The following article is written by Kaveri Rajaram Indira, an activist and a close supporter of New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India). The article appeared in the Jan-Feb 2012 edition of Dudiyora Horaata (Workers’ Struggle).
On the 1st of January 2012, Ameena Banu, a one year old child weighing 3.5 kgs, died of malnutrition in Jagjeevan Ramnagar area of Bengaluru. It is exactly children like Ameena Banu which the anganwadi system is supposed to help with, with their mandate of providing nourishment to infants under six years of age as well as pregnant mother’s, and child care for the infants. Her death is part of a pattern where thousands of children across Karnataka have not only died due to neglect by the anganwadi system, but also suffer long periods of sickness, vomiting and diarrhea caused by the food provided by the anganwadi centers.
Also known as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the anganwadi is supposed to provide hot, freshly prepared meals for children. But across Karnataka, anganwadi centers are no longer provided actual food grains, pulses, vegetables or milk and eggs to cook for the children. Instead they are being
provided with four sets of packets – one consisting of “kurkure” – corn puffs, and three packets of instant food powder with different flavors. The children cannot eat the food prepared out of these packets because it makes them sick and have severe diarrhea. Several parents have in fact claimed that their children were eating properly, but the diarrhea that overtook them after they began consuming the packeted food interfered with their ability to digest.
The amount of actual food grain received by the anganwadi centers is pathetic. In some areas, anganwadi centers report receiving between 25-30 kgs of rice and a few kilos of dal per month for a population of around 1000 people per center. This food is supposed to be distributed to pregnant and lactating mothers as well as used in the meals prepared for children at the center. The anganwadi centers showed us that about half of this meager amount of grain was distributed to the mothers, leading to each mother receiving one tall steel tumbler of rice and one small plastic tea cup worth of dal per month. This isn’t sufficient for
even a single day’s meal. Several children have severely stunted growth and developmental problems resulting from not having received milk during the critical period after pregnancy, and the malnourished nature of their anguished mothers have a role to play in this.
Apart from the lack of access to hospitals in many of these areas, even where hospitals are available there is a criminal apathy towards the needs of the people. Instead of any help coming, demands for bribes for health dispensation is a common woe suffered by the ordinary people who are totally dependent on Govt. run health facilitation underlying cause of around 50 % of deaths of children under the age of five is malnutrition. This phenomenon is not specific to Karnataka, with 42.5% of children underweight across the country, which boasts of phenomenal GDP growth.
Kaveri Rajaram Indira,