Pratichi Child Report II



Pratichi Child Report II
The Pratichi Child Report II
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Amartya Sen
Pratichi Institute, Kolkata
Asian Development Research Institute, Patna
The Pratcihi Child Report II: ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
A study by Pratichi Institute, Kolkata and
Asian Development Research Institute, Patna
First Published: February 2015
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The Team
West Bengal
Pia Sen, Toa Bagchi, Mukhlesur Rahaman Gain, Joyeeta Dey,
Manabesh Sarkar, Sangram Mukherjee, Subhra Das,
Susmita Bandyopadhyay, Swagata Nandi, Subhra Bhattacharya,
Piyali Pal, Priyanka Ghosh, Dilip Ghosh,
Kumar Rana, Manabi Majumdar.
P. P Ghosh, Shivnath Prasad Yadav, Shashi Ranjan Kumar,
Shriniwas, Md. Tasmimul Haque, Dilip Kumar Pandey,
Rajesh Kumar, Sushil Kumar, and Syed Mashkoor Hassan.
Logistical Support
Saumik Mukherjee, Sumanta Paul,
Piuli Chakraborty and Mrinal Mondol
List of Abbreviations
List of Tables and Figures
Glimpses of the Report
1. Introduction
1.a. ICDS in India, West Bengal and Bihar:
an overview
1.a.1. Expansion in Coverage
1.b. The Field inquiry: Methodological Approach
and Study Area
1.b.1. Methodology
1.b.2. District Profile
2. Ground level preparedness for the delivery of ICDS
2.a. Infrastructural readiness
2.a.1. Building
2.a.2. Drinking Water
2.a.3. Kitchens
2.a.4. Toilets
2.a.5. Electricity
2.a.6. Safety
2.a.7. Miscellaneous Indicators
2.b. Human resource provisions
2.c. Supervision and Monitoring
3. Ground level functioning of the ICDSs
3.a. Working time
3.b. Service Delivery
3.b.1. Supplementary Nutrition Programme
3.b.2. Pre-School Education
3.b.3. Health Services
3.b.4. Nutrition & Health Education
4. ICDS: Urban Scenario
5. Scope and Challenges
Amartya Sen
Jean Drèze
Antara Dev Sen
Saibal Gupta
Dinesh Bhat
Manoj Dey
Department of Women and Child Development,
Government of West Bengal
Department of Women and Child Development,
Government of Bihar
Field Researchers
DPOs, CDPOs, Supervisors, AWWs, AWHs and all
our respondents
List of Abbreviations
ICDS: Integrated Child Development Services
AWC: Anganwadi Center
AWW: Anganwadi Worker
NFHS: National family Health Survey
SNP: Supplementary Nutrition Programme
PSE: Pre-School Education
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organisation
GHI: Global Hunger Index
ISHI: India State Hunger Index
ECSC: Essential Commodity Supply Corporation
SC: Scheduled Caste
ST: Scheduled Tribe
CDPO: Child Development Project Officer
ACDPO: Assistant Child Development Project Officer
DPO: District Project Officer
ECCE: Early childhood care and education
CAG: Comptroller and Auditor General
ANM: Auxiliary Nurse/Midwife
ASHA: Accredited Social Health Activist
NHE: Nutrition and Health Education
VHND: Village Health and Nutrition Days
List of Tables and Figures
Table 1:
Table 2:
Table 3:
Table 4:
Table 5:
Table 6A:
Table 6B:
Table 7:
Table 8:
Table 9:
Table 10:
Table 11:
Table 12:
Table 13:
Table 14:
Table 15:
Table 16 A:
Table 16 B:
Table 16 C:
Table 17:
Table 18:
Table 19:
Chart 1:
Status of ICDS
AWCs – Categorized by functionality
Existing and Revised Population Norms under ICDS Scheme
ICDS coverage: West Bengal and Bihar
Gap in actual number of AWCs in Bihar
Infrastructural Status of the AWCs in Study Areas of West Bengal
Infrastructural Status of the AWCs in Study Areas of Bihar
Alternative arrangement if own building is not available
Number of AWCs possessing their own pucca building in West Bengal
Alternative Sources of Drinking Water
Alternative Cooking Arrangements in West Bengal and Bihar
Percentage of vacant positions
Food Supply Regularity in West Bengal and Bihar Responses of AWWs’
Profile of the villages of West Bengal with poor food supply
Regularity of SNP reception: Responses of mothers of West Bengal
and Bihar
Place of Eating for Children
Vegetable budget of Murshidabad (Char labongola 2 AWC,
Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
Egg budget of Murshidabad (Charlabongola 2 AWC,
Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
Soyabean budget of Murshidabad (Char labongola 2
AWC, Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
Neglect of Pre-school Education
Extent of Pre-school Education (Anganwadis)
Medicine Supply in Selected AWCs in Bihar
Chart 2:
Chart 3:
Chart 4:
Chart 5:
Chart 6:
Nutritional Status of Children under 3years in India
(according to NFHS)
Progress of ICDS Projects in India (Operational)
Growth of AWCs in India (Operational)
Operational AWCs: West Bengal and Bihar
Average working hours of AWCs – A Comparison
Reason behind Irregular supply of ingredients in Bihar
Box 1:
Box 2:
West Bengal: A Profile
Bihar: A Profile
Amartya Sen
This is our second child report, based on work done jointly
with Asian Development Research Institute in Patna. The Pratichi
Institute is happy to present to the public our findings on child
development under ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar. There is
some good news, and some bad – indeed sad – findings as
The number of operational ICDS centres has expanded fast
in both the states since 2006. The growth has been faster in
West Bengal, but the progress in Bihar, despite its stop-go nature,
has been impressive.
There are, however, serious deficiencies in the work
performance of the ICDS centres. The inadequacy of
infrastructure remains a big problem: for example 45 per cent
of the West Bengal centres and 80 per cent of the centres in
Bihar do not have toilets. In West Bengal one-third of the centres
do not have their own buildings, and the proportion of centres
without buildings is two-thirds in Bihar. About half the centres
do not have access to safe drinking water in West Bengal, and
the proportion is only a little less in Bihar.
There are many other problems also which our report
discusses, based on our investigation. There is a summary at the
beginning, but the details, with the relevant tables, can be found
in the body of the report. It is hard to dispute the growing
understanding in the world that a nation’s well-being and success
depend greatly on how well the children are served in terms of
basic care, including nutrition, health and education. The gaps in
what are provided in the centres are, thus, matters of concern.
The problems to be addressed both involve funding requirements
and better functioning arrangements and working conditions.
Remedies are not hard to anticipate, and the barrier would be
mostly in problems of financing and implementation.
Despite the deficiencies in what the centres can offer, it is a
matter of some importance that the ICDS coverage has greatly
expanded. With that coverage has come a move towards seeing
these essential social services to be among the rights of the
children, rather than taking them to be benefactions bestowed
on them at the pleasure of the authorities. There is a lot to
welcome in that attitudinal development, even though much
work remains yet to be done.
I end by expressing my appreciation of the leadership of
Manabi Majumdar and Kumar Rana in carrying out this
investigation, and to the rest of “The Team” for their part in this
work, done with efficiency and skill.
‘Children are the foundations of mankind’, asserted the Buddha.
And, it is a truism worth repeating that the vigour of a democratic
system crucially depends on the quality of life it ensures for its
future citizens, that is to say, for its children. How well Indian
democracy fares in this respect remains a peripheral question in
public and policy debates, notwithstanding the fact that several
initiatives have been undertaken in recent times to expand and
improve educational and nutritional opportunities for all children
in the country. In particular, the everyday, quotidian practices
that surround the implementation of these ‘lofty’ schemes, and
the promises and perils they entail receive scanty attention in
research and public discussion, resulting in inadequate remedial
action. Perhaps, the neglect of our children is best reflected in
the latest census records (2011) where 430,785 children of age 5
returned themselves as ‘workers’ – engaged in ‘earning’. What
can be more shameful than this that children who were supposed
to grow under fuller state and societal care were left to fend for
themselves and their families? What could be more worrying
than the fact that 5 percent of the country’s total workforce is
constituted by children of 5-17 age group?
Of course, the picture of childhood care and development
does not remain the same across the regions of this continentlike country, consisting of country-like States. Thanks to effective
collective efforts, in some parts of the country early years of
childhood are made more secure and less uneven across social
groups than what obtains in other parts of the same national
universe. In its research pursuits Pratichi (India) Trust strives to
make use of this comparative prism in order to probe what
enables children from indigent families to access basic nutritional
care and education in some regions of the country but disables
them from doing so elsewhere. The first Pratichi Child Report
was published in 2008. Revisiting the insights presented in that
report and extending those further through inter-State and intraState comparisons, the present study offers an analysis of the
extent to which the Integrated Child Development Services
(ICDS) has made a difference to the lives of the children in
Bihar and West Bengal and more importantly of the considerable
ground that still needs to be covered. That there are reasons to
be both hopeful about the potential of this public initiative as
well as constructively critical about its gross underperformance
is the central argument that this report presents before the public
such that urgent and appropriate public action follows.
Bihar and Bengal in particular and India in general have reason
to be proud of being the lands where the Buddha practised his
philosophical realisations. But, it is more important to guide this
pride towards making some real efforts to recover the Buddha
from oblivion – in all effective sense. Paying attention to the
children can be a real tribute not only to the Buddha but also to
our democracy.
February 2015
Manabi Majumdar
Kumar Rana
The Delivery of ICDS in
West Bengal and Bihar
Glimpses of the Report
This study on the delivery of Integrated Child Development
Services (ICDS) in West Bengal and Bihar has been carried out
by the Pratichi Institute in collaboration with Asian Development
Research Institute (ADRI), Patna. The ICDS program is the largest
child development programme in the world involving a number
of services aimed at improving the nutritional status of children;
and pregnant and lactating mothers. It provides for the delivery
of early childhood education (ECE), referral services to hospitals,
care of adolescent girls and other crucial interventions that have
both direct and indirect bearing on peoples’ health. This
recognition led the Pratichi Research Team in 2006 to carry out
a study on the delivery of ICDS in West Bengal which resulted
in The Pratichi Child Report (Pratichi Trust, The Pratichi Child
Report, Number I, Kolkata and Delhi, 2008). The publication of
this report activated public debate and discussions in the state
regarding the neglect of children in general and those from
underprivileged backgrounds in particular. Issues pertaining to
the wellbeing of children are rampantly ignored by the media
and the report contributed to rectifying this trend.
The report has been prepared from the data collected from
rural areas in six districts of West Bengal (Bankura, Bardhaman,
Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, Dakshin Dinajpur and
Jalpaiguri) and five districts of Bihar (Gopalgunj, Madhubani,
Bhagalpur, Katihar and Bhojpur). The West Bengal study involved
revisiting the locations selected for the Child Report (2008) and
for the Bihar study the villages selected were part of an earlier
study on the Delivery of Elementary Education in Bihar carried
out by Pratichi Institute and ADRI.
The data on 22 and 30 Anganwadis in West Bengal and Bihar
respectively is drawn from observations, questionnaire based
responses and open-ended discussions with:
22 and 30 Anganwadi workers and as many Anganwadi
Helpers in West Bengal and Bihar respectively.
153 and 157 mothers in West Bengal and Bihar
10 Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) in
each of the states.
Major findings: Improvements and Gaps
Improvement in expansion resulting in some qualitative improvement
Public agitation and the subsequent Supreme Court order resulted
in substantial improvement in the reach of the programme. The
number of operational ICDS centers has increased from 748229
in 2006 to 1342146 in 2014 – the rate of increase being 79 per
cent. In West Bengal the number of centers increased from 54961
in 2006 to 116390 in 2014, with a gross increase of 112 per cent.
However, in Bihar the rate of expansion (59 per cent) was found
to be somewhat slow – from 57767 in 2006 to 91677 in 2014.
Unfortunately, although Bihar picked up well in 2006, the growth
of ICDS centers came to a complete halt in 2008, only to resume
with a slow pace in 2010.
Though inadequate, improvement in budget allocation has
had significant impact on the delivery of the programme. For
example, while the food served in most of ICDS centers of
Bengal that we had visited in 2006-07 was inedible, in 2014 the
quality of food appeared to have improved substantially. Absence
of baseline data restricts any longitudinal analysis of Bihar,
however, according to respondents, there has been an
improvement in Bihar too.
Similarly, there has been an increase in the delivery of preschool education. While in our earlier study we had found this
service to be almost non-functional, the present study in West
Bengal has found improvement, though, it still does not meet the
level desired by mothers. The same holds true for Bihar.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
What has contributed to ICDS taking off in rural areas is a
societal churning driven by the expansion of the programme:
we had found in our earlier study that the Mid-day Meal in the
primary schools gave the mothers some tangible basis for
comparing the food served in the ICDS centers and led to their
voicing their dissatisfaction over the supplementary nutrition
programme (SNP). With the growing reach of the programme
– with almost all hamlets having access to a functional ICDS
center – the rights-centric approach was found to be gradually
gaining ground. Also, the visibility of the centers has given a
basis of inter-locality comparison of the functionality of the
centers. In other words, the physical presence of the centers,
with improved structures and supplies, has not only added to
the actual functionality of the centers, but has also catalyzed public
discussions at the grass root levels and even other echelons of
Gaps in Functioning
Distributional problems
Despite rapid progress in the expansion of the centers in West
Bengal, our primary survey results reveal some major
distributional problems: for example, though the average
population served by the sampled centers (636) was well within
the norm (400-800), there were three centers which had to cater
to more than 1000 people – much higher than the stipulated
In Bihar, the problem was much more acute: while the average
population served by the centers visited was 1205 –itself much
higher than the norm – the numbers served by each center ranged
from 11 to 2213. Only two of the 30 centers visited in Bihar
were found to be compliant with the state imperative.
