Strengthening the ICDS Scheme
To combat this, India needs to improve its current social sector programmes, such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The ICDS addresses non-formal preschool education, targeting children aged 0 to 6 years, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, and ends the cycle of malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality.
Integrated Child Development Services
- Anganwadi Services, the new name for the ICDS Scheme, is one of the governments of India’s most prominent initiatives.
- One of the largest programmes in the world for children’s holistic development, it was introduced in 1975.
- In every region of the nation, state governments and union territories carry out the programme.
- Objectives of the scheme:
- Improve the nutritional and physical health of children between the ages of 0 and 6.
- Ensure that kids are developing physically, mentally, and socially.
- Reduce the incidence of death, disease, starvation, and school abandonment.
- Encourage cooperation amongst the many child development divisions.
- increase mothers’ capacity to meet the dietary and health needs of their offspring.
- Beneficiaries of the scheme are:
- Children in the 0–6 age range are among the program’s recipients.
- women who are pregnant and nursing mothers.
- girls between the ages of 14 and 18 in the North Eastern States and Aspirational Districts.
- No matter their caste, religion, or level of income, all qualified beneficiaries are welcome to participate in the programme.
- Six essential services are provided by ICDS/Anganwadi Services:
- Children under the age of six, pregnant women, and nursing mothers are given hot meals and take-home rations as part of the supplemental nutrition programme.
- Pre-school Non-Formal Education: Provides preschool instruction to kids between the ages of 3-6.
- Women between the ages of 15 and 45 can receive education on diet and health.
- Immunisation: Ensures that services are provided for infants under the age of six, expectant mothers, and nursing mothers.
- Conducts routine health examinations for infants under the age of six, expectant women, and breastfeeding moms.
- Referral Services: Provides referral services for additional medical care if any problems with your health are found.
- The plan’s financial structure is as follows:
- The Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) is the only component whose funding is distributed in a 60:40 (central: state) ratio.
- Except for the North East states, which have a 90:10 ratio, the SNP component is supported through a 50:50 ratio.
- A predetermined monthly honorarium is paid to Anganwadi workers (AWWs) and Anganwadi helpers (AWHs). In addition, they get compensated for the work they do.
- The quantity of AWCs and Mini-AWCs in a location is decided by population standards to ensure proper coverage.
- To improve nutritional and early childhood development outcomes, the ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP) was created.
- The project’s primary target audience is young children under the age of three in particular districts across eight states. Pilots for convergent nutrition initiatives and urban areas are also included in non-project states.
Points to Ponder:
- Correlation between early-life poverty, malnutrition, and insufficient stimulation and cognitive and economic challenges: Empirical research has demonstrated a link between early-life poverty, malnutrition, and insufficient stimulation. This emphasises how crucial early childhood interventions are for boosting human capital, especially in emerging nations like India.
- Positive impact of ICDS on cognitive achievements: The ICDS has a significant effect on cognitive outcomes, particularly for females and those from economically disadvantaged families, according to a study published in the journal World Development. This suggests that ICDS interventions can aid in severing the link between malnutrition and increased morbidity and death.
- Worker empowerment: The passage stresses the value of supporting Anganwadi workers, who serve as the ICDS’s foundation. The advancement of children’s nutrition, health, and education in their communities is greatly aided by these employees. The impact of ICDS can be increased by giving children access to current technologies, offering health education, overseeing feeding programmes, and fostering collaboration with medical professionals.
- More Anganwadi personnel are needed: The paragraph advises reducing the burden by adding a second Anganwadi worker to each of India’s 13,99,661 Anganwadi centres. Children would benefit from this in terms of their health and educational outcomes, as shown by a randomised controlled experiment in Tamil Nadu. Additionally, it would help to lower the prevalence of severe malnutrition and child stunting.
- Cost-effectiveness of hiring more people: Considering the potential advantages, the cost of implementing this strategy statewide is comparatively negligible. Based on anticipated increases in lifetime wages, the estimated long-term benefits would be between 13 and 21 times the costs. This demonstrates how financially advantageous hiring more Anganwadi employees is.
- Specialization of workers: Worker specialisation More Anganwadi staff will enable existing workers to spend more time on children’s health and nutrition because the new hires may concentrate especially on preschool and early childhood education. The effectiveness and impact of ICDS interventions would be improved by this specialisation.
- Job creation for women: Women would gain 1.3 million new jobs if the plan to increase the number of Anganwadi employees was put into action throughout India. This enhances rural communities’ quality of life while also giving locals—particularly women—the chance to contribute to the ICDS programme.
- Importance of tailored implementation: The ICDS is implemented by state governments, and the hiring of Anganwadi employees falls under their purview. This highlights the importance of customised implementation. This decentralised strategy enables efficient, personalised implementation based on standards and laws unique to the region. It guarantees that the programme is customised to meet the unique requirements of each state or region.
- Need for infrastructure development and training: The text emphasises the value of increasing funding for Anganwadi employees’ training programmes. It also emphasises the necessity of constructing pucca buildings, functional sanitary facilities, and access to drinking water in Anganwadi centres. These advancements are required to open