Nearly three years after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech in 2009 set a deadline of March 2012 for taking Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) to every child aged below six,a Rs 1.83 lakh crore plan to restructure the scheme continues to hang fire because of financial constraints.
Singhs subsequent statement describing malnutrition as a national shame in January while releasing the Hungaama (Hunger and Malnutrition) report,which said 43 per cent children are malnourished,did nothing for the scheme,say sources in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The proposal for restructuring was sent to the Expenditure Finance Committee in January,but has not been given the green signal so far,even though the committee last week cleared a $ 450 million commitment from the World Bank to test the efficacy of various models of tackling malnutrition on scale. Officials in the WCD Ministry say that unless the restructuring plan gets cleared,the ICDS expansion would spread it too thin for any real benefit to the children and therefore,even the WB funds would not be utilised to their full potential. The money will come in a phased manner,and as per the terms that have been worked out with the government,cannot be used for infrastructure upgrade.
ICDS in popular perception remains a feeding centre though actually the programme to tackle malnutrition is multisectoral,including water and sanitation,health etc. That is where the WB project comes in. It will be kicked off in 170 high burden districts to see what works what does not. However,unless the restructuring happens,there will hardly be enough resources to reach all the kids without seriously compromising the quality. The PMs statement should have propelled things,but in effect it did not. There seems to be issues about finances, said a senior official in the ministry.
The preliminary list of high burden districts includes Bhagalpur,Buxar,Baghpat,Bulandshahr,Korba,Giridih. Predictably,a host of districts affected by Maoist violence,including Dantewada,Gadchiroli,Bastar and Raipur,also feature in the list.