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'We are Not Able to Monitor Anganwadis Efficiently'

Q. What are your duties and responsibilities at present? Are there tasks that you are currently undertaking with other departments?

Child Development Project Officer (CDPO): At present our responsibilities entail holding meetings with district-level officers and Block supervisors, looking into Anganwadi Workers’ (AWWs) demand for honorarium and Take-Home Rations (THR), distribution of resources we receive from the Women and Child Development department, reviewing the information updated online by the AWCs, checking their attendance, and so on.

We also have to attend meetings with other departments – like health, education, rural development – for joint endeavours. For example, we recently organised a health mela with the health department.

Q. What challenges are you facing currently? According to you, how can we solve them?

CDPO: Paucity of time is the biggest challenge for us at present. Our schedules are very busy and we spend a lot of time organising and attending meetings, both within and among departments, due to which we are not able to monitor AWCs efficiently.

People from our department should not be delegated work from other departments, so we can focus on our own departmental goals.

Q. What guidelines related to COVID-19 were given by the department to the Anganwadi Centres (AWCs) for reopening?

CDPO: We haven’t received many instructions recently. However, we received extensive instructions when the pandemic was peaking. When the centres were reopened, they were sanitised thoroughly.

Since there are fewer COVID-19 cases now, we are focussing on our regular work and not pandemic related work.

Q. Is nutritious food being provided at the AWCs?

CDPO: Yes, nutritious food is being provided to all the beneficiaries. Even when the centres were closed, our AWWs ensured that THR was distributed to pregnant and lactating women, and food supplements were given to malnourished children.

However, there has been a slight change in our provisions for 3 to 6 years old children; we used to give them hot-cooked food earlier but after the centre closed due to the pandemic, we started distributing THR instead.

Q. AWCs remained closed for a long time due to the pandemic. What changes have you noticed in the status of malnutrition in children? If something has changed then what steps are being taken by the government?

CDPO: Yes, malnutrition has increased in the area. Our focus is on the Village Child Development Centre (VCDC)* and ensuring that food supplements and Energy Dense Nutritious Food (EDNF) packets are being given to malnourished children. We are working on the implementation of Mission Vatsalya** as well.

Q. What instructions have you received from the district or the state on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)?

CDPO: All villages here have been asked to organise a fair on pre-school preparation. Some of our supervisors received training on social, mental, and physical development.

Teachers and AWWs are working together towards implementing ECCE. Our focus is on children who are going to enrol in Class I.

Q. According to you, during the COVID-19 pandemic, were there things which the government should have provided but did not? On the other hand, what necessities were provided?

CDPO: We are getting all necessary resources from the government but some things are lacking. For instance, some centres need weighing machines for children and pregnant women and sometimes there are delays in THR supply. But we are sure that they'll be made available soon.

This interview was conducted with a Child Development Project Officer in Maharashtra in Hindi on 28 April 2022, and has been translated.

Source: The Indian Express

*Government of Maharashtra’s VCDC scheme, launched in 2005, aids in home-based management of children affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM) through provision of nutritious and energy dense food by enrolling them at local AWCs. The scheme provides for six nutritious meals a day for 30 days, including calcium, iron, and folic acid supplements for SAM children.

**Mission Vats alya is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to address child protection and child welfare. The erstwhile Child Protection Scheme was renamed and restructured into Mission Vatsalya.

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