In many places the location of center was reported to be
a major constraint for the children to access the services.
For example, in West Bengal, 12 percent of the mothers cited
the distance of the centers from their home as their reason for
failure to attend. Bihar, with its acute dearth of centers, had
a worse problem of inaccessibility.
Infrastructural inadequacy
Although, the increase in number of centers has seen simultaneous
improvement in the physical provisions of the centers, the gaps
in infrastructure were found to be quite large, particularly in Bihar.
A little above two third (68 per cent to be exact) of the centers
visited in West Bengal had their own building, but in Bihar the
corresponding figure was drastically low (33 per cent). Similarly,
while toilets were available in 55 per cent of the centers in West
Bengal, in Bihar the corresponding figure was a meagre 20 per
cent. Nevertheless, Bihar was a little ahead of West Bengal in
terms of availability of safe drinking water (Bihar 57 per cent,
West Bengal 50 per cent ) and kitchen shed (Bihar: 63 per cent,
West Bengal: 46 per cent). In both the states, only a miniscule
number of the centers were found to be protected by a boundary
wall (West Bengal: 18 per cent, Bihar: 10 per cent).
The physical appearance of the centers and other basic
provisions had had their bearing on the functionality of the centers.
A center running in a cattle shed or under the sky not only faced
practical problems in cooking, storing items, conducting preschool
education (PSE) but also a major problem of social devaluation.
These centers were viewed as lowly dole-distributing points meant
for the lowest rungs of society. The partial attendance, as a result,
had its influence on the functioning of the centers: with those
who had a voice in society staying away, they left the voiceless to
their destiny.
Apart from shortage of housing most of the Anganwadis
suffered from several material deficiencies. For example, in
Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal no single center visited had any
functional weighing machine.
Constraints of budget and supply
Budget allocation for supplementary nutrition was reported to
be insufficient. This was corroborated by a calculation that showed
that with the allotted money (Rs 4 for each ‘normal’ child; rate
for under nourished children was Rs 6, and for pregnant and
lactating mothers was Rs 5, everyday) each ‘normal’ child can be
provided with less than half (0.4) an egg every day. The sum
allotted for vegetables could buy only 14 grams of potato for
each child every day.
Supply of rice and disbursement of funds in West Bengal
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
was found to be more or less regular; but there appeared to be
significant inter-district variations: while the average degree of
irregularity was only 18 per cent, in Bankura it was reported to
be 50 per cent. In Bihar this problem was rampant – only 54 per
cent of the Anganawadis reported to receiving a regular supply.
And while the supply in Bhagalpur (100 per cent) and Madhubani
(80 per cent) was regular, in Katihar (17 per cent) and Bhojpur
(20 per cent) it was deplorable. The problem was partially due
to a complicated system of transferring a fixed amount of Rs
16225/- for every center irrespective of their strength. Also, when
the money exceeded the requirement it was to be returned to the
department, but in case of shortage no fresh allocations were
Insufficient Human resource
The inadequacy of human resources required for running the
programme added to the existing infrastructural problems. As
seen in departmental statistics, while at the country wide level
nearly 5 per cent of the Anganwadis have no workers at all, in
West Bengal this figure was even higher (8 per cent); Bihar,
however, has been doing better with no post of AWW lying
Similarly while at the all India level 7 per cent of the posts
of Anganwadi Helpers was vacant, in West Bengal the corresponing figure was nearly 14 per cent. Again, Bihar seemed to have
fared better with only 0.3 per cent posts lying vacant.
The Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) are the
project level planners and overseers, without whom the operation
of the project is bound to falter. Despite their crucial role in the
programme, at the all India level nearly one third (31 per cent)
of the posts of CDPOs were vacant and in West Bengal the
deficiency was as high as 56 per cent. Bihar, again, showed a
greater commitment with no post of CDPOs remaining vacant.
At the tertiary level, the problem was even more acute: while the
of deficit of supervisors was 30 per cent at the national level, in
West Bengal and Bihar the deficit appeared to be 56 per cent
and 48 per cent respectively.
Feeble Supervision and Monitoring
Poor staffing, particularly at project and sub-project level, had
had its impact on the overall supervision and monitoring
mechanism. Many of the Anganawadis under survey were not
visited by any higher level authority for months and in some
cases for years. In West Bengal, some supervisors had 100 ICDS
centers to take care of: ‘tell us, even if we work for all the 30
days of the month, will it be possible for us to make a repeat
visit to a center before three months?,’ complained a supervisor
of West Bengal. Many of the CDPOs of West Bengal were in
charge of more than one project: ‘even the most dedicated soul
would fail to make a revisit to a center within 18 months’, a
CDPO claimed.
The absence of any effective mechanism for local level social
audit, involving mothers and other local people in the operation
of the programme, made things worse. Mothers clearly stated
that they were eager to join to improve the functioning of the
centers, but they were never invited.
In Bihar, shortage of supervisors on the one hand and the
legacy of non-governance on the other seemed to have
outweighed the positive moves of filling up the posts of CDPOs
and staff at Anganwadi level. The programme was yet to be
established as an ensured entitlement of the people; the degree
of information about the programme, its components and
operation, was low or absent. Many people we had interacted
with took this to be government largesse.
Functional weaknesses
The attitude of the top level policy makers and implementers
was seen to have percolated down to the grass root level: most
of the centers in West Bengal, as reported by the mothers, ran
for two hours, though the AWWs claimed it was much higher
– 4 hours.
One of the inherent problems of ICDS is its perception as a
programme for poor children. A lot of improvement in this
direction – to make people see the programme as a combination
of various activities including pre-school education, referral
services – needs to be achieved. As we gather from the West
Bengal experience, a little more effort can make this feasible:
in 2006-07 almost all the centers were found to be faltering in
the delivery of pre-school education but by 2014 some progress
was seen. Bihar is yet to pick up: even more than 50 per cent of
the Anganwadi workers reported that they did not carry out any
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
pre-school education. Their level of understanding regarding child
development needs to be enhanced considerably. Also, there
appeared a high degree of class and caste bias deterring the
programme: the study found a strong correlation between the
demographic composition of certain areas with the functionality
of the centers – performance of centers located in areas inhabited
by tribal and low caste Hindus was much poorer than what was
found in other areas.
While some of the Anganwadi workers were found to be
very committed, (and their dedication resulted not only in the
better performance of the centers but also played a role beyond
the centers in health delivery, running of the primary schools,
etc.) some were found to be dismally unproductive. While
individual inclination did shape the individual performances, an
equipped system, fully alert to the gaps and prepared to
eliminate the gaps could certainly make things positively different.
The alertness of the system does not only come from the top:
room for the bottom level participants must be created. This,
however, does not in any way reduce the importance of ensuring
the material requirements- including CDPOs, Supervisors,
Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, and regular supply of
necessary provisions through – a re-cast budget.
In brief, public commitment towards our children needs to
be raised; poor allocation is just one manifestation of the neglect
and fixing the problem requires re-conditioning of several aspects
such as budget-allocation and public reasoning forms the base
for such changes to happen. That a meagre 4 per cent of the
total annual budget of the union government is allocated for
children is certainly a major constraint, but the bigger problem
perhaps lies in the fact that this neglect reflected in the budget
often remains unnoticed and goes without any protest and
resistance in the public domain. The parliament is quiet on the
issues of children; the media finds no sensation in the general
and deep rooted neglect of the children and only raises its voice
at the occurrence of child deaths owing to food poisoning or
accidents in school; and the public at large remains blindfolded
towards the future citizens and the nation. The situation is difficult,
but there is no road ahead apart from stepping up to the
Chapter 1
1.a. ICDS in India, West Bengal and Bihar: An Overview
The severe contradictions in India’s growth story are most visible
when we look at the nation’s child nutritional status. On one
hand we as a nation have scaled great heights, sent an exemplary
mission to mars and achieved a commendable national income,
while on the other hand, 40 per cent of India’s children are victims
of undernourishment.
India’s nutritional standards have remained persistently
appalling despite certain achievements. The children are mostly
left to their own devices till the age of six – which is when they
start going to school. However, it needs to be remembered that
the initial six years (especially the first two) are the most crucial
and formative in a child’s life since it is at this stage that the
foundations of cognitive, physical and emotional development
are laid. Centrally important state initiated care at this stage
appeared to be abysmally weak.
However, though delayed, understanding did eventually
dawn upon our policy-makers that resulted in the launching of
the Integrated Child Development Services (hereafter ICDS) in
1975, the only major national programme that addresses the
needs of children under six. The scheme initially started
functioning in 33 development blocks and a few urban areas in
India. Currently regarded as the world’s largest communitybased child development programme, it aims at the holistic
development of children below the age of six, expectant and
nursing mothers and adolescent girls. This involves providing a
package of services comprising supplementary nutrition,
immunization, health check-ups, referral services, pre-school
education (hereafter PSE) and nutrition and health education
(hereafter NHE). In addition, mothers, children and adolescent
girls are provided with iron, folic acid, and vitamin A tablets to
combat iron deficiency and anaemia.
The delivery of the ICDS objectives, though, still suffers from
the myriad problems of poor implementation and absence of
effective and timely monitoring and supervision. In a country
where child issues form barely 4.64 per cent of the national
budget 1, one can well imagine the health of child-centric
programmes and schemes. For example, in 1998-99, 43 per cent
of children under three were underweight and by the end of
another six years, the National Family Health Survey (hereafter
NFHS)-3 reported a decrease of only three percentage points in
the status of underweight children.2
Chart 1: Nutritional Status of Children under 3 years in India (according to NFHS)
Source: International Institute of Population Sciences, National Family Health Survey 2,
India, Vol:1, Mumbai, 1999 and International Institute of Population Sciences,
National Family Health Survey 3, India, Vol:1, Mumbai, 2007)
Chart 1 shows the condition of child nutrition in India as per
NFHS data. While the stunting rates seem to have reduced, the
rate of improvement for underweight children has been extremely
slow, with the child wasting rates actually witnessing an increase
of three percentage points. In 2014, the NFHS-3 conducted in
2005-06 is the most recent and comprehensive survey on health
and nutrition. There has been no other reliable nationwide survey
on the nutritional situation since and ironically our national media
has also given negligible space to these issues (signalling that health
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
and nutrition are not important subjects for public discussion).
Parliamentary debates are also no exception to this trend where
children have rarely managed to emerge as matters worthy of
discussion.3 This neglect is truly inexplicable in light of the facts
such as every 5th child in the world being from India and the
nation having a child population of approximately 40 per cent4
and can only stem from an ignorance stubbornly retained by the
state. The dominant currents of indifference notwithstanding,
there are counter-currents of dialogues, initiatives and actions in
the layers of society that strive to generate pressure for policy
makers to come up with more appropriate and adequate
remedial measures. The Pratichi Child Report in 2008 made an
attempt to initiate public discourse on the situation of the ICDS
programme in West Bengal. Being the first of its kind, this public
report created quite a stir in certain quarters of West Bengal
1.a.1Expansion in Coverage
In spite of the dismal nutritional standards in our country, it is
also true that there have been areas of development in the ICDS
delivery, the most striking being in the domain of expansion in
Chart 2: Progress of ICDS Projects in India (Operational)
Source:, Ministry of
Women and Child Development, GOI
Chart 3: Growth of AWCs in India (Operational)
Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI
coverage. The Supreme Court of India on November 28th, 2001
directed the government to ensure that every settlement has a
functional Anganwadi Center (hereafter AWC), and that ICDS
is extended to all children under six, pregnant and lactating
women, and adolescent girls. This order was reinforced and
extended on April 29th and October 7th, 2004, along with further
directions regarding ICDS. The latest Supreme Court order on
ICDS, dated December 13th, 2006, goes further to say that an
AWC should be created “on demand”, within three months in
settlements where there are at least 40 children under six years of
age. Since then, there has been visible expansion in ICDS
coverage. Starting as a pilot project in just 33 blocks, today it is
operational with around seven thousand projects and over
13,00,000 AWCs all over the nation.
Thus, the Supreme Court directives contributed substantially
to expansion in coverage of the ICDS programme. The number
of ICDS projects has increased by a striking 25 per cent in the
entire country in the last eight years. A similar trend can be
observed in the record growth of 79 per cent in the number of
AWCs in a span of eight years – which is certainly a laudable
performance. The years immediately following the court orders
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
witnessed an accelerated pace of progress unmatched by
subsequent years. For example, the ICDS projects increased at a
rate of 19 per cent within a span of four years from 2006-2010
and the centers showed an increase of 40 per cent within the
same time frame. The increased supply gradually petered out
and the rapidity of development understandably slowed down
over time.
Table 1: Status of ICDS
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI
Chart 4: Operational AWCs: West Bengal and Bihar
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI
An attempt has been made to explain the current status of the
programme in both the sampled states by placing it against the
national average in table 1 and chart 4. It can be clearly seen that
the pace of functioning of the ICDS programme in Bihar has
been substantially slower in comparison to that of West Bengal.
