The number and role of self-help groups (SHGs) in the state is likely to increase over the next few years to check the cases of anaemia and malnutrition.
The government recently told the High Court that it will hand over the job of preparing breakfast and take-home rations at anganwadis under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to SHGs in the next three years.
The Supreme Court had,in 2004,directed all the states to abolish the use of contractors for ICDS under which food is supplied to children under the age of six,pregnant women and lactating mothers.
A single contractor,which the government refers to as original manufacturer,has been supplying packaged food to the 28,000 anganwadis in the state,reportedly at a cost of Rs 410 crore per annum.
The government maintained this was the only way to meet the central governments nutrient norms for the scheme. Preparation at local level would not guarantee such nutrient levels,it said,and so pre-fortified nutrients had to be sourced and supplied by a manufacturer.
Last December,the state had argued that a sudden retraction of the existing system would jeopardise the food programme,after which the HC asked the government to provide a time-frame when the contractor would be done away with.
The Women and Child Development department said SHGs will handle provision of breakfasts wholly in a years time while the take-home rations job will be handed over to them in three years. Logistics for the purpose of THRs will include Rs 3 lakh to buy equipment and machinery which include flour mills,vessels,bags,gloves,ladles,water tanks and containers.
Besides this,the Livelihood Mission of the Rural Development department would have to train between 22,000 and 30,000 women to form 2,000 SHGs for 50,000 anganwadis.