7 MARCH 2016
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GS III: ECONOMY
1. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the largest developmental programme in the world for children. Bring out its significance as well as steps to enhance its effectiveness.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)
· The ICDS, launched in 1975 and implemented by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, provides food, preschool education, and primary healthcare to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
These services are provided from Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers.
· For nutritional purposes ICDS provides 300 kilocalories (with 8-10 grams of protein) every day to every child below 6 years of age.
· The predefined objectives of ICDS are
1. To raise the health and nutritional level of poor Indian children below 6 years of age.
2. To create a base for proper mental, physical and social development of children in India.
3. To reduce instances of mortality, malnutrition and school dropouts among Indian children.
4. To provide health and nutritional information and education to mothers of young children to enhance child rearing capabilities of mothers in the country of India.
5. To provide nutritional food to the mothers of young children & also at the time of pregnancy period.
6. To coordinate activities of policy formulation and implementation among all departments of various ministries involved in the different government programmes and schemes aimed at child development across India.
· Majority of children in India have underprivileged childhoods starting from birth. The infant mortality rate of Indian children is 44 and the under-five mortality rate is 93 and 25% of newborn children are underweight among other nutritional, immunization and educational deficiencies of children in India.
· The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 data for 15 States shows that 37 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted; 22 per cent are wasted while 34 per cent under the age of 5 are under weight.
· A study in states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka demonstrated significant improvement in the mental and social development of all children irrespective of their gender.
· A 1992 study of National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development confirmed improvements in birth-weight and infant mortality of Indian children along with improved immunization and nutrition.
· Data from an earlier round of the NFHS show that when nutrition is available every day to children under two, there is a marked positive effect on their height, particularly for girls. Such early interventions have a life-long impact, in the form of higher productivity and earnings.
· The support of the Supreme Court has also helped in ensuring that commercial interests are unable to corner the funds, and there is provision for community oversight.
· For the second year in a row, the Modi government has reduced fund available to child health interventions, with a massive cut — from Rs. 15,483.77 crore last year to Rs. 14,000 crore in the latest budget.
· The Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) has seen a 7 per cent reduction in fund.
· This follows the pattern of Budget 2015-16 which cut the outlay initially, but with provision of some supplementary grants later in the year.
· That’s not all — the percentage share of the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) scheme in the total Union Budget allocation has gone down from 0.74 per cent in 2014-15 (BE) to 0.49 per cent in 2016-17 (BE). The allocation for the MDM scheme for 2016-17 stands at Rs. 9,700 crore (2016-17 BE).
· The budget comes a week after the Economic Survey states that India needed to increase investments on child nutrition programmes if it were to capitalise on the demographic advantage offered by its young population.
· However, World Bank has also highlighted certain key shortcomings of the programme including
1. inability to target the girl child improvements,
2. participation of wealthier children more than the poorer children and
3. lowest level of funding for the poorest and the most undernourished states of India.
· A 2005 study also found that the ICDS programme was not particularly effective in reducing malnutrition, largely because of implementation problems and because the poorest states had received the least coverage and funding.
Steps for improvement:
· Increase funding and coverage for poorest states.
· More emphasis on girl child and her nutritional needs to correct the traditional biases.
· Better targeting to ensure poor get due coverage.
· Scholars have also found a tendency within the ICDS in some States to neglect the needs of children less than two years old. Only 6 per cent in this age group were getting adequate daily nutrition a decade ago. The more progressive States have corrected the bias, with striking results.
· It is incumbent on the Central Ministry to monitor the implementation of the scheme. It can take the support of local communities and self-help groups.
· As per Supreme Court judgment of 2004, ensure that wholesome cooked meals are provided and contractors are not engaged.
· As per Supreme Court’s recent judgment, there is a need to ensure high standards of hygiene and nutrition maintained in ICDS centres.