While West Bengal recorded a gross increase of 112 per cent
between 2006 and 2014, the rate of expansion for Bihar was
only 59 per cent. It is also worth noting that eight years ago, there
was not much difference between the numbers of operational
centers in the two states with a mere gap of about 5 per cent. In
fact, Bihar actually recorded more functioning centers in 2006
than West Bengal. Yet, in 2014, Bihar, which has a greater
population than West Bengal5, lags behind by 20 per cent. In
terms of functioning, Bihar had six per cent fewer operational
projects than West Bengal. The state had picked up well in 2006,
but the growth of the centers came to an abrupt halt in 2008
only to resume in 2010 with an extremely slow pace.
On average, 193 children were found to receive nutritional
services from each center in Bihar. Table 1 illustrates that ICDS
in Bihar renders services to more children and women in
comparison to West Bengal with a limited number of operating
centers which has resulted in overburdening of the centers. Here
it needs to be taken into consideration that in the data provided
by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government
of India, there exists an extra category of ‘AWCs providing
service’ in addition to the state’s usual segmentation of ‘sanctioned
centers’, ‘operational centers’ and ‘reporting centers’6 and this
particular average has been calculated on the basis of the ‘AWCs
providing service’. Even if the usual segmentation is followed
and the average is calculated by taking into consideration the
reporting centers, the average remains as high as 120 children
per center, much above the national average of 67.7.
Thus, while West Bengal has accomplished expansion in the
reach of the programme by a significant amount by 2010, Bihar
still has a long way to go though it has lately picked up some
pace with a 14 percent rate of growth between 2010 and 2014.
While this is indeed encouraging, one cannot ignore the sheer
neglect the programme received in first half of this decade.
Table 2: AWCs: Categorized by functionality
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI)
(Average calculated on basis of AWCs providing service
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
The primary issue that emerges out of this discussion is the
dearth of centers and the consequent burden and neglect that
comes with this insufficiency. In other words it is a clear supply
side problem as opposed a demand fuelled one.
According to the national norm, there should be an AWC
per 800 population. Though the current picture does not seem
exemplary, West Bengal has made significant progress with respect
to average population served by each AWC. From our survey
data, we learn that for all the sampled AWCs taken together,
average population served by them is 636 (table 4), which is
well within the norm. However, there are certain large hamlets
where the population catered exceeds 1000, though this has been
observed in only 3 hamlets. Six years ago, the Pratichi Child
Report (2008) found the average population served by these
centers to be 1200 (approx.) – which is exactly twice of that
captured by our present survey.
Table 3: Existing and Revised Population Norms under ICDS Scheme
Source: Planning Commission, Evaluation Report on
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) 2011
The survey results for Bihar, on the other hand, are particularly
discouraging – with an average population of 1205 being served
by our sampled AWCs. As per the national norm this population
should have been served by three centers, not one. In the absence
of a comparable baseline data, it is not possible to track the
development over the years, but the detailed discussion provided
above suggests that there have been enormous barriers to
expansion of the ICDS programme in Bihar.
Table 4: ICDS coverage: West Bengal and Bihar
Source: Field Data
Continuing with the discussion on coverage, table 4 illustrates
that 93 per cent of the sampled centers of Bihar have exceeded
the national norm population with just two of them somehow
performing according to the norm. The state also has a wide
variation in its coverage. For example, our sampled centers recorded coverage of 11 to 2216 populations per center in the
visited villages. Thus, the system shows an absurdly uneven treatment of the different ICDS centers of the state. A simple gap
analysis of the sampled centers of Bihar will help in portraying
the situation with greater clarity.
Table 5: Gap in actual number of AWCs in Bihar
Source: Field Data
Table 5 shows that in Bihar, for a sampled population of
around 30,000, there are only 30 AWCs present. Going by the
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
national norm of an AWC to be established for every 800
population there is a deficiency of twelve AWCs – amounting
to a gap of 29 per cent in these locations. Thus, 30 AWCs are
actually providing services that should have been rendered by
42 of them, and consequently, one can well imagine the quality
of services. Field interactions with mothers even revealed that
the centers remain closed most of the time with no information
on when it would open, making it difficult for them to send
their children to the centers.
West Bengal, on the other hand, has a different story to tell.
In comparison to Bihar, the state does have healthier indices and
survey data also brings forth significant success stories. However
on closer inspection West Bengal’s data appears less reassuring.
From calculations based on 2011 census data for West Bengal, it
appears that the state has a surplus of 23 per cent AWCs.7
However, our primary survey in the nine ICDS project areas of
the state revealed that there remains a deficit of approximately
12 per cent8 each, both in case of ‘sanctioned’ and ‘operational’
AWCs. This is because in each of these areas there is an increase
in demand for new AWC’s and in some places this demand
exceeds the sanctioned figure. But there are locations, wherein
this sanctioned figure is insufficient and demand for more centers
is a persisting concern. Therefore, an urgent modification in the
number of the existing “sanctioned centers” needs to be done
keeping in mind the extremely important practical factors like
In many of the centers visited during our survey, mothers
reported to not being able to send their child to the AWCs due
to the center being located at the farthest corner of the village.
For some villages, we found a class angle to this issue. For example
in Subarnamrigi village of Murshidabad district, West Bengal, the
ICDS center was located at the start of the hamlet – the area
inhabited by people belonging to higher socio-economic classes.
The village gets divided in two parts by a canal and on the other
side of the canal, which is farthest from the AWC’s present
location, where people of lower socio-economic status
[scheduled caste (hereafter SC) and scheduled tribe (hereafter
ST)] reside. This gives an angle of social exclusion to the entire
analyses – public delivery services are primarily concentrated in
areas dominated by the powerful, and neglected in the socio-
economically backward or the selectively unheard groups. Such
caste- based exclusion in ICDS delivery has also been observed
in other states and is hence not limited to the sampled states.9
1.b. Field Inquiry: Methodological Approach and Study Area
This report has been prepared using data collected from rural
areas in six districts of West Bengal (Bankura, Bardhaman,
Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, Dakshin Dinajpur and
Jalpaiguri) and five districts of Bihar (Gopalgunj, Madhubani,
Bhagalpur, Katihar and Bhojpur). The West Bengal study involved
revisiting the locations selected for the Child Report (2008), and
for Bihar the villages selected were part of an earlier study on
the delivery of Elementary Education carried out by the Pratichi
Institute and ADRI.10 Although for the West Bengal study
(following the same samples as in the 2006-07 study) data was
collected from both rural and urban areas, in order to draw a
comparison with Bihar we have considered only the rural data
as the Bihar sample is entirely from rural areas. In an additional
section at the end of the report we have provided a brief
overview of ICDS delivery in urban West Bengal based mainly
on anecdotal evidence.
The data on 22 and 30 AWCs in West Bengal and Bihar
respectively, is drawn from: observations, questionnaire based
responses, and open-ended discussions with:
22 and 30 AWC workers and as many AWC Helpers
in West Bengal and Bihar respectively;
b. 153 and 157 mothers in West Bengal and Bihar
c. 10 Child Development Project Officers (hereafter
CDPOs) in each of the two states.
The relatively small sample size (22 AWCs in west Bengal and 30
AWCs in Bihar) is reflective of a trend Pratichi Reports tend to
follow so as to enable an in depth capturing of ground level
dynamics which is often seen to be lacking in large quantitative
surveys. In the report we have used percentages which need to
be understood keeping in mind the size of the sample.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
1.b.2.District Profile
In this section a brief overview of some of the basic indicators
and social, geographical descriptors of the selected districts of
the two sampled states are provided.
West Bengal
Box 1: West Bengal: A Profile
Source: *Census of India 2011, #Census of India 2001
Jalpaiguri district occupies only 7.0 per cent of the total
area of West Bengal. It has a total population of 3872846 of
which approximately 72.6 per cent is rural, 37.7 per cent SC,
18.9 per cent ST and 10.9 per cent Muslim. It is located in the
sub-Himalayan region and is famous for its tea gardens. The
British started tea gardens in this region, and brought labourers
from southern Bengal (Bankura, Purulia), and Chhotanagpur and
Santhal Pargana of present Jharkhand (erstwhile Bihar). Many
of these tea gardens closed down in the recent past, causing
severe unemployment and poverty leading to even reports of
deaths due to starvation.
Dakshin Dinajpur was formed on 1st April, 1992, after
the bifurcation of the erstwhile district of Paschim Dinajpur
into Dakshin and Uttar Dinajpur. With only 2.5 per cent of the
total land area of West Bengal, Dakshin Dinajpur is a small border
district in the northern part of West Bengal. Located on the left
bank of Padma, the main economic activity of this district is
agriculture and allied activities. The total population of the district
is 1676276 of which 85.9 per cent is rural, 28.8 per cent SC,
16.4 per cent ST and 24 per cent Muslims. It is one of the most
backward districts in the state in terms of human development
Murshidabad had been the capital of undivided Bengal
before it fell to the British in 1757. Currently the district occupies
5.9 per cent of the total area of the State. Presently it has a total
population of 7103807 of which approximately 80.3 per cent is
rural and 63.7 per cent Muslims. The river Padma marks the
boundary between India and Bangladesh. Apart from high
dependence on agriculture, a large number of workers from
Murshidabad migrate out to different parts of the country in
search of manual work. Household industries, such as bidi rolling,
form another large area of casual employment that mainly
involves women and children.
Bardhaman is located in the central part of the state. It is the
nerve center of agriculture of the state. This district was rich in
coal that played an important role in establishing the flourishing
Durgapur-Assansol industrial belt in the 1960s. Unfortunate as it
is with many industrial units in other parts of the state, several
units in this industrial belt too have shut down and caused severe
unemployment. However, thanks to its excellent irrigation canal
network – and ground water extraction at a later stage – a large
part of the district has a flourishing agricultural base, which has
made it the ‘rice bowl of Bengal’. The district occupies 7.9 per
cent of the total area of the State. The literacy rate of the district
is 76.2 per cent.
Bankura, located in the south-western part of the state, is another
socio-economically disadvantaged district. Almost 91.6 per cent
of the population resides in the rural areas. It has a SC population
of 32.7 per cent. Part of this district is hilly and covered with
forest. As a result, the population share of this district is only 3.9
per cent while the geographical area constitutes 7.8 per cent of
the state. In spite of a number of rivers flowing through this
region, the district continues to depend on the monsoon rains
for agriculture. The pace of industrialization is slow and patchy.
South 24 Parganas in the southern part was formed in 1986
after bifurcating the erstwhile 24 Parganas. It continues to be a
large district with 11.2 per cent of the state’s geographical area.
A large part of the district forms the largest delta system of the
world — the Ganga-Brahmaputra Delta. Fishing is the
predominant occupation. The lush green mangrove forests spread
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
over this region sustained one of the most beautiful animal species of the world —
The Royal Bengal Tiger.
Box 2: Bihar: A Profile
Source: *Census of India 2011, #Census of India 2001
The district of Gopalganj is located on the West–North corner
of Bihar and houses 2 percent of its population of which 93
per cent is rural, 12 per cent SC, 2 per cent ST and 17 per cent
Muslim. The river Gandak supported by tributaries like Jharahi,
Khanwa, Daha, make this area fertile and alluvial and therefore
it is good for cultivation and irrigation. Parts of the six blocks
like Gopalganj, Kuchaykot, Manjha, Sidhwalia, Barauli and
Baikunthpur are flood affected areas and they remain under water
during the rainy season. Almost 15 per cent of the population
works as agricultural labour. The literacy rate is 65 per cent.
The present Bhojpur came into existence in 1992. Earlier
this district was part of old Sahabad district. The Bhojpur district
is situated at height of 192.989 meters from sea. Its main rivers
are Ganga and Sone and its perennial rivers are Kumhari, Cher,
Banas, Gangi. Twenty two per cent of its population are
agricultural labours and the main crops are rice, wheat, macca,
gram. Its total population is 2728407 of which approximately
85 per cent is rural, 16 per cent SC and ST and seven per cent
Muslim. The literacy rate is 70.5 per cent.
Katihar district is a part of Purnia Division and Katihar town
is the administrative headquarter of the district. The primary
source of livelihood is agriculture. The main crops are paddy,
jute, makhana, banana, wheat, maize and pulses. There are few
industries nearby: two jute mills and two flour mills. According
to the census Katihar district has a population of 30710293 and
a population density of 1,004 inhabitants per square kilometre.
The SC population comprises 8.6 per cent and ST population
comprises 5.9 per cent of the total population. Nearly half the
population (42.5 per cent) is Muslim. Agricultural labour forms
a significant part (39.5 per cent) of the labour force, 10 per cent
more than the national average. Katihar has a literacy rate of 52
per cent.
The district of Madhubani was carved out of the old
Darbhanga district in the year 1972 as a result of reorganisation
of the districts in the state. The main rivers are Kamla , Kareh,
Balan, Bhutahi Balan, Gehuan, Supen, Trishula, Jeevachh, Koshi
and Adhwara. The whole district is in an earthquake zone. 96
per cent of the population is rural, 17 per cent ST, 58 per cent
Muslim. Nearly half the working population (34 per cent) is
engaged in agricultural labour.
Bhagalpur has 16 blocks. The head quarter of the district is
Bhagalpur. The total population of the district is 2,423,172 and
the area is 2,570 square kilometer. Paddy, maize and lentils are
the main agricultural crops. Tusser Silk and Thermal Power at
Kahalgaon are the main industries. The Ganga irrigates the district.
