The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme was launched on 2 October 1975. The Child Integrated Development Services scheme represents one of the world’s largest and most unique programmes for early childhood development and is the foremost symbol of India’s commitment to her
children. This scheme responds to the challenge of providing pre-school education and breaking the vicious cycle of malnutrition, morbidity, reduced learning capacity and mortality of the children in the country. The objectives include :
- Improving the nutritional and health status of children in the age group of 0 to 6 years.
- Laying the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the children.
- Reducing the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropouts among children.
- Achieving effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development.
- Enhancing the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.
These objectives are sought to be achieved through a package of services comprising:
- Supplementary nutrition
- Health check-up
- Referral services
- Pre-school non-formal education
- Nutrition and health education.
The budget allocated for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme for the year 2012-2013 is Rs. 15,850 crores. This allocation meant that an increase of 58 per cent was made for the allocation of budget — the budget that was allocated for the scheme in the year 2011-2012 was Rs. 10,000 crores.
The ICDS Team
The ICDS team comprises Anganwadi workers, Anganwadi helpers, Supervisors, Child Development Project Officers (CDPOs) and District Programme Officers (DPOs). The Anganwadi worker, a lady selected from the local community, is a community based frontline honorary worker of the ICDS. She is also an agent of social change, mobilising community support for better care of young children, girls and women. Besides, the medical officers, Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) and Accredited Social Health activists (ASHA) form a team with the functionaries of the Integrated Child Development Services to achieve convergence of different services.
Training and capacity building is the most crucial element in the ICDS scheme, as the achievement of the programme goals depends largely upon the effectiveness of frontline workers in improving service delivery under the programme. Since the inception of the Integrated Development Services scheme, the Government of India has formulated a comprehensive training strategy for the functionaries of the Integrated Child Development Services. Training under the Integrated Child Development Services scheme is a continuous programme and is implemented through 35 States/UTs and the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD).
Inadequacies and Challenges
The scheme has been successful to a certain extent in providing proper facilities for children. But the scheme also faces considerable criticism, largely due to lack of proper implementation. This lack of implementation of the scheme is not due to poor inputs or weak processes or defined mechanisms but on account of the wrong perceptions of the service providers of the scheme along with managerial constraints. Human resource managerial issues remain a major challenge. The supplementation of physical and financial resources for the children is going in vain because of faulty human resource management. Illegal distribution of food is another area of concern, especially as malnutrition is a major problem in our country. Illegal distribution of food has resulted in the non availability of food for the
deprived. To minimise this problem the local communities should be involved with the responsibility of implementing and monitoring the scheme in a proper manner as they would better understand the necessity of the locality.
Other inadequacies of the scheme include lack of proper toilet facilities at the Anganwadi centres and lack of adequate space for both outdoor and indoor activities. Lack of availability of education kits and health associated materials is another problem. Moreover, the sanctioned materials do not reach the intended beneficiaries and go ‘into the stomachs’ of people who already have plenty on which to survive. To reduce the curse of malnutrition in our country, adequate steps have to be taken to ensure proper availability of food, health and education kits as sanctioned by the Government.