Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
Delhi 4th wave forced more to seek govt help
46.34% more enrolled in anganwadis in the Capital in over a year as many lose sources of income amid the pandemic; activists say numbers still low
Sweta Goswami and Fareeha Iftikhar
NEW DELHI: After losing her livelihood following the imposition of the lockdown announced by the Delhi government in April to contain the fourth wave of Covid-19 in the city, Uma Singh, a domestic help, was left with no means to arrange nutritious food for her two children until she managed to enrol them in an anganwadi centre last month with the help of a civil society organisation.
The resident of northeast Delhi’s Yamuna Vihar said, “My son is three and my daughter is just one. None of them are enrolled in a school yet; otherwise they would have got dry ration from there. Some NGO people visited our locality last month to distribute food. When I told them about my issue, they put me in touch with an anganwadi worker who later helped me enrol my kids in a centre.” Singh, 28, is a single mother and lives with her parents.
Like Uma, several thousand people have enrolled their kids in the city’s anganwadis after losing their source of income amid the pandemic. According to a recent survey conducted by the Delhi government, 247,293 children and pregnant/lactating women have enrolled in anganwadi centres across the Capital amid the lockdown enforced by the Delhi government in April. The trend, experts said, shows that the income of families has been more severely hit this time compared to the last lockdown.
These anganwadi centres, part of the central government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), provide supplementary nutritious meals to children up to age six as well as pregnant and lactating women. They also provide pre-school education, health education, immunisation and medical check-ups for the children.
While the city’s 10,755 anganwadi centres have been shut since March, the Delhi government’s department of women and child development (WCD) has been providing children and pregnant/lactating women supplementary nutrition through door-to-door services each fortnight.
Government data seen by HT showed that in March last year, 534,741 children and women were enrolled in the ICDS programme, which increased to 782,034 (46.24%) by April this year. The latest survey report also stated that the coverage of supplementary nutritional diets also increased by 68% from the last lockdown.
“As per the latest round of survey results from the DCPCR, 91% of the beneficiaries reported that they are receiving nutritional supplements whereas in May 2020 only 23% of the beneficiaries surveyed had reported that they received the ration,” the document stated.
Dilshad, who lost his job at a garment store in Lakshmi Nagar in April last year, had initially registered his two children in a local anganwadi and recently enrolled his four-month pregnant wife as well. “My children — a four-year-old son and a fiveyear-old daughter — were enrolled in a private school in Seelampur. I had to pull out my children from there as I was unable to pay the fees in July. I am still out of work.”
“I enrolled my children in an anganwadi in August. In March, I got to know that my wife is expecting again. I am still hardly earning anything by cleaning cars in Dilshad Garden... Therefore, I had to enrol her at the same centre,” he said.
Senior officials said the increased enrolment in the programme was also because of the enhanced efforts of officials and workers engaged in these projects.
“During the pandemic, maximum efforts have been taken to enhance the outreach services and make the workers serve the needs of vulnerable children in a holistic manner,” said a woman and child development department official.
According to the latest data collected by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), at least 1,436 children lost either one or both their parents to Covid-19. Of them, 59 children lost both parents. The anganwadi workers were also asked to call on helpline number 1098 to report about children in distress. Officials said the number receives around 500 calls every day.
The Delhi government, in its budget 2021-22 presented in March, announced setting up of 500 Saheli Samanvay Kendras (SSKS) for better outreach to vulnerable women and children. About 101 such SSKS have been made operational as of now. Dr Rashmi Singh, director of the women and child development department, said SSKS have emerged as emergency response centres for women whose livelihood and socio-economic condition have been hit by the pandemic and the lockdown.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Delhi, said the number of enrolment in the ICDS scheme is still low.
Amrita Johri of Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said, “More effort needs to be taken to enrol every child and woman in distress under the scheme,” she added.