The literacy rate is 63.4 per cent. Approximately 80 per cent of
its population is rural.
End Notes
HAQ Center for Child Rights, Budget 2013-14 and Children: A first
glance, New Delhi, 2014.
International Institute of Population Sciences, National Family Health
Survey 2, India, Vol:1, Mumbai, 1999 and International Institute of
Population Sciences, National Family Health Survey 3, India, Vol:1,
Mumbai, 2007
A quick analysis by Jean Dreze, of the maiden budget speech (201415) of finance minister Arun Jaitley shows that there is hardly any
mention of the centrally important developmental components,
such as children, nutrition, sanitation, mid-day meal, etc in the speech.
That the present government has so far not shown much interest in
prioritizing the social sector is sadly very clear from the analysis –
Census of India, 2011
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Bihar’s population is 12 percent greater than that of West Bengal.
(Census of India, 2011)
The categories are: Sanctioned (the number of AWCs required per
given population), Operational (the number of running AWCs),
Reporting (which is a subset of the operational segment except
that these Centers regularly report to the higher authorities on performance) and finally those Providing Service.
Total Population of West Bengal: 9,13,47,736 (Census of India,
2011), Total Operational AWCs: 1,12,432 (APIP 2012-13, ICDS,
Govt. of West Bengal), Population served per AWC: 812 , “Supposed” surplus AWCs: 23%.
Total Sampled ICDS Projects: 9, Total Sanctioned AWCs: 3906,
Total Operational AWCs: 3808, Total Required AWCs: 489, Average AWCs required across the 9 project areas: 53 (489/9). Thereby,
Deficit of Sanctioned AWCs: 12.04%, Deficit of Operational AWCs:
12.35% (Source: CDPO offices of Sampled Areas)
Borooah Vani K., Diwakar Dilip, and Sabharwal Nidhi S, “Evaluating the Social Orientation of the Integrated Child Development Services
Programme”, Economic & Political Weekly, Vol: 49(12): 53, 2014.
10. Pratichi Trust & ADRI, Status of Elementary Education in Bihar,
Kolkata and Patna, 2010.
Chapter 2
Ground Level Preparedness for the
Delivery Of ICDS: Field Observations
2.a. Infrastructural Readiness
The persistent levels of undernourishment of children need to
be understood in context of the prevailing ICDS support
structure. The observations detailed below pertain to study areas
selected for our survey and ICDS centers that we have sampled.
2.a.1. Building
West Bengal and Bihar’s performance as compared to the national
average is mediocre. At present there are 1318912 operational
AWCs in the country. In the two sampled states of West Bengal
and Bihar 116390 and 81766 operational AWCs have been found,
respectively.1 When we compare with the national average of
42.5 per cent centers possessing their own building, we can see
that Chattisgarh and Tamil Nadu have an above average
performance (Chattisgarh – 92.6 per cent, Tamil Nadu – 85.6
per cent), and West Bengal and Bihar compare unfavorably with
these high performing states with only 34.5 and 16.1 per cent of
the centers possessing buildings.2
Most studies and reports suggest a substantial lack of
infrastructural provisions, particularly with regard to possession
of building.3 While our study has also found a considerable gap
between the requirement and presence of centers, some
improvement has been observed in this matter. For example, as
per field data (which seems to contradict the state’s statistics) in
West Bengal the number of ICDS centers possessing their own
building has risen from 35.7 per cent to 68.2 per cent. The Pratichi
Child Report had found activities being conducted in the verandahs
of Sishu Siksha Kendras (primary schools), village atchalas, clubs
and even in the open spaces, while in the current study 68.2 per
cent (approx.) of the AWCs had their own building. However,
the nature of the improvement was found to be quite uneven,
with some districts having all their centers housed in their own
building while in others barely half of them did. This unevenness
of development at the state level is found to be in line with the
wider national picture.
Table 6A: Infrastructural Status of the AWCs in Study Areas of West Bengal
Source: Field Data
Table 6B: Infrastructural Status of the AWCs in Study Areas of Bihar
Source: Field Data
In Bihar, the study shows that only 33 per cent of the centers
were found to have their own building. When asked about the
reasons behind delay in construction, about 20 per cent
respondents attributed it to official incompetence while 30 per
cent of them mentioned the difficulties one encounters in
acquiring land. It shocked us to learn that as many as 35 per cent
of the Anganwadi Workers (hereafter AWWs) in Bihar reported
instances of buildings made for ICDS delivery lying unused
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
while the centers ran out of rented places for reasons such as
the inaugural ceremony not having taken place.
Alternative Arrangements:
Table 7: Alternative arrangement if
own building is not available
Source: Field Data
In West Bengal our present study found that of the 31.8 per
cent of the centers, without their own building, 43 per cent
were running in primary schools, 14 per cent ran from rented
places and the remaining 43 per cent were housed in local clubs.
In Bihar, of the 66.7 per cent centers which did not possess their
own building, 80 per cent were carried out from rented places,
10 per cent from primary schools and the remaining 10 per cent
ran out of a range of places. With regard to this issue, the trends
in national data are corroborated by the field level data (refer to
footnote 13).
Kind of Building
Table 8: Number of AWCs in West Bengal possessing their own pucca building
Source: Field Data
Of the centers having their own building in West Bengal, 66.7
per cent of them were housed in pucca buildings while 33.3 per
cent were partly pucca. No kuchha buildings were found in the
present survey unlike the previous study where kuchha and even
uncovered spaces served as centers. In Bihar, out of the 30
sampled centers only 10 (33.33 per cent) had their own pucca
2.a.2. Drinking Water
The Annual Action Plan claims that in West Bengal 56.4 per cent
of the centers have their own drinking water facility and this
study has corroborated this approximately with a figure of 50
per cent.4 Others are getting by either by using nearby facilities
or a makeshift arrangement with the owners of the rented centers.
It surprised us to learn that out of those 11 centers that had their
own source of drinking water, seven reported that the water
they consumed was not safe. Jalpaiguri stood out as district where
none of the four visited centers had their own source of drinking
Notes of a field researcher reveal:
Though the overall picture of the availability of safe drinking
water in the studied districts of West Bengal is not very pleasing
anyway some specific instances are truly disconcerting. We
found a Center in Madarihat block of Jalpaiguri district
running under a house. Due to the threat of elephant attacks
the houses are raised on stilts which do not even afford enough
space below to accommodate an upright average sized person.
The Center in Nepali line is run in such a place where the
children fit but the worker has to manage everything standing
outside. Given the circumstances it would be unreasonable to
expect services like Supplementary Nutrition Programme or
Pre-School Education to be served in a way healthy for either
the children or the worker. The situation with regard to drinking
water facility at the Center was even worse. We saw a very
thin pipe line coming from a significant distance, the water
supplied by which is consequently of very low force. The
pipe end just lies on the ground and thirsty children lift the
pipe to their mouth, drink water and throw it back on the
ground. When we asked about the source of the water, there
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
was another surprise waiting for us; the water was allegedly
coming from Bhutan as there was no running water facility
available nearby. The distance the water travels makes the
possibility of acquiring contamination higher but the AWCs
of Nepali Line are compelled to adjust due to lack of
Table 9: Alternative Sources of Drinking Water
Source: Field Data
In Bihar the situation was slightly better where field data
revealed that almost 57 per cent of the AWCs had their own
drinking water facility. Quite like the situation of Jalpaiguri in
West Bengal, Bhagalpur district of Bihar also had no center with
its own drinking water facility.
2.a.3. Kitchens
An important function of the AWCs is to provide Supplementary
Nutrition Programme (hereafter SNP) to children and pregnant
and lactating mothers. To deliver this service, every center needs
to be equipped with at least a kitchen. In the present study we
found that in West Bengal only 45 per cent of the centers had a
separate kitchen shade whereas in Bihar that was 63 per cent
with 12 centers where no kitchen was available, out of which in
41.7 per cent centers they cooked in uncovered spaces.
According to a field researcher’s notes:
In Khatra block of Bankura, the village Kathar is isolated
from the nearby busy cluster by a dense forest. To reach
the village one would either have to take a private car or
walk for almost 45mins from the nearest point of public
transport coverage. The entire population belongs to the
Scheduled Tribe category and their economic condition is
deplorable. An AWC building is present but it has no kitchen
shade. The village is divided into two hamlets and the distance
between them is so much that the children cannot come
independently and the parents do not find time to drop or
pick them up. Therefore, the other hamlet is completely
deprived of the AWC facility.
Table 10: Alternative Cooking Arrangements in
West Bengal and Bihar (%)
Source: Field Data
There were similar problems in districts like Dakshin Dinajpur
and Bardhaman of West Bengal, the only difference was that
they had at least a chalaghar or verandah for cooking. The chalaghars
were often no more hygienic than uncovered kitchens as they
failed to protect against any kind of contamination. Bihar, in
terms of pure infrastructure, performed even worse with 18
per cent of the centers not even possessing a kitchen shade.
Compared to the national average which shows that 55.6 per
cent of the centers in India have adequate space allotted for
cooking, West Bengal is almost at par with 50 per cent centers
possessing covered kitchens but in Bihar the figure is a miserable
18 per cent.5
2.a.4. Toilets
There is a direct connection between the availability of toilet in
an AWC and the corresponding presence of toilets in the local
school or homes; therefore it is a good indicator for
understanding the sanitation status of a locality. As per national
data, half the states do not have toilets in the AWCs and among
them, the performance of Bihar, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh are
the worst. West Bengal aligns with the poor performing states as
71.5 per cent of the centers were found to have no toilets, which
is higher than the national average (61.5 per cent).6 In West Bengal,
out of the 22 AWCs in our sample only 12 were found to have
any kind of toilet facility. At the same time, this was an
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
improvement on the condition reported in our previous study,
where only 5 out of 28 centers had toilets. In Bihar, 80 per cent
of the centers did not have any toilet.
2.a.5. Electricity
In all the 22 rural centers of West Bengal that we visited, none
had electricity while the six urban centers were running in the
local club and used their electricity. In Bihar three out of the 30
visited centers had electricity.
2.a.6. Safety
Since the functioning of an AWC involves children of a tender
age who are difficult to handle it is expected that the center will
be surrounded by a proper boundary wall or that it should not
be near a pond or any other risky area. However, field
observations revealed that the locations of many AWCs induced
safety concerns and from our study we found six centers (27
per cent) in West Bengal which were situated in distinctly risk
prone areas.
As per a field researcher’s notes:
The center in Joyrampur Chotodaspara at Monteswar Block
in Bardhaman district is located right next to the main road
which witnesses traffic flow, is circled by two ponds and
has an electric transformer right next to the center building
and is hence terribly unsafe for children. There is not even
a boundary wall.
Our study has also found that 82 per cent of the centers in
West Bengal did not have any boundary wall and the number
was even higher (i.e. 90 per cent) in Bihar.
2.a.7. Miscellaneous Indicators
Ideally, the AWCs should provide primary health check up
facilities with weighing machines for both children and adults,
they should also be equipped with PSE materials, utensils, etc.
But many of the centers did not possess facilities as essential as
those listed below:
Out of the 22 centers sampled in West Bengal and the 30 in
Biharz 19 and 16 did not have any kind of primary health checkup facilities in West Bengal and Bihar respectively;
16 centers of West Bengal and 14 in Bihar did not possess
any blackboard;
While 100 per cent of the centers in West Bengal possessed
utensils, in Bihar, 17 per cent did not;
17 centers in West Bengal had weighing machines for
children. Apart from the two cases in Murshidabad and
Bardhaman, all of them were in usable condition. While
19 centers had weighing machines for mothers, six of
them were not in working condition. 23 centers in Bihar
had functional machines but in 9 places the weighing
machines though present, were not functional.
2.b. Human Resource Provisions
At the grass-root level, an AWW assisted by an AWH is
responsible for the delivery of the entire gamut of services enlisted
under the ICDS programme. A Supervisor is in charge of a
selected number of centers and is the bridge between the center
and the block project office. At the block level, the CDPO and
Assistant Child Development Project Officer (hereafter ACDPO)
are accountable for liaising between the block and the district
levels. And finally, the District Project Officer (hereafter DPO)
at the district level is responsible for supervising and monitoring
the programme delivery in the entire district along with maintaining
communication with the State Department of Women and Child
Development. The state departments again serve as a nodal
agency for the ministry at the central level.
The successful implementation of any programme depends
to a large extent on its personnel – especially at the ground level
in the actual delivery of the services. These positions are seen to
be vastly understaffed due to unfilled vacancies.
Table 11: Percentage of vacant positions
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of
Women and Child Development, GOI
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
In Table 11 it can be seen that West Bengal had a sizeable
number of vacancies for all the positions. West Bengal’s vacancy
gap is much above the national average. Bihar performs
substantially better in this regard, with a zero vacancy gap for
both workers and CDPOs, but there was a dearth of about
half the required number of supervisors weakening the
monitoring mechanism.
