Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Centre no longer keen on integrated child development

The Union Budget Has Cut Outlay for ICDS By More Than Half!

In the recent Budget Session the centre decided to leave it to the states to continue or discontinue a number of welfare schemes which were earlier entirely or largely supported by central funds. One such scheme is the Integrated Child Development Scheme [ICDS] which has been running in Sikkim since 1976-77. The fund allocation for the ICDS at the national level has been reduced from Rs. 18,195 crore in 2014-15 to Rs. 8,335.77 crore in 2015-16. The decline is around Rs. 9,859 crore which is a more than 50% reduction. The ICDS funding pattern has been modified so that states will now have to shoulder a higher share.  This has reportedly been done following the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission.
Altogether 24 schemes including the ICDS will now have to be supported on a larger ratio share by the States as the Union Government takes a step back.
In Sikkim, there are 1,252 running and 52 proposed ICDS projects. At present, the Integrated Child Development Scheme in Sikkim is implemented through the State on a cost sharing basis in the ratio of 90:10 for all the components including supplementary nutrition.
Speaking to NOW!, senior officials at the Social Justice, Empowerment and Welfare Department expressed hope that the Centre will not cut funds for well performing States like Sikkim. They are clearly still holding on to hope despite the fact that Delhi has cut down its support for this important scheme by more than half.
“ICDS schemes are doing very well in Sikkim and we are hopeful that the Centre will continue the allocation at par,” said a senior official of the Department adding that the Centre cutting down its share in funding will definitely affect the performance of the ICDS in the State.
The Integrated Child Development Scheme, under which the Anganwadi Centres are run across the State by Anganwadi Workers (AWW) and Anganwadi Helpers (AWH) as front-line functionaries, serve an important role in the care of toddlers in the State. The AWW’s and AWH’s render service as “honorary workers”. In June 2011, the Centre had increased the honorarium of AWWs to Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 1,500 for AWH per month. The State Government is to pay 10% of its share i.e. Rs. 300 and Rs. 150 respectively but the Sikkim government is paying an additional Rs. 2,250 to AWW and Rs. 1,500 to AWH from the State exchequer since 2004, raising their honorarium to more reasonable levels.
Officials at the concerned department further inform that last fiscal’s overall allocation for ICDS in Sikkim was little over Rs. 3.85 crore including 10% state shares for SNP. With the Centre having stepped back, this allocation will crash, and along with it, the efficacy of the Anganwadi centres.
Regarding delays in the disbursement of honorarium of the AWW and AWH in the recent past, the official said that the Department has never faced shortage of funds but the delays happened due to the transfer of the ICDS projects in Sikkim to Mission Mode projects.
“The changes/ modification in accounting methods and systems have delayed honorarium disbursement for a while,” the official clarified.
Meanwhile, the enrollment of children in ICDS centres has been steadily declining, informs the official. This, he added, is largely due to increasing number of private schools in the rural areas.
“Mushrooming of private schools in every village is directly affecting enrollment in ICDS centres,” the official said adding that earlier the average enrollment percentage was 17% [which is also regarded standard enrollment figure of the Government] but this has reduced to 8% at present.
The ICDS programme in Sikkim initially started only with one Project and over the years the Government of India sanctioned 5 ICDS Projects with 500 ICDS Centres in Sikkim. In 2005-2006 an additional 6 Projects with 488 ICDS Centres were sanctioned.
The ICDS is a Centrally Sponsored flagship scheme of the Government of India. The scheme aims at holistic development of children under the age of 6 years and at providing nutritional and health support to pregnant and lactating mothers. The scheme provides for a package of six services viz. supplementary nutrition, immunization, referral services, health check-up, pre-school non formal education and health and nutrition education. Three of the six services namely Immunization, Health Check-up and Referral Services are delivered through Public Health system.

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