Pointing out the flaws in the existing system of marking beneficiaries in the ‘Anganwadi’ scheme of the central government, a state-level inquiry in Assam has revealed the existence of 14 lakh ‘fake children’ in the state’s beneficiary list of the said scheme. The minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi stated the same on Thursday while addressing a conference on ‘Rashtriya Poshan Mahh’(National Nutrition Month).
The Minister stated that after this startling number was revealed the center has asked all the states to carry out similar inquiries to weed-out the non-existing beneficiaries from the country’s list of near about 10 crore beneficiary.
The ‘Anganwadi’ scheme falls under the supplementary nutrition scheme for child development. 14 lakh Anganwadis provide home rations to a total of 4.6 crore infants and 1.9 crore mothers and hot-cooked meals for 3.6 crore children aged between 3 and 6. This scheme was introduced to tackle the menace of malnutrition in the country in mid-1970.
Thanking the Assamese state government, the Minister stated that in the initial survey conducted by the state-inquiry team last year revealed the existence of 3 lakh fake beneficiaries to the scheme. The subsequent survey done in June 2018 has stated the number to be 14 lakh, fake children. On average the lowest amount spent for each beneficiary is Rs.8 per day, out of which 60% is borne by the centre and 40% is borne by the state government. This means a loss of approximately Rs. 1 crore every day due to such non-existing elements in the beneficiary list.
Pointing out the inefficiencies and lack of data-driven solutions in the scheme, the minister also stated how for the first time since the induction of the scheme every state will start counting the beneficiaries. This, the minister believes will stop the drainage of resources. She stated –
“We are requesting every state to do the same during the Poshan month of September so that the money comes back into the system and can be used to improve quality of food. We have to count the children in the system and make sure these are real and not fake children,”
Gandhi also pointed out how at the end of the day it is the children that suffer and the unjust pay-work ratio of the Anganwadi workers. She stated –
“Now we wake up after 40 years and realise the system didn’t work. The food isn’t good, the Anganwadi workers are underpaid and overworked. It’s the child that suffers.”
12 ministries will coordinate for the nutrition month focusing on issues such as food fortification, complementary feeding, breastfeeding, growth monitoring and others.