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Union Min­is­ter of Women & Child De­vel­op­ment Maneka San­jay Gandhi speaks to Ta­nia Ameer about the min­istry’s vi­sion, its ex­em­plary ini­tia­tives and achieve­ments

How has your ex­pe­ri­ence been in the min­istry?

It is a chal­leng­ing min­istry to han­dle be­cause it had no pre­set pa­ram­e­ters when I joined and there­fore no­body had done any no­table work in it for a long time. Ba­si­cally this was a min­istry which ex­isted only to give salary to women an­gan­wadi work­ers. We then had to map out what it is that this min­istry had to do to change In­dia which is the core pur­pose of a min­istry. We are making in­cre­men­tal changes on ev­ery­thing rang­ing from small to big - in ev­ery con­ceiv­able area that we can bring about a change for the bet­ter­ment of women and chil­dren.

What are the new ini­tia­tives taken up by your min­istry in this gov­ern­ment?

We try very hard in the min­istry to make things hap­pen. We work re­lent­lessly on clear­ing files, re­mov­ing the fake ap­pli­ca­tions etc. We were the first to take up the Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Act and work on it.

What have been your achieve­ments in the min­istry till date?

There are var­i­ous is­sues on which the min­istry is keenly work­ing on. One is­sue I have talked about is the JJ Act, the other one is adop­tion, as well as rel­e­vant is­sues like-skill de­vel­op­ment, nu­tri­tion, crime against women, safety and se­cu­rity of women, one stop cri­sis cen­tres and var­i­ous other per­ti­nent prob­lems.

Tell us about the min­istry’s ini­tia­tive to deal with mal­nu­tri­tion among chil­dren and women? Also tell us about the min­istry’s ini­tia­tive re­gard­ing an­gan­wadi cen­tres?

Nu­tri­tion is one big fo­cus area for the min­istry. It ties up with the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Pad­hao’ pro­gramme and many more fac­tors come into play. We in­vented the con­cept of an­gan­wadis and around 24 lakh work­ers across In­dia get a ba­sic pay of Rs 3000 plus the state gives them more. The amount given to them at each state level varies; for ex­am­ple Ut­tar Pradesh gives them Rs 200 per month while Goa gives them Rs 12000. It is highly un­even. Their job is to look af­ter preg­nant women and chil­dren from the time they are born to three years of age. Till now they have never been trained and there has been no su­per­vi­sion over them, so the stan­dard has really suf­fered when it comes to food and child care. This has re­sulted in cre­at­ing high mal­nu­tri­tion lev­els - which is cur­rently 47 per cent in In­dia - which is very dan­ger­ous as it causes an im­paired brain. We are re­train­ing th­ese work­ers and

also work­ing on sub­stan­tial food re­forms.

How is the min­istry ad­dress­ing the is­sue of miss­ing chil­dren in the coun­try?

In an ef­fort to lo­cate miss­ing chil­dren in the coun­try, the Min­istry of Women and Child De­vel­op­ment signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) with the Min­istry of Rail­ways in May this year and also launched a web por­tal –khoy­a­paya - for the same. The MOU with the Min­istry of Rail­ways was signed on May 19 this year and the fo­cus is to en­hance as­so­ci­a­tion and co-op­er­a­tion in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of jointly pre­pared Stan­dard Op­er­at­ing Pro­ce­dure (SOP) and to en­sure the care, pro­tec­tion, se­cu­rity, well-be­ing of run-away, un­ac­com­pa­nied and traf­ficked chil­dren who come in con­tact with the rail­ways. T he Min­istry of Women and Child De­vel­op­ment, with the as­sis­tance form Depart­ment of Elec­tron­ics and In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, has also launched a web por­tal Khoya-paya on June 2 this year for re­port­ing and search­ing of miss­ing chil­dren.

Pic: Naveen Sharma

Union Min­is­ter of Women & Child De­vel­op­ment Maneka San­jay Gandhi

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