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Opposition Congress on Wednesday staged a walkout in Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly over the closure of government-run crèches in Bastar division of the state. The demanded that the closed crèches be reopened immediately. Raising the issue through a calling attention motion, three Congress MLAs Lakheshwar Baghel, Santram Netam and Deepak Baij said, 365 ‘jhula ghar’ (crèches), that were in operation in the state, have been shut with immediate effect following the Centre’s directive issued in November last year.
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“Of these, 20 were operational in Bastar district and seven in Kondgaon,” Baghel said. Due to the closure of the creches, the future of as many as 10,000 children between age group of 0-6 years and 730 creche workers and assistants was left hanging, he said.
“These centres were being run by Chhattisgarh Baal Rajya Kalyan Parishad, while it was receiving grant from Social Welfare Department,” he said. In Bastar, some workers were associated with creche from past over 30 years. They have not received their stipend for the past 9 months. Chief Minister is the chairman of Chhattisgarh Baal Kalyan Parishad, but even after that they haven’t got their stipend, Baghel said.
In her reply, Women and Child Development Minister Ramsheela Sahu said it is “incorrect” that 365 creches were closed on the direction of Union Government. “The fact is that according to a letter of Secretary, Union Women and Child Development Ministry, the directive is to run the aforementioned scheme through the state government,” she said.
It was found that children of 20 creches in Bastar and seven in Kondgaoan were getting the same benefits from anganwadi centres in their respective locality. Hence, it was not found necessary to run crèche there, he said. “However, it is true that workers and assistants, who were deputed at crèches were not paid their stipend since past nine months due to unavailability of grant from Rashtriya Bal Kalyan Parishad,” the minister further said.
State Bal Kalyan Parishad has informed that stipend will be disbursed once they will receive it, she added. To avoid repetition of state government services/schemes, crèches are being closed where anganwadi centres are operational nearby it, she added. Countering her reply, Congress MLA Baij asked the minister to inform the time frame till when the pending stipend of workers and assistant will be released.
Sahu said it was Centre’s scheme and the state had no role in it. “It is not possible to tell when the stipend will be given as it is the matter of Centre. It was Centre’s scheme and now they have decided to withdraw,” she added. Dissatisfied over her reply, Congress members staged a walkout.