The West Bengal government in an event in Shatipur, Nadia district in West Bengal, reportedly made 20 pregnant women pose before lavish food platters for a photo op and later shoved them away with cheap food parcels once the photos were taken.
Ironically, the event was being organised on the occasion of Supushti Divas (Nutrition Day) to promote nutritional awareness among expectant mothers.
The humiliating incident outraged the locals and an FIR was launched against the organisers. The husband (Biswajit Sandhukhan) of one of the heavily pregnant women, Moumita Sandhukhan (25), who was amongst those used as a dummy for this event, lodged a complaint against the organisers. He called the treatment “inhuman” in his complaint to the ICDS project officer in Santipur. The incident was reported by The Telegraph.
This encouraged several others to take a similar step against the organisers of the event which took place on July 26, Friday.
According to reports, the pregnant women were asked to line up and pose, one by one, before the plate containing an entire meal including rice, dal, vegetables, egg curry, and a dessert.
However, when they tried to touch the food, the women were rebuked and the organisers clarified that the meal was only ‘for demonstration’. Later they were handed out a food packet comprising of only rice and egg and asked to leave.
“Following the officials’ behaviour, I did not even accept the parcel,’ the Telegraph quoted the 25-year-old Moumita, who is presently seven-months pregnant. The report states that at least six infants, who were invited by the ICDS for an ‘Annaprashan’ event at the same venue, were treated in the same way.
The event at Vidyasagar Vidyapith in the region was held under the banner of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) which held several such programmes on the day across the state, ironically, aimed at alleviating malnutrition among pregnant women and children.
The ICDS is a central programme implemented through state officials to provide food, nutritional services, preschool services, primary healthcare and immunisation to children under 6 and expectant mothers.
Following the complaints, ICDS officials, have ordered an investigation into the accusations.
Though few senior ICDS officials blamed the mistreatment on the local ICDS workers, as according to them, the accountability got lost in the chain of command. The state minister Shashi Panja has promised to personally look into the event and find out the reason behind the alleged mistreatment.