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Anganwadi kendras: Monuments of Social Welfare loot

BY OUR STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI, Feb 26: Anganwadis, which are child-care and mother-care centers, are the Government of India’s primary tool to fight the scourges of child malnourishment and infant mortality. But a major chunk of Anganwadis in Assam, a State still grappling with high infant mortality rate, