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Maharashtra: Nutrition programme faces fund cut as anganwadi workers return ‘faulty’ phones

Phone boycott disrupts data flow, state WCD considers action against workers

Written by Rupsa Chakraborty | Mumbai |
October 27, 2021 10:21:38 pm
Karnataka, Karnataka government, Child Rights, Gram Sabhas, gram panchayat, Bengaluru, Unicef, panchayat, Bengaluru news, Indian express, Indian express news, Karnataka newsAccording to the union, they are maintaining the data of malnourished children, lactating and pregnant mothers offline in registers. But this has cut off the flow of data from Maharashtra to the central government through the app. (File)

Due to the ongoing boycott of ‘faulty’ phones provided to them by the government, anganwadi workers have not uploaded nutrition data on the centralised Poshan app for the last two months.

Now, the central women and child development department is considering stopping fund allocation for new beneficiaries until the data is uploaded on the app.

Fearing a setback to the nutrition programme, the state WCD has decided to take action against the anganwadi workers who have returned functional phones to protest against the government.

“The anganwadi workers are recording the data offline on their registers. They are submitting the data to us on a weekly basis but the central department has refused to accept offline data until it is uploaded on their app,” said a senior officer from Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) department that is responsible for the nutrition programmes.

“We have been informed that the Centre will likely stop the fund allocation for the new beneficiaries if the data is not recorded on the app. They will just provide the fund for the already registered beneficiaries,” added the officer.

ICDS Commissioner Rubal Agarwal confirmed that such action was being considered.

In 2018, the central government had provided Panasonic smartphones to anganwadi workers in states. The workers claim the mobile phones do not support the app. “The app hangs every minute and we have to restart it repeatedly. The app also has no ‘auto save’ option, and we have to upload the details again with the photos,” said Kamal Parulekar, secretary, Anganwadi Sevika Union.

From August 17, the angwanwadi workers started returning the phones. As per the union, in the last two months, around 1 lakh anganwadi workers have returned their phones.

According to the union, they are maintaining the data of malnourished children, lactating and pregnant mothers offline in registers. But this has cut off the flow of data from Maharashtra to the central government through the app.

The officers believe that this will have serious implications for the nutrition programme in the state, which has already suffered a big blow due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the June 2020 ICDS report, Maharashtra has about 15.88% underweight children and 4.05% severely underweight children. Districts with high tribal population like Nandurbar, Palghar, Yavatmal, Gondia, Gadchiroli, Nanded, Parbhani, Wardha and Ratnagiri accounted for the highest number of underweight children in the state.

Before the central government stops the funding for new beneficiaries, WCD has instructed all zilla parishads to screen the returned phones and make a list of faulty phones.

“We are accumulating state-wide data. Then we will send the faulty phones to repair centres. If the phones are found to be beyond repair, then we will ask the central government to replace them,” said Agarwal.

However, the department has decided to take action against the anganwadi workers who have returned functional phones, disrupted the data maintenance process.

“Anganwadi workers have a crucial role to ensure the well-being of children and mothers in rural areas. If the government-provided phones aren’t working, then they can use their own smartphones to upload data on the Poshan app,” Agarwal said.

The fund for internet recharge was released last week. “We have no option but to take action against those who returned their functional phones,” she said.

Parulekar said that due to closure of schools, anganwadi workers had to give their personal smartphones to their children for online classes. Thus, they couldn’t use it on the field to update data on Poshan app.

“We get incentives of Rs 4,500-8,000, which makes it impossible for us to buy another smartphone for our children’s online classes,” said Parulekar.

M A Patil, from Maharashtra Rajya ASHA Gatpravatak Karamchari Kruti Samiti, said the government should address their issues rather than threaten aganwadi workers.

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