufferers of poverty in the world. The vulnerable, i.e.- the children, women, and senior citizens- take the worst hit of these statistics. Being the fourth worst-hit country in the world of COVID-2019, the problem’s magnitude has increased manifold.
Since India is the largest democracy in the world, and the seventh-largest country too. Thus, the problem of poverty translates itself on large scales too- and is quite evident- even in the biggest cities- including the nation’s capital New Delhi, financial capital- Mumbai, Calcutta, and even Bangalore. A majority of these children live in the poorest of slums, in a life of undignified despair- sans basic amenities like drinking water, electricity, or even garbage disposal. Often many of these lose their lives because of illnesses arising out of these conditions.
In a desperate attempt to escape these living conditions, these children are often forced into child labour, child marriage, and even trafficking, by their parents and other relatives. Needless to say, this never works, and in fact worsens the issue of malnutrition, HIV/ AIDS, and even mortality. Since the children are poor- they join the workforce early- so their chances of getting an education get slimmer. India is the fourth worst-hit country in the world in terms of child mortality. Around 11 lakh children below the age of five, die each year in India. India is also the worst hit in child malnutrition. Around 2 Crore malnourished people have been accounted for in India. In this data, 61 lakh are children.
The needs of these innocent children are simple: A safe roof over their heads, food, and education.
In the 1990s, these problems were perceived to be the need of the hour. Thus, in 1975- the scheme Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) was launched in India by the parliament. This programme was sponsored by the government and aimed to tackle the issues aforementioned, by providing food, education, and healthcare to women with children under the age of six, as well as their offspring. Temporarily closed in 1978 by Morarji Desai, this scheme was relaunched a few years after its discontinuation.
In the relaunch, the ICDS was linked to Aanganwadi centres( Primary healthcare centres) in rural areas. These centres employed frontline healthcare workers. Since these centres provided the same resources available to boys, as to girls- they indirectly worked towards gender inequality too.
After a study conducted in 2005 revealed that ICDS was not efficient and did not solve the problems it was brought in for, primarily because of lack of funds. So in 2018, the Narendra Modi government increased its allocation to a whopping Rupees 16,335 Crores. This helped ICDS increase its outreach and efficacy.
The ICDS is said to be the world’s largest program for early childhood care. It shows how dedicated we are as a country to our children and their mothers- and their issues of malnutrition, lack of healthcare, and education. The program not only benefits individuals but since it takes into account the comprehensive development of both the child and its lactating mother-. From vaccination of a newborn to its nutrition as well as its nursing mother’s nutrition, primary healthcare, and checkup of irregularities, the child’s informal education(pre-school) benefits communities as a whole. For example, under the supplementary nutrition agenda- 15 grams of protein is provided to each child who is eligible for the program. Additionally, it is taken with 500 kilocalories through other sources.
All these services are taken care of by the Ministry of Health and Family welfare. The funding comes from sources like UNICEF and the World Bank. Even the state governments give funds for the scheme’s implementation.
Even though the government has continually been increasing the funding of ICDS over the past thirty years, the efficacy and efficiency of the have not been optimal. Due to bureaucracy, and corruption- a lot of the funding gets lost on the way. This depends from state to state- so in some places the results are comparatively better, whereas in some places it seems nothing more than a train wreck.
The program of ICDS has been renamed Aanganwadi Services. The primary healthcare centres are named Aanganwadi Centres. These centres have often come to light for being in terrible conditions. In 2016, it was revealed that 85% of the Aanganwadi centres of Odisha lacked basic designated building needs. This clearly hampers the workings of the centres. The Hindu reported that Puducherry Aanganwadis were no longer serving hot food. Additionally, Aanganwadi workers have often reported inhumane working conditions. They even alleged that the primary health problems concerning the children were malaria and TB, however, no medical facilities are available for the tackling of this problem.
However, a study in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka demonstrated significant improvement in the mental and social development of all children irrespective of their gender. It went on to allege that the health habits of children had increased by 63.4%. A 1992 study of the National Institute of Child Development confirmed improvements in birth-weight and infant mortality of Indian children along with improved immunization and nutrition.
The program has clearly proven to be beneficial at the grassroots level and has been appreciated on several global platforms, including Quartz.
The Integrated Child Development Scheme’s funds have been divided between the centre and the state at a ratio of 60 and 40 respectively. This means that for every 100 Rupees, 6o is provided by the central government, and the rest by the state where the program is being implemented. However, since the states in the northeast lack funds thereof, the funds have been divided to be in the ratio of 90 to 10.
These funds are used in the buying of Medicine Kits, Pre-school kits, Rent of the building, Expenses of administration, and furniture. The frequency of buying the above material varies. For example, health kits are bought each year, but furniture is bought every 5 years. Furniture includes a water filter, equipment- et cetera. Additionally, for areas affected by Naxals and disaster-prone Aanganwadi centres, Flexi funds are allowed too.
For each population of 800 children, one Aanganwadi centre has to be established. The numbers change for tribal areas, and deserts/ hilly areas. There the normal population may start from 300 for an aanganwadi to be set up. There is also a provision for a mini Aanganwadi centre- where the population need is 150 for establishment.
Worse poverty hit states like Bihar, Chattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh, which have a higher population of children in proportion to the rest of the country have been working towards the setting up of more of these centres. Along with the rural areas, Urban AWCs shall be established in the National Capital Region of Delhi. Recently, funding trends have shown a greater bend over two non-project states too- i.e. Odisha and Uttarakhand.
A famous study by Harvard claims that the damaging effects of early life stress on a child can be lifelong, and the consequences are often major. The Integrated Children Development Scheme is a novel effort to help reduce and prevent such adversities on its future workforce, and keep their social, physical, and psychological being optimal.
Although still lacking desired results, the ICDS scheme has worked tremendously well in increasing the overall birth weight and other markers of health and comprehensive development of children and their lactating mothers. Over the past few decades, it has increased the nutritional and health status of children, laid the foundation for the all-round development of a child- including its social, physical, mental welfare. The morbidity rates have significantly decreased, and so have the school dropout rates for adolescent girls who hit puberty.
With a greater watch on the channels funding the system, and making sure the funds allocated are used optimally- the results may clearly be better over time.
(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Child Rights Centre.)