Rampant corruption in ICDS scheme in UP [ it is all over INDIA not just in UP]
Posted by egovindia on January 24, 2007
Rampant corruption in ICDS scheme in UP
Tuesday, January 23, 2007 (Varanasi):
India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, gears up for another election but no politician is talking about the prevalent malnutrition among children in the state.
UP is the worst offender as far as children malnutrition levels are concerned and there has been no progress in the last eight years.
Corruption plagues the Integrated Child Development Services programme in Uttar Pradesh.
Not only is the programme a mere ritual, the food grain sent for children is being illegally used to fatten cattle.
NDTV’s Sutapa Deb reports how the ICDS staff are stealing from hungry children in UP.
One can witness stark images at Siyo village, 10 km from Varanasi. Eighteen-month-old Karishma is shrunken, almost withered. Kallu has the familiar potbelly, caused by malnutrition and weakened stomach muscle.
Fifty per cent of the children under six who do not survive each year die because they are malnourished.
Chedi Ram, a daily wager, and his wife, have nothing to give their five children except for some starchy rice.
These children’s nutrition should be monitored by the government’s anganwadi workers, their families provided fortified food grain.
The village has three anganwadi centres. Every month each one gets 350 kg of ready to eat mix from the state and Centre.
But though over 1000 kg get to the village, none of it reaches the children. They are excluded from the programme, even though one of the anganwadi workers lives next door.
“Has anyone taken her weight? No one. Have you been to the centre? No. I don’t have any information, how could I go,” said Seeta Devi, Karishma’s mother.
In Sandeha village, three anganwadi centres are housed in one panchayat bhavan.
But when the centre opens over an hour and a half late, NDTV’s team discover bare rooms, except for a handful of slates, toys and utensils. There are no weighing machines meant to monitor the children’s growth.
Anganwadi workers here and elsewhere tell that the stocks of the ready to eat food grain, which is called sattu here, is kept at their home. One of the anganwadi workers has not made an appearance for over a year.
A child under six is taking the class. A headcount reveals there are barely 40 children here. But the registers for the three centres record the presence of 240 in all, six times the number.
It was the same across Chiraigaon and Cholapur blocks in the area. About 15 children were present at each anganwadi centre. But matters are worse.
Even those children who are present at the anganwadi centres do not get the 80 gm, the amount of fortified food grain allotted to each one.
In Munnari village, two anganwadi centres are running from a dirty verandah. There is nothing else. Though children are supposed to be fed at centres, each child carries a small polythene packet. Sattu, they have learnt, is to be taken home.
Why is this flagship programme that spent Rs 400 crore this year in the state unable to provide the requisite amount of food grain or sattu to poor children? It is a paradox as the office of the Child and Development Officer at the block is well stocked with 2000 bags that is 50,000 kg of ready to eat mix.
Missing food grains
The centre is bursting with bags of fortified food grain. But none of it is reaching them. So who is stealing the food meant for Uttar Pradesh’s malnourished children?
The answer, villagers say, is the ICDS bureaucracy, which runs the anganwadis. The children’s food grain is reportedly siphoned off and sold as cattle feed on the black market. And the sale is organised by the anganwadis workers.
Every month the anganwadis worker generates Rs 300 that she pays her supervisors.
“In every area it is being sold in black. Not just in ours. Every one has to give, including me. She takes Rs 300 every month,” said Bindu Pandey, an anganwadis worker.
“I don’t sell it. I feed it to cows and buffaloes,” said Meera Devi, another anganwadi worker.
“Everybody pays and will continue to pay. Your coming here will not put a stop to this. Do you know that the CDPO spoke to me a moment ago on the phone? The food grain is expected and she wants the money tomorrow. I am telling you that your words or your camera will not change anything,” said Chandrakala, an anganwadis worker.
The state of the anganwadis in Varanasi may be common knowledge, but not for its district magistrate.
“We will be getting an inquiry conducted and working on this as to where exactly does the malady lie and what are the corrective measures that are required. You have outlined a few problems,” said Ravi Aggarwal, District Magistrate, Varanasi
“There is no doubt that the centres are supposed to open on time. The activities are supposed to be held. If at a few places these activities are not being held then it definitely calls for action. And by action I would not only mean at the village level or the anganwadis worker, definitely at the supervisory level, because there is a whole system of supervision,” he added.
Manju Devi has a malnourished girl, Kajal, at her anganwadis centre. But Manju seems more concerned about collecting the money she has to pay as a bribe to get a senior job as supervisor.