It needs to be taken into consideration that the AWWs have
numerous duties all of which are very demanding and it is virtually
impossible to accomplish them in the absence of any assistant,
especially with such poor basic support facilities. To add to that,
they are expected to maintain an abnormal number of registers
(for West Bengal the average number of registers maintained was
12 while it was 21 for Bihar – as per our survey data) on a daily
basis which makes sizeable dents in their work time. There is also
an urgent need for attention to their extremely poor honorarium ,
Rs. 4000/- and Rs. 2000/- approximately, for the worker and
helper respectively. However, despite such a demanding schedule
and absence of infrastructural support, it was observed that most
of the workers were committed to their work. At the same time,
it is important to remember that it is problematic to have
unreasonably high expectations of the workers since for the
effective delivery of a system one cannot count on the
superhuman qualities of ordinary human beings like us.
The Pratichi Child Report (2008) reported that workers
sometimes had to manage more than one center. However, in a
positive change of circumstance, our current survey did not find
this in any center of rural West Bengal, although the problem of
understaffing persists. The supervisors are part of the midlevel
managerial hierarchy and are the link between the centers and
the block offices. They are expected to visit each center once a
month, supervise the activities of the center, interact with the
mothers and children and guide the workers in all their activities
with information on nutrition and health education. However,
as can be seen in Table 11, the disturbing understaffing of
supervisors has contributed greatly to breaking this bridge
between the centers and the block offices. As a result most of
the centers remain unvisited, sometimes for more than a month.
In addition to monitoring centers, the supervisor also has to
perform a range of activities which require a great deal of time
and it is unrealistic to expect a few supervisors to do the work
of all the remaining vacant positions. Along with this, the
supervisors often have to help the poorly trained workers in
completing their registers. Lack of proper training is another
issue that becomes apparent here. Although in both the states all
the workers have received training, field observations revealed
that the training has not been able to prepare them for facing the
daily challenges of their work.
Apart from this, from table 11 it can be seen that the post of
supervisor often lies unoccupied in both the states (West Bengal
and Bihar) and at the national level. Supervisors perform an
extremely crucial role in the ICDS chain and such a high vacancy
rate speaks volumes about the performances of the programme.
A similarly dispiriting picture is reflected in CDPO recruitment.
West Bengal has a vacancy rate of more than 50 per cent for the
position of CDPOs. From our field survey we learnt that the
CDPOs were burdened with additional responsibilities of other
projects. We met a CDPO who was responsible for five ICDS
projects and superintendence of a children’s home. As a result
of such overburdening, the rights of the millions of children
and mothers continue to be denied. Bihar on the other hand had
a much more encouraging story to tell with a zero vacancy rate
in case of CDPOs. However, despite the state solving much of
the human resource shortfall concerns, the implementation process
still suffers from massive constraints.
2.c. Supervision and Monitoring
Like in the Pratichi Child Report (2008), this time too we came
across an almost ineffective and near-absent monitoring mechanism. The higher officials (CDPO, and ACDPO and DPO) were
primarily burdened with paper-work rendering it difficult for
them to visit the centers. The current supervisors on the other
hand, were weighed down by the increasing number of centers
each of them had to visit as there was a deficit in supervisor
In both West Bengal and Bihar, primary survey results reflected
inadequacy of supervision. It shocked us to learn that there had
been absolutely no visit by any DPO in both the states in the last
year. The record of CDPO or ACDPO supervision was also
equally discouraging. In West Bengal, most of the CDPOs had
been given additional responsibilities which leave them with no
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
time for visiting the centers. The situation was similar with
supervisors – in one block two supervisors were responsible
for around 200 centers! Along with this, lack of official vehicles,
delay in payment of transport allowance bills further fueled the
problem. One of the supervisors narrated that even if they
worked all days of the month without taking any leave, it would
still not be possible to visit all the centers under their supervision.
In such a situation the centers in the remote villages were getting
left out. Sometimes the supervisors called all the workers to one
center for checking of registers and other official documents.
According to one supervisor – “khata check kora chara ar kichui
kore uthte pari na” (it becomes impossible to make time for any
other activities than checking of registers). In this chaos, crucial
activities like experience sharing, information exchange and
awareness generation was getting left out. For instance, the
supervisors were unable to share any stories about the experiences
of workers and the mothers with any new initiative.
In both states some workers reported that the local panchayat
members were of great help and offered assistance with any
problems that were encountered. Villagers also extended similar
cooperation. The current structure is functioning, though poorly,
on individual efforts which need to be addressed urgently through
adequate investment in an adequate regulatory mechanism.
End Notes :
1. State-wise number of sanctioned, operational ICDS projects and
AWC Centers as on 22/10/2012, Ministry of Women And Child
Development, India
2. Planning Commission, Evaluation Study on Integrated Child Development
Scheme, New Delhi, 2011.
3. Evaluation Study on Integrated Child Development Scheme, Planning
Commission, Government of India : Own Building – 34.5%, Rented
Building – 16%, Others – 65%; Annual Action Plan, West Bengal
2012-13: Own Building – 24.6%, Rented Building – 14.4%, Others
– 61%; Performance Audit of ICDS Scheme 2013: Own Building –
18.5%, Rented Building – 16%, Others – 65%.
4. Government of West Bengal, Department of Child Development
and Department of Women Development & Social Welfare, State
Annual Programme Implementation Plan (APIP)of ICDS, 2012-13.
5. Planning Commission, Evaluation Report on Integrated Child Development
Services (ICDS), New Delhi, 2011
6. Ibid
Chapter 3
Ground level functioning of the ICDS
3.a. Working Hours: An AWC is supposed to bring under its fold
all children under six, pregnant and lactating mothers and
adolescents living in the area. While it is definitely a worthwhile
achievement that for a majority of households we surveyed
registration had been completed, there still remained a percentage
of unregistered children in both the states – 30 per cent in Bihar
and 14 per cent in West Bengal. Interviews with mothers revealed
that reasons for non-registration were the irregular functioning
of the centers coupled with the inefficiency of the AWWs.
However, though there had been a growth in the tendency to
open the centers on a regular basis, it was with the service delivery
pattern that the mothers seemed dissatisfied. For instance, in a
majority of the surveyed areas of West Bengal, it was observed
that there remained a gap in the stipulated time of functioning
of the AWC and real, ground level operational activities.
Chart 5: Average working hours of AWCs
Source: Field Data
From Chart 5 it becomes clear that with regard to functioning
hours Bihar betters West Bengal’s tardy performance. In West
Bengal, though almost all the AWWs reported that the centers
remained open in accordance with the stipulated hours, mothers’
accounts differed considerably– they said that the centers were
kept open for an average of two hours, the time it took to cook
and distribute the food. This gave us a sense of the extent of
delivery of the other stipulated services, especially pre-school
education. Sadly, no marked difference from conditions during
Pratichi Child Report (2008) was seen with regard to functioning
hours of the centers. In the earlier report 50 per cent of the
surveyed mothers had stated that the average working hours of
the center to be around two hours while in the current study a
decrease of four percentage points (to 46 per cent) was found.
In Bihar unlike West Bengal, there seemed to be a consonance
between the responses of the workers and mothers regarding
the working hours of the AWCs. However, one needs to
remember that the responses of the mothers’ were probably
grossly subjective as they were influenced by their socio-economic
background, lack of voice and subsequent helplessness, restricted
choice and lack of awareness of the ICDS entitlements. Bihar
has a very strong caste and class hierarchy which might have
influenced the reporting of the mothers.
Even against this backdrop, it will not be appropriate to put
the entire blame on the AWWs. These workers very often become
the victims of mass discontent and displeasure. It is not that all
workers are inefficient or are not dutiful towards their work but
often they are victims to the larger issues of administrative
accountability, programmatic inefficiencies, long hierarchical chain
of reporting and other functioning linkages that together
constitute the problem.
3.b. Service Delivery
3.b.1. Supplementary Nutrition Programme
At the first International Conference on Nutrition in 1992, a firm
stand was taken in the World Declaration on Nutrition stating
that “Hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world that
has both the knowledge and resources to end this form of
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
catastrophe”.1 Twenty two years have passed but the change
with regard to this issue has been inadequate. The latest Food
and Agriculture Organisation (hereafter FAO) estimate of the
prevalence of undernourishment shows that despite abundant
food supplies and considerable progress in reducing hunger in
some regions, more than 805 million people had chronically
poor levels of dietary intake during 2012-14.2
According to the Global Hunger Index (hereafter GHI) 2014
India ranks 55th among 76 emerging economies, placing before
Pakistan and Bangladesh but behind neighboring countries like
Nepal and Sri Lanka. According to the report though India is
not in the ‘alarming’ category anymore, she still falls under the
‘serious’ category.3 The report of the India State Hunger Index
(hereafter ISHI) 2008 brings out the dire situation of states like
Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. All states have issues
related to serious hunger.
There is no positive relationship between the under-five
mortality in a region and its child health and nutritional status.
Though India’s IMR fell from 88 in 1990 to 41 in 2013 the fact
still remains that 21per cent of the total under-five deaths in the
world still happen in India.4 Although India has witnessed a strong
economic growth in the last few years, malnutrition of those
under five continues to be among the highest in the world. Rate
of malnutrition in children of India is almost five times more
than that of China and twice that of Sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly
half of India’s children are underweight and 75 per cent are
anaemic.5 This picture is corroborated by ICDS data which states
that 25.9 per cent of the children in India are moderately
As a response to this situation in 2001 the Supreme Court
made it mandatory for the central and state governments to
provide Supplementary Nutrition every day to every child up to
six years of age and all pregnant and nursing mothers.7
In West Bengal the food generally supplied in AWC is either
khichdi or dal and sabzi served with rice. While the instruction is
to provide a full egg thrice a week, children in general preferred
to have eggs every day. In those situations the AWC workers
provide half an egg every day instead of one for three days.
Supply of food grains has been regularised in more or less all
centers across the state unlike the situation described in the first
Pratichi Child Report (2008) which observed short and irregular
supply of ingredients. The Essential Commodity Supply
Corporation (hereafter ECSC) mainly supplies the rice and pulses
to the project level whereas the AWC workers have been given
the responsibility to procure vegetables, eggs and other necessary
ingredients from the local market.
Table 12: Food Supply Regularity in West Bengal and Bihar
Responses of AWWs’ (%)
Source: Field Data
In Bihar 46 per cent of the visited AWCs were facing
problems related to irregular supply. It is mandated that a fixed
amount of money (Rs. 16225/-) is to be provided to each center
to buy the rice, pulses and other necessary groceries but the supply
of money is very irregular and cooking is not possible every day
according to the AWWs. Since the amount is fixed and does not
vary with the number of children, if any center cannot exhaust
the entire amount in a month, it is instructed to refund the rest to
the Government. While Bihar had a general problem of irregular
supply in most centers, West Bengal fared better with almost 82
per cent of the centers responding that they did not face any
problem with regard to supply of ingredients. Regular feeding
as part of SNP had become a common feature in all the centers.
In fact, some of our sampled centers even reported to having a
buffer stock of food grains. As many of the AWWs narrated,
“If we ever face any deficit problem, we (the AWCs) manage
among ourselves, lending from the center which has a buffer
stock and returning the same once the required stock comes in”.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
However out of our sampled AWCs in West Bengal, there
were four centers that reported to having problems with regard
to food supply, and all of them happened to be in areas
inhabited primarily by Adivasis. It has been seen that irregular
food supply is more common in areas with residents of low
educational status (total literacy and female literacy rate), economic
wherewithal and social integration. Belonging to a particular social
group creates a sort of exclusion that goes towards making
them lose their ‘voice’ resulting in their complaints being ignored.
Though the supply of food grains had improved in West Bengal,
for cooking some other materials such as oil, salt, turmeric, etc
are also essential. Unfortunately, the supply of these items was
highly unsatisfactory. We will discuss this issue in the later part of
this section with a detailed picture of the budget.
Table 13: Profile of the villages of West Bengal with poor food supply
* Here, the agricultural labourers are counted excluding plantation workers.
(Source: Census of India, 2011)
AWWs almost everywhere in West Bengal told us that they try to
provide meals to the children every day but the mothers said
that it is not always feasible for them to go to the center and
collect food or drop children. In short, the main problem here
was that of access. Many of the mothers have reported that the
distance of the AWC hindered them from receiving SNP as it
becomes difficult for the mother to leave her household work
and other activities. In many cases, health conditions of pregnant and lactating mothers does not permit them to walk long
distances to avail the nutritious food.
Table 14: Regularity of SNP reception: Responses of mothers of
West Bengal and Bihar (%)
We are not clear at this point whether the high percentage of no responses is an offshoot
of field work related complexities or reflective of people’s reticence to engage.
Source: Field Data
In West Bengal almost 70 per cent of the mothers whose
children are between 0-6 years of age regularly took meals from
the AWCs. On the other hand, 37 per cent of the mothers who
have children below the age of one and 19 per cent who have
children between the age of one and six did not take food from
the AWC for their children for reasons such as distance, and
duties on the farm that leave them little time to make long trips
to and fro.
Class consciousness has played a role in hindering optimum
performance of ICDS as we saw that the well-off families
avoided allowing their children to have food with others in the
center. In many cases these families voiced their dissatisfaction
with the quality of food as what they eat at home is better than
the food provided at the center. The relatively powerful staying
away from public services has resulted in lower accountability
and hence poorer performance of the programmes.
Sometimes religious beliefs of people serve as barrier to their
availing of SNP. For instance, during the field survey in West
In Nandanpur Village of Dakshin Dinajpur a particular
child was restrained by his family from consuming the
meal served at the Center. Subsequent inquiry revealed
that the child came from a vaishnav family that disagrees
with the consumption of non-vegetarian food, onion and
garlic. However, being thus deprived regularly upsets the
child and whenever he visits his uncle’s place he eats all
these items at their local AWC.
The picture was different in the case of Bihar. To begin with,
we had already seen problems in the supply of food grains due
to governmental inefficiency. But 81per cent mothers of children
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
aged between 1-6 years replied that they take food from the
center regularly. Yet while observing the centers we found many
of them were closed on most days of the week and even the
AWWs admitted that due to lack of funds it was not possible
for them to provide food every day. Besides, they hesitated to
keep the center open to avoid the uncomfortable situation of
children coming and asking for food which they could not
provide. This disjoint between perception and reality could be
caused by two factors – informational deficits among people
regarding how often food was supposed to be supplied as per
rules, leading to a perception of once a week being ‘regular’, in
combination with a problem of positional objectivity whereby
given the existing economic condition any amount received was
seen as beyond one’s entitlement.
As Dreze and Sen point out:Unlike many other states that have
passively implemented the central guidelines, Tamil Nadu has taken ‘ownership’
of ’ ICDS and invested major financial, human and political resource in it.8
A direct impact of such initiatives can be seen on the functioning
of the ICDS: while in West Bengal and Bihar the average working
hours are two and four hours respectively, in Tamil Nadu the
centers remain open for more than six hours a day. The centers
are essentially acting like crèches in those places. Also, regular
training programmes for the workers and involvement of the
Health Department with the ICDS have made the programme
successful in the state.
Table 15: Place of Eating for Children (%)
Source: Field Data
As is evident from table 15, in almost all the sampled districts
of In West Bengal almost 70 per cent of the mothers whose
children are between 0-6 years of age regularly took meals from
the AWCs. On the other hand, 37 per cent of the mothers who
have children below the age of one and 19 per cent who have
children between the age of one and six did not take food from
the AWC for their children for reasons such as distance, and
duties on the farm that leave them little time to make long trips
to and fro.
The food generally served in West Bengal is either khichdi or
rice with vegetables and if possible the centers provided eggs.
Also, in Bihar the menu was almost the same except for the
eggs, as confirmed by our field visits. When asked about the
quality of food 67 per cent mothers in West Bengal replied that
they were satisfied and 71per cent replied positively about the
quantity. In Bihar, 50 per cent of the mothers expressed their
dissatisfaction with the quantity of food and almost 70 per cent
raised issues related to the food quality. Almost 45 per cent of
them expressed grievances about there being no variation in the
food served as they provide khichdi in the center every day. In
West Bengal mothers who were dissatisfied with quality said that
there were barely any vegetables in the food.
It may be worth mentioning here that though there were
some AWWs who were trying their level best to provide the
nutritious food to the children sometimes they also got frustrated
with the meager supplies they were provided with. For the smooth
functioning of the AWC financial assistance plays a very crucial
role in the success of the programme. A budgetary analysis of
provisions of SNP in the two districts (Murshidabad and
Birbhum) of West strongly suggests the requirement for higher
financial allocation (See table 16A-C).
Table 16 A: Vegetable budget of Murshidabad (Char labongola 2 AWC, Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Table 16 B: Egg budget of Murshidabad (Char labongola 2 AWC, Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
Table 16 C: Soyabean budget of Murshidabad (Char labongola 2 AWC, Bhagwangola -1) and Bardhaman
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
There were district-wise variations in allotment for food in
West Bengal. In Murshidabad where the allotment for the
‘normal’, malnourished children and pregnant and lactating
mothers is Rs 4, 5 and 6/- respectively, the meal generally provided
was khichdi with some vegetables and a boiled egg. From our
field observations we noticed that it was hard to find vegetables
in the preparation. On the other hand, in districts like Bardhaman
where the allotment for the same is Rs. 6, 7 and 9/- respectively,
rice with vegetables was provided for three days and khichdi is
provided for the next three days. Here too half a boiled egg was
provided every day.
Allotment for rice in Bardhaman was sufficient with 45 gm
rice for each child but the allotment is less in places like
Murshidabad with 32 gm rice per child. That the food provided
at AWC is just a nutritional supplement is a well known fact but
the amount in Murshidabad does not meet the children’s
requirement or demand. From the above two calculations of
Bardhaman and Murshidabad district, it can be seen that if eggs
are provided in right amount then in Bardhaman each child will
get 27.6 gm of vegetables and in Murshidabad 3.3 gm.
If the allotted amount is used to buy vegetables in each district
then the children of Murshidabad will get one third the amount
provided to the children of Bardhaman. It is hardly acceptable
that children of same age will get different amounts of food for
being located in different areas. Also districts like Murshidabad
where the problem of hunger is so acute and allotment per child
should be increased immediately, this is especially unfair.
It also needs to be brought to the policymaker’s notice that
there is no separate allotment for essential ingredients such as
salt, turmeric or oil in the budget. It has already been mentioned
that with the meager monetary allotment sufficient vegetables
cannot be purchased and if one has to deduct from that to
purchase spices, it will further worsen the quality of food
provided. While interviewing the worker we were told that the
Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) of Murshidabad
had ordered the workers to cook food without oil. What the
CDPO had in mind is not certain but that the food lost its nutrition
content is more than certain.
In West Bengal though the ‘supply’ of the rice and pulses has
been regularized and even a buffer stock of ingredients has been
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
observed, in the absence of the necessary ingredients like salt
and oil, does the food remain nutritious as it is supposed to be?
Even if we leave the nutrition aspect aside does the food remain
palatable for children?
As the worker of the ICDS center in Chor labongola,
Murshidabad told us:
‘We are told to involve the community to supply a good
meal to the children. With the small amount we cannot
provide vegetables or pulses everyday if the people of the
village do not provide support. But the ingredients like salt
or turmeric are generally not produced at home and it is
not possible for them to purchase those for all the children
every day.’
3.b.2 Pre-School Education
PSE for children aged 3-6 forms another crucial component of
the ICDS programme. It plays an important role in
universalization of education by giving children adequate
preparation for attending primary school and thereby
contributing towards mainstreaming. Also, by offering substitute
care to the younger siblings, it gives the older children, especially
girls, the opportunity to attend school. However, despite an
emphasis on early childhood care and education (hereafter
ECCE) across the world9 and in various policy initiatives of
India,10 the domain of PSE in the ICDS programme continues
to be neglected. SNP has always received prominence in the
programme design – and understandably so, given the high
prevalence of hunger across the states. But the highlighting of
one component has resulted in the percolation of the message
that providing SNP is the primary responsibility of the centers.
According to the distribution of duties of the ICDS workers
the preparation of the meal is the responsibility of the helper.
However, it often becomes difficult for the helper to tackle the
entire process single-handedly and thereby the worker also gets
involved in the process – resulting in the PSE component getting
Table 17: Neglect of Pre-school Education
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI
The fact that PSE persists as a neglected component of the
scheme becomes apparent from the fact that even the ministry
website officially declares that children of ages 3-6 years receive
SNP but rarely PSE. This pattern holds true for all states, with
Bihar recording a major discrepancy of 56 per cent, which was
much above the national average of 3.1 per cent. While it was
definitely an achievement that West Bengal records a significantly
lower gap, the question still remains why the discrepancy is ubiquitous. This data suggests that the state has accepted the fact that
in many areas these function only as feeding centers.
In one particular village in West Bengal, the AWC was
found closed on the day of the visit and during the stipulated hours. The village women were found chatting nearby
and they narrated in a matter-of-fact manner that it was
very common for the center to be closed. Food has been
cooked and distributed to the children and so the workers have left. They also reported that this was almost a
regular phenomenon.
In the midst of all this neglect and abandonment, it can be
seen that there has been a slow but rising demand for PSE. The
Pratichi Child Report in 2008 showed that when ranked in order
of preference, 65 per cent mothers prioritized PSE over all other
services to be provided by the center. The current survey has
confirmed the persistence of this trend with more than 60 per
cent mothers in West Bengal having advocated PSE for their
children. In Bihar, 100 per cent mothers affirmed the importance of education in the early years, portraying the picture of a
rise of a very strong demand for education in Bihar. At the same
time the basic support required for meeting this demand was
found to be run down.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Table 18: Extent of Pre-school Education (Anganwadis)
Source: Status Report of ICDS, 2014, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GOI
What we gather from field experience differs substantially
from what is described in the official documents, but even official
sources reveal the depressing scenario in Bihar. Levels of service
delivery are reflected in the categorization – sanctioned (the
number of AWCs are required given population), operational
(the number of running AWCs), reporting (which is a subset of
the operational segment except these centers regularly report to
the higher authorities on performance) and finally the segment
that provides PSE. It has already been discussed in the beginning
of this chapter that there was a discrepancy between the number
of operational and reporting centers. With regard to PSE delivery,
Bihar lags much behind the national average with 42 per cent of
its centers not providing any pre-school services. Though Bihar
has definitely shown some improvement with an increase of
about 10 percentage points (49 per cent in 2013 to 58 per cent
in 2014)11 this is an unimpressive rate of growth compared to
other states.
Thus, what is revealed is a demand versus supply discrepancy.
While over the years, (through convergence programmes,
community participation and various national campaigns)
awareness levels have increased, with mothers becoming
conscious about the necessity of preschool education, the centers
suffering from dearth of support facilities are failing to meet
this increasing demand. A simple illustration will help in
understanding the condition of support facilities: 44 per cent
mothers in West Bengal reported that the center did not have
any books for imparting PSE. In case of Bihar, this number
was 81 per cent. Similarly, approximately 50 per cent of the
mothers of both the states said that the center did not have a
blackboard for teaching – surveyed AWCs of Gopalganj and
Madhubani districts of Bihar reported to having absolutely no
books for teaching. Number and colour identification, learning
letters, reciting stories and rhymes form an integral part of the
PSE component. One can well imagine how it is being imparted
with such meager support facilities!
In this context, it needs to be mentioned that ICDS guidelines
of year 2000 stipulated state level procurement of PSE kits and
their distribution to the centers on a yearly basis. The process
was decentralized in order to ensure timely availability of kits at
the centers and the ministry provided an amount of Rs. 500/per kit (which was later increased to Rs. 1000/-) for procuring
the required materials. However, the Comptroller and Auditor
General (hereafter CAG) Audit Report placed in Parliament in
the year 2013, stated clearly that despite the orders, under-spending
with respect to purchase of PSE kits was widely noticed. In this
respect, underutilization of funds was noticed in West Bengal
during the audit period of 2006-07 to 2010-11. The CAG report
had raised a lot of relevant questions and media generated mass
outrage about the poor commitment of the governments
towards their children. However, the issue faced a quick death
before much national debate or discussion could be generated.
Yet the budget crunch and poor spending continue.
Along with dearth of materials for imparting PSE, there are
also structural constraints faced by the centers. A primary
requirement for conducting educational activities with children
in a joyful manner is space: 32 and 77per cent AWCs of West
Bengal and Bihar respectively, do not function from their own
buildings. It also needs to be taken into consideration here that a
large percentage (36 per cent in West Bengal and 80 percent in
Bihar) of the centers did not even have toilets. One needs to
really think about whether it is actually possible for such a large
number of children and the workers to refrain from using toilet
facilities for as long as four hours. In West Bengal, a worker
reported that whenever she needs to use the toilet, she had to
take leave for about a quarter of an hour to run to her house at
the other end of the village to relieve herself. Teaching and learning
under such conditions appear daunting.
Problems are further aggravated by the absence of supervision
and monitoring. It has already been discussed that the disturbing
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
shortage of staff at the supervisory level results in major lapses
in conducting an efficient regulatory mechanism. All these factors
have negatively contributed to the poor functioning of the preschooling activities resulting in mothers becoming increasingly
dissatisfied with the workers’ performance. Although, since the
Pratichi Child Report in 2008, the level of discontent with the
workers for not imparting any sort of pre-schooling activities
has gradually decreased (While 64 per cent mothers stated absence
of PSE to be the reason for being dissatisfied with AWWs in
2008, it reduced to 29 per cent in 2014), yet much more remains
to be done.
As the workers are the lowest service level providers and are
in direct contact with the people, they very often fall prey to the
fury of the villagers, even when structural constraints were the
major barriers for them not being able to render the services in
an efficient and effective manner. However, even against such
odds we came across several committed and dedicated workers.
From our field researcher’s notes:
In one center of Nepali Line area of Jalpaiguri district of
West Bengal, elephant attacks are common due to which
houses are elevated with wooden posts. Under such an
elevated house, an AWC is functioning where it is difficult
for an adult to stand straight. However, this has not stopped
the worker from rendering her services. Since English
education is an area of attraction, on demand from the
mothers she has taken her own initiative in teaching English
alphabets and numbers to the children. The children were
also found to speak a few words in English and certain
English books had been procured by the worker herself. A
similar story of worker’s commitment and dedication has
been observed in Char labangola area of Murshidabad
district of West Bengal. Such stories of motivation,
innovation and dedication continue to serve as the lifeline
of this community-based ICDS programme. However, till
the time these are complemented with adequate support
mechanism, such initiatives will continue to remain as
scattered bits of the broader picture.
3.b.3 Health Services
According to the directive of the ICDS, there should be regular
health check-ups of children under six, antenatal care of expectant
mothers and postnatal care of nursing mothers. The health
services provided for children by AWWs and Auxiliary Nurse/
Midwife (hereafter ANM) of Sub centers should include regular
health check-ups, recording of weight, immunization,
management of malnutrition, treatment of diarrhoea, deworming and distribution of simple medicines etc,.12 It is also
mandatory for the ANM to examine the children, adolescent
girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers at the AWC itself.
The ANM should be able to identify and treat minor ailments
and refer other cases to the PHC / Sub-center. Maternal and
child health facilities should be geared towards providing adequate
medical care during pregnancy, at the time of childbirth and also
post-partum care. These services should also aim at promoting
safe motherhood, healthy child development and reducing
maternal and infant mortality.
The primary role of AWW is to survey and identify women
and children for these services and gather the identified people
during the visits of the ANMs. AWWs are also expected to
coordinate with the ANMs of the Sub-centers.
According to a report of the Planning Commission of India
in 2011, while the provision of health check up facility in West
Bengal (54.9 per cent) was somewhat lower than the national
average of 66.1per cent, Bihar’s performance was worse where
only 18.9per cent of the AWCs were found to have provided
the facility. AWC workers reported to there being basic health
check up facilities in only two centers of Dakshin Dinajpur and
one in South 24 Parganas of West Bengal. In Bihar 47 per cent
of the workers replied to having any basic health check up facility
but again it was mainly concentrated in districts like Katihar (6),
Bhagalpur (5), and Bhojpur (3). The wide variation in what the
official report suggests and what we gather from the field requires
urgent scrutiny.
A key indicator of child’s nutrition status is weight which
should be regularly measured centers. A basic requirement for
efficient functioning of this service is availability of functional
weighing machines in the centers. The Pratichi Child report in
2008 found that this service was not getting adequate attention
with only half of the surveyed mothers responding to their
children ever being weighed at the centers. The current study
reported some improvement with 61 per cent mothers of West
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Bengal replying in the affirmative.
However, it is the condition of the weighing machines that
requires urgent attention here. In both the states it was observed
that the centers had weighing machines but in many of them it
was not functional. While for West Bengal, out of the 77 per
cent of the centers with weighing machines for children, 11.8
per cent were beyond using, in case of Bihar; this was as high as
39 per cent. The picture was further worse in case of the
machines meant for weighing adults. For example, in Jalpaiguri
district of West Bengal none of the four centers had weighing
machines for children, three of them had adult weighing machines
but only one of them was working, thereby resulting in only
one center having a functional weighing machine. But at the same
time, almost 70 per cent mothers of Jalpaiguri replied that their
children were weighed in the last year. During our field visits we
have observed that sub-centers were very active with regard to
weighing and immunizing children or registering pregnant
mothers. Accredited Social Health Activists (hereafter ASHA)
acts as the key person between the people and the sub-center to
enable this activity and thereby it is a possibility that the children
were weighed at the sub-centers resulting in the mothers relying
in positive.
Bihar on the other hand, again portrayed poor performance.
While majority of its weighing machines were non-functional,
even about half of the surveyed mothers responded that their
children were never weighed at the center last year, especially in
districts like Madhubani and Gopalganj where weighing of
children is almost a rare phenomenon. The present survey did
not find any reference of the ASHA workers or the ANMs of
the sub-centers in this regard for Bihar as it had been observed
for West Bengal. Weight keeping, which is a crucial component
of the health services of the ICDS programme, thereby continues
to remain neglected.
Next to weighing, arranging regular meetings forms another
crucial component of the health services. According to the
mandate, workers are to arrange meetings with the mothers at
regular intervals and suggest ideas related to pre and post natal
hygiene practices, importance of nutrition, immunization, etc.
If such meetings can be organized effectively, it is bound to
reflect on their daily lives. In our study almost all the AWWs in
West Bengal and Bihar replied that they organize at least one
meeting per month but unsurprisingly almost all the mothers
denied having attended any such meeting. Among them, 96 per
cent of the mothers in West Bengal and 97 per cent in Bihar
replied that they were not provided any information of such
meetings, whereas 27 per cent in West Bengal answered that they
did not find time to attend them. The national average also does
not give us a more encouraging picture regarding such meetings.
A medical kit containing some general medicines of common
cough and cold, fever, bandages for minor injuries, etc., is
supplied to all the centers. While interviewing the CDPOs in
West Bengal, it was found that as the health department was
treating the sub-centers as the first point of health service delivery,
they are also reluctant to provide regular medical kits to the AWC.
Besides, we saw during our field investigations that the ANMs
and ASHA workers were very active in villages so the people
did not even come to the AWC anymore to ask for medicines.
Therefore the lack of provision on one hand and the relatively
active sub-centers on the other hand, seem to have further
undermined the AWCs’ health service delivery. Also, the AWWs
did not get any training to provide medicines; therefore, like the
previous findings of Pratichi Child Report (2008), workers were
very hesitant to provide medicines. In 17 out of 21 centers in
West Bengal, workers reported that in a year they got the medical
kit only once. The situation in Bihar was no better. While in 13
per cent of the centers the supply of medicines occurred every
month or more, in 23 per cent of centers the supply arrived
annually or even less frequently.
Table 19: Medicine Supply in Selected AWCs in Bihar (%)
Source: Field Data
The immunization programme is mainly carried out by the
Department of Health where the ICDS plays an assisting role.
The main responsibility of the workers is to motivate the mothers
to have their child and themselves immunized during pregnancy.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
They also assist ANM to arrange health camps in the villages
and maintain relevant records. This is particularly important given
the current status of immunization in both the states. Our data
on 89 children (of 0-12 months) in Bihar and 71 children of the
corresponding age group in West Bengal showed that while in
both the states the rate of immunization of BCG was high (93
per cent in Bihar and 92 per cent in West Bengal) corresponding
figures for other vaccines were abysmally low. This pattern was
found to be in line with the other disaggregated data sets, such
as figures compiled by the Planning commission,13 which showed
that while the degree of BCG vaccination in Bihar and West
Bengal were 94 per cent and 74 per cent respectively,
corresponding figures for measles were 52 per cent and 82 per
cent respectively. And this partial success resulted in a much lower
degree of full immunization (40 per cent and 67 per cent in
Bihar and West Bengal respectively).
After immunization, it is the referral services that form yet
another important component of the health services. The referral
services are meant to provide special medical attention to the
severely malnourished, disabled, pregnant women. According
to the responses from our study in West Bengal it was found
that out of the 22 centers, seven centers had referred the child in
question and eight centers had referred the mother to the nearby
health facility, in the last six months. In Bihar we had also found
that of the 30 centers visited, five had referred the mother and
seven had referred the child in the last six months.
3.b.4 Nutrition and Health Education
This has the long term goal of capacity-building of women –
of the 15-45 age group especially – so that they can look after
their own health, nutrition and development needs as well as
that of their children and families. In India public awareness
about general health and hygiene is at a stage of infancy. The
situation gets further aggravated when in the name of age-old
rituals and customs, dubious health practices are inculcated. This
information poverty flows down the generations resulting in
poor standards of health, hygiene and nutrition of the populace.
For instance, it is a common belief that that the mother’s first
breast milk – colostrum – is harmful to child’s health when actually
the opposite is true. Thus, even though it is believed that a child
is best left at home, this perception needs to be reviewed when
the state of basic health and hygiene at home is such. To meet
the challenge of information asymmetry and nutritional neglect,
under the aegis of ICDS services began its operation in 1975 in
India. NHE was initiated with the main aim of providing the
adolescent girls, women and the present mothers, information
on basic health, hygiene, nutrition, sanitation, immunization and
family-planning. It is for this purpose that conducting Village
Health and Nutrition Days (hereafter VHNDs) with the
participation of mothers, workers, ANMs and other panchayat
personnel has been made compulsory. VHNDs are supposed
to be held every week and minutes are to be maintained of the
discussion. Mothers’ meetings therefore play a very important
role in generating village awareness levels since it is now a well
established fact that educating a woman implies educating the
entire society.
NHE is delivered via inter-personal contact and discussion
through the following services/activities:
Services for children: care and monitoring of child’s growth,
timely immunization , knowledge about breast feeding, treatment
of diarrhoea/minor illness, prevention of provision of homemade medicines, preparation of nutritious food/feeding
practices, importance of education of the child, lessons on
sanitation and hygiene, preparation of oral rehydration solution
(ORS), care of severely malnourished children.14
Services for Mother : Provision of information on immunization
during pregnancy, benefits of institutional delivery, feeding
practices during pregnancy and lactating period, correct posture
during pregnancy and breast feeding, self care, illnesses, nipple
hygiene, purification of water for mothers and adolescent girls,
family planning, etc.15
However, in West Bengal, despite a rise in awareness levels
regarding mothers’ meetings – participation still remains a big
challenge. In spite of AWWs reporting that mothers’ meetings
were held every 27 days – 96 per cent mothers reported that
they had never attended any such meeting and a greater
proportion attributed the reason of non-attendance to lack of
information about the events. A similar picture was seen in Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
also where the information gap played a big role in the mothers
not being able to attend the meetings. Interestingly, the national
average also does not show any encouraging trend with the
Planning Commission reporting that only 0.25 per cent mothers
have attended NHE meetings. For Bihar the percentage is as
low as 0.06 per cent while for West Bengal it is 0.36 per cent.16
It also needs to be kept in mind that through generation of
awareness, NHE primarily intends to bring about a change in
the behavior pattern and subsequent health practices of the
mothers, women and adolescent girls. Unsurprisingly, the Planning
Commission in 2011 reported that both West Bengal and Bihar
perform poorly at cultivating behavior change in accordance
with the advice given in NHE meetings.17
So, where does the problem lie? The workers report that
meetings are held regularly while majority of the mothers give
us a contradictory picture. If it is assumed that meetings are
genuinely held regularly, even then its impact on behaviour change
is minimal. The workers were often said that the mothers were
not giving the meetings due importance whereas as per our survey
only two mothers in West Bengal and one in Bihar displayed
were explicitly disinterested in attending meetings. On the
contrary, about seven per cent of mothers in Bihar have actually
raised a demand to be called to such meetings and given
information on health and hygiene. This is definitely a very
promising potential which needs to be actualized. Absence of
adequate training sessions along with lack of information about
hygiene often hinders the worker from conducting effective
meetings. Regular support and advice from the supervisors can
help the workers in solving this critical problem. However, the
regulatory mechanism of the ICDS programme is currently at a
juncture where on one hand it is handicapped by dearth of staff
and on the other hand by an overload of responsibilities.
End Notes
Jomo Sundaram K. and Rawal V., “Nutrition: What needs to be
done”, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol: 49 (42), 2014
The State of Food Security in the World (SOFI) 2014
3. Global Hunger Index , International Food Policy Research Institute
(IFPRI), October 13, 2014
4. About half of the all under-five deaths occur in only five countries India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and China.
India (21 per cent) and Nigeria (13 per cent) together account for more
than a third of all under-five deaths in the world’, Levels and Trends
in Child Mortality, Estimates developed by UN-Inter agency group
for child mortality estimation, 2014.
5. The World Bank, Helping India Combat Persistently High Rates of
Malnutrition, 2013, accessed on December 6, 2014.
6. ICDS defines the undernourishment into four categories namely
Grade I, Grade II, Grade III and Grade IV. The Grade I and Grade II
is defined as moderately malnourished which is similar to underweight
or undernourished and the Grade III and Grade IV are defined as
severely Malnourished. - Classification of Nutritional Status of
Children, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Integrated
Child Development Services, March 2014.
7. 300 calories and 8-10grams protein to every child up to six years, 600
calories and 16-20 gm protein to severely malnourished children up
to six years of age and 500 calories and 20 gm protein to all the
pregnant and nursing mothers every day, The norm has been changed
recently where it has been instructed to provide 500 calories and 1215grams protein to children up to 6 years of age, 800 calories and 2025 gm protein to severely malnourished children up to 6 years of age
and 600 calories and 18-20gram protein to all the pregnant and nursing
mothers. Supreme Court Order, November 28, 2001 and 2009.
8. Dreze Jean and Sen Amartya, An Uncertain Glory: India and its
contradictions, New Delhi: Penguin-Allen Lane, 2013, pp 172-174.
education_7862.htm, (Accessed on 10/12/14)
10. National Policy for Children (1974), National Policy on Education (1986),
National Nutrition Policy (1993), National Health Policy (2002), National
Plan of Action for Children (2005), National Curriculum Framework (2005),
Right to Education (2009) and obviously the ICDS (1975) all have
addressed and emphasized the importance and contribution of
ECCE in the development of children.
11. , accessed on December
11, 2014.
accessed on December 8, 2014.
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
13. GOI, Integrated Child Development Services, Department of Women and Child Development, , accessed on December 13, 2014.
14. Planning Commission, Status of Immunization of Children (compiled from ICDS records);
New Delhi, 2012.
15. Source: Acceessed on 30/11/2014
16. Planning Commission, Evaluation Report on Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), New
Delhi, 2011
17. ibid.
Chapter 4
ICDS – The Urban Scenario
In this section, the data collected from six municipal wards in
the three districts of West Bengal (Dakshin Dinajpur, Bardhaman
and South 24 Parganas) are analysed. Open-ended discussions
with six AWWs, as many AWHs, and sixteen mothers and in
depth interviews with three CDPOs of these wards, inform
this analysis.
The Supreme Court order in 2004 accelerated the pace of
universalization of the ICDS programme. Though the rural areas
have witnessed some advancement urban agglomerations are
yet to witness a similar improvement. In rural areas, a broader
societal movement played a determining role in the overall
expansion and functioning of the centers. However, in the urban
areas, there are challenges which further complicate successful
delivery of ICDS such as the appeal that private players seem to
enjoy. This popularity rides on the public perception: of
government programmes as meant only for the vulnerable, who
are considered inconsequential both by the market and their
relatively affluent neighbours.
Gaps in Functioning
Absence of Child Friendly Environment
The AWCs in urban areas are very often forced to function
from small, dingy spaces devoid of proper ventilation. This is
because availability of space is a problem in the ward locations.
They primarily function from local clubs which unsurprisingly
lack adequate infrastructural support or a suitable environment
for nurturing children. It is very difficult to carry out preparation
of nutritious food, imparting of pre-school education and other
requisite activities from these places. The absence of spacious,
adequately lit and ventilated rooms was also seen to create
dissatisfaction among the parents and leads to irregular child
In the centers within our sample, we found varied forms of
neglect including those which put the children at severe risk. In
one center it was observed that the children were hooked to the
television in the club and the worker was busy assisting the helper
in preparing the meal. In another municipality ward, a mother
complained that she was hesitant to send her child to the center
as it was located near an accident prone area.
Land Donation Concerns
The ICDS programme does not have any provision for purchase
of land. The programme rests on community ownership,
participation and cooperation for its functioning. Therefore, the
scheme depends on land donation for construction of a center.
However, land donation has emerged as a significant problem,
especially in the urban locations. Due to rapid urbanization,
increasing population of the municipality ward areas and skyhigh property prices, land donation for construction of centers
has taken a hit. In such a scenario, the urban projects are forced
to offer its services from local clubs or some other places paying
paltry rents. Since the rates are meagre and there is often delayed
financial disbursement, the owners are rarely keen to continue
with the agreement. Moreover, these places do not always
conform to the norm – both with regard to the work schedule
or important infrastructural dictates such as floor size. Interviews
with AWWs and CDPOs in the urban areas revealed their serious
disagreement with the current land acquisition norms.
The role of private players
There has been an increase in private kindergarten schools and
crèches in the urban areas in the last few years. With their spacious
accommodation and child-friendly environments they have
definitely been able to attract the urban dwellers. There has been
a movement towards these schools over the years and the underfunded ICDS centers with their poor infrastructural support are
seen as no competition. However, the attractive facilities of these
private kindergarten schools come at the cost of social exclusion
and furthered class hierarchies.
To combat the problem of children leaving ICDS centers
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
after a while and joining the more prestigious private kindergarten
schools the workers suggested the provision of a certificate for
children who complete PSE and are ready for school. It is a
common feeling that small incentives such as these may help
them in motivating the parents to send their children to the centers.
Low Awareness regarding Public Programmes
In contrast to the rural areas where there is higher visibility of
the AWCs and their easy accessibility, mothers in the urban areas
were found not to have any information regarding the existence
of the AWCs or their importance in the development of a child.
Nor did they display any awareness of the entitlements to be
received from the centers. Very often, this lack of information
about government programmes also pushes families towards
private enterprises. To solve this problem campaigning should
not be targeted-based; on the contrary a universal approach needs
to be adopted for successful utilization of the services offered
under the programme.
Class bias
There is a common perception that the government programmes
are meant only for slum dwellers and therefore the affluent avoid
these programmes. This perception further enhances the societal
divide. This gets highlighted even in our small urban sample wherein
55.3 per cent of mothers reported to never availing the nutritious
food for their child. Out of this, 30 per cent of the mothers openly
declared not needing the supplementary meal. Poor quality of food,
irregular services and inconvenient timings were cited as other
reasons for not taking food from the center.
With regard to other aspects of functioning, 86 per cent of the
mothers were seen complaining about the poor quality of rice
which lacks both the taste and the necessary nutritious value. A
comparatively high percentage even voiced displeasure with regard
to the quantity of the food offered to the children. In contrast to
rural areas, the workers in the urban centers have not been able to
develop any relationship with the mothers and thereby contentment
with the workers’ functioning was also found to be poor among
mothers. Irregular schedule of the centers was another recurrent
complaint. However, like the rural agglomerations, here too the
centers are mostly perceived as feeding centers.
The AWCs in urban areas appear to be in a deplorable state.
Emphasis has been placed largely on the development of the
programme in the rural locations and the urban projects continue
to function with serious handicaps. To revive the current situation
the policy around acquiring land will need more thought, given
the logistical problems that arise from the current arrangement.
Emphasis needs to be laid on awareness programmes since
informational deficit regarding these programmes has emerged
as a significant hindrance and finally, infrastructural provisions
need to be competitive with the alternatives to ICDS for it to
remain a viable option for the urban population.
Chapter 5
Scope and Challenges
The ICDS programme has been subject to considerable criticism
and there has been severe questioning about the justification for
continuing this programme, based on random incidents of food
poisoning or stories of inactive centers. But despite such instances,
it needs to be understood that the scheme is actually improving
its performance thought at a less than ideal pace. And the need
for the ICDS has been supported both by the growing evidence
in its favour and in the sound arguments forwarded by experts
defending its current form. It is accepted that the standard of
implementation of the programme has been poor – but this is
not really a universal phenomenon. Tamil Nadu and Himachal
Pradesh are shining examples where it has been proved that
government commitment and political will can make for the
successful overall functioning and effective delivery of the
For a while now the ICDS scheme has been considered
synonymous with food – colloquially even referred to as “khichdi
schools”. However, over time, people’s perception has changed.
As we have seen, all the functionaries –workers, supervisors,
officials, local panchayat – have and played a role in correcting
this notion. ICDS is a scheme based hugely on community
participation; therefore, unless there is societal involvement, the
programme remains ineffectual. The essence of this idea is
manifested in instances where the mothers have voiced their
support by providing several suggestions for better delivery and
functioning of the scheme.
While a lot of emphasis is still placed on the betterment of
the SNP, mothers have also expressed their satisfaction with
regard to food quality and quantity in comparison with previous
standards. However, this has been primarily observed in West
Bengal where nearly 70 per cent mothers went on to report that
the quality of food has improved. Thus, although certain amounts
of dissatisfaction continue to persist in view of poor quality and
absence of variation of food, field observations indicate that
there has been a substantial improvement in the overall functioning.
The picture however is not so encouraging for Bihar where
concerns still exist regarding both the quality and the quantity of
food provided. According to our primary survey, only 29 per
cent mothers have reported to being satisfied with food quality.
This is definitely a matter of extreme concern and in an effort to
resolve the situation, the mothers have suggested that they be
called for meetings where there can be open discussions regarding
the overall delivery system of the centers. This problem-solving
approach speaks volumes about the community’s personal
investment in the programme and increasing levels of awareness
regarding its importance in the lives of their children and the
society at large.
We have already discussed the gaps in coverage in the
beginning of this chapter. With regard to this issue, 12 per cent
mothers in West Bengal have claimed that lack of proximity of
centers is a barrier for sending their children to the centers. Thus
the location of the centers and its approximate distance from
the village is an issue that needs to be looked at with considerable
seriousness. However, it is here that the policy and basic design
of the scheme poses a problem. ICDS is a scheme based on
community initiative and participation and thus requires land to
be donated by the villagers for setting up centers. Under no
circumstance does the scheme allow purchase of lands. But given
today’s hikes in land prices, land donation has seen a serious
setback. Our interviews with workers, supervisors and CDPOs
reveal that unavailability of land is often the primary barrier to
building new centers. In some places, it was even observed that
the amount allotted for constructing new building had to be
returned due to land unavailability. The issue got further
exacerbated in urban areas with the centers being forced to run
in dilapidated and ill-ventilated places. Thus, in all probability
given the demand of the present situation, the scheme needs to
review its existing land policy.
The fundamental understanding that ICDS is much more
than just “food” has reached deep into society as can be
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
understood from the fact that in both states, mothers have
increasingly asked for improvement of overall service delivery
of the programme – which includes emphasis on pre-school
education, health education, information on basic health, hygiene
and nutrition and so on. In West Bengal, although more than 60
per cent mothers appreciated the services of the AWWs, of the
remaining percentage who expressed their discontent, 29 per
cent strongly demanded proper implementation of PSE. In
Bihar, more than half of the surveyed mothers were found to
be hugely dissatisfied with the AWWs’ services. A disaggregation
of the reasons for dissatisfaction revealed that in 90 per cent of
the cases, dissatisfaction could be attributed to irregular services
of the center. An irregular functioning can occur in the absence
of an effective regulatory mechanism which we have already
discussed in the human resource section where we have also
focused on the disturbingly high shortage of workforce. The
mere fact that the mothers of both the states have raised their
concerns over service delivery pattern and functioning of the
centers perhaps points towards the immediate need for filling
the enormous number of vacancies in the midlevel managerial
From a functioning perspective, it also needs to be brought
to attention that the underpaid AWW is overburdened with work.
Assisted by a helper and in some places, even in the absence of
helper, the AWC worker is singlehandedly responsible for a large
number of activities and official paper-work, which are
impossible to complete within the stipulated four hours.
In urban areas the problem of land acquisition in times of
enormous land prices, the lure of private kindergarten schools,
the rejection of the programme by all who can afford alternatives
and less than enthusiastic publicity campaigns leading to poor
popular knowledge of entitlements from ICDS has led to very
poor performance of the programme.
And last but not the least, the success of any programme
rests on the shoulder of its bearers, but it is equally essential that
they are provided with an adequate support system. Financial
allotment plays a huge role in the strengthening of a programme
and it needs to be remembered here that we are dealing with
children’s lives here which can neither be compromised nor
continued with a fragmented approach. There has been an
argument against universalization of this scheme on the basis
that this is unnecessary and not cost-effective and that for
successful implementation of the scheme, the intervention needs
to be targeted. However, it needs to be understood that there is
no effective mechanism for “targeting” children who are
vulnerable to malnourishment. Any such move would exclude a
lot of children leaving them exposed to becoming victims of illhealth or undernourishment. Further, chances of adverse selection
and biased judgment cannot be fully ruled out and hence
universalization is the only alternative.
The ICDS has been a slow performer but has still managed
to achieve on significant markers like increased coverage, regularity
in food supply, convergence with community, increasing emphasis
on pre-school education and heightened awareness levels of the
community. However, despite the achievements, it is an open
secret that the intricacies of the system need to be seriously
worked out for a more effectively performing public
programme. The Pratichi Child Report (2008) made several
important observations and provided substantial
recommendations. The present study in its revisit found a number
of positive initiatives, innovative approaches and some
development. However, considering the need of the hour, the
urgency of the situation calls out for a more accelerated pace of
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Name Of A.W.Centre
Gumfa Line Awc
Islamabad Icds Centre
Sylee T.G Chel Line Ssk School
Golabari A.W.Kendra
Daulatpur Awc
Sribir Para Awc
Bahadurpur 1 Awc
Uttar Agra Awc
Raghunathpur Awc
Balurghat Awc
Bholadanga Icds Centre
Belpukur Icds Centre
Charlabangola 2no. Prathmik Vidyalaya
List of Anganwadis in West Bengal
Dakshin Dinajpur
Dakshin Dinajpur
Dakshin Dinajpur
Dakshin Dinajpur
Dakshin Dinajpur
Dakshin Dinajpur
Balurghat Mnc
Balurghat Mnc
List of Anganwadi Centres
Appendix D
Hanumanta Nagar G.P
Kiritesari G.P
Narayanpur G.P
Panjul G.P
Jamalpur G.P
Char Nong G.P
Basuriya G.P
Lataguri G.P
Rangamati G.P
Khairabari G.P
Bandapani G.P
Gram Panchayet
Uttar Agra
Sylee T.G Chell Line
Nepali Line
Village/ Para
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
Name Of A.W.Centre
Subarnamrigi Mitali Sangha Club
Joyrampur Chhotodas Para
Chelidanga Goyalapara Icds Centre
Shivlal Danga/Jitdangal Icds
Gopalpur Adibasipara Icds
Sonai Dompara
Chachor Dangapara Awc
Metepatan Awc
Kathar Anganwari Kendra
Dhagara Awc
Jotrampur Adibasipara Awc
Rajatjubilee Patharpara
Sammilani Club 38, Ramkrishna Sarani
Kanuchanda Icds Centre
24pgs (South )
24pgs (South )
24pgs (South )
24pgs (South )
Asansole Mnc
Asansole Mnc
Kolkata 127
Kolkata Mnc
Baidyanathpur G.P
Ward No.-25
Ward No.-6
Gram Panchayet
Gopalpur Adibasipara
Joyrampur Chhotodaspara
Village/ Para
Goniyar AWC
Imiliya AWC
Srinagar Dhusa AWC
Bharpurwa AWC
Balughat AWC
Sihala AWC
ShyamatolaBijaili AWC
Medapur AWC
Munshitola AWC
Saraiya AWC
AWC Bhagawatipur
AWC TokanTol
AWC Chapram
List of Anganwadis in Bihar
Mazirwan Kala
Srinagar Dhusa
ICDS in West Bengal and Bihar
AWC Nima
AWC Gamharia
AWC Rajwatol
Ishaque Rain kaDarwaja
Krishna Dev Sharma Darwaja
AWC Kalyanpur
AWC Bairahi
AWC Karisath

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