“Massive corruption” by entrenched parties, “mismanagement” and “obfuscation” have reduced the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) — under which 10,800 anganwadis are run in Delhi — into a “hot bed of corruption”, jeopardising lives of the marginalised, the Delhi government has noted in official records.
The Indian Express accessed the Delhi government’s official records, which are replete with alarming observations on the state of the ICDS in the capital, especially relating to the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) contract — under which food is served to lakhs of children below six and lactating mothers — which has not been reviewed in 11 years.
On Tuesday, The Indian Express reported how several alleged lapses possibly played a role in the starvation deaths of three sisters aged eight, four, and two, in east Delhi’s Mandawali last year.
Despite belonging to a family which had virtually no means of sustenance, the sisters had remained out of the ICDS safety net.
The current food supply contract agreement in Delhi under the ICDS SNP had come into effect in 2008, under which 20 non-profit organisations (NPOs) manage 500 kitchens through self-help groups (SHGs). It was supposed to stay in force for two years, officials said.
As per internal documents, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who also holds the Women and Child Development portfolio, has been pushing to scrap the contract since 2017, citing “massive corruption” and “inefficiency”.
Sources said that around a week ago, the WCD finally floated a tender for hot-cooked meals to replace the existing one.
“It is a well-established fact, even through independent studies, that the ICDS SHG system in Delhi is a sham and is a front for unscrupulous persons/groups to take advantage in the name of running an SHG. Workers in so-called ICDS SHGs are actually paid employees and multiple SHGs are running from same premises in one single kitchen, even though the contract shows three different SHGs to run three different kitchens,” Sisodia wrote in an internal communication.
Sisodia observed that the “problem of malnourishment among kids, adolescent girls and expectant mothers has reached serious proportions in Delhi, while nutrition through ICDS is not able to address the problem as it is a hotbed of corruption”.
“Since last 10 years, massive corruption is going on by entrenched parties, but still the same contract is being renewed year after year. I have many times flagged this issue and put on files to design and float a new contract with a new menu. Why are IAS officers posted if they can’t make a proper contract?” wrote the Deputy CM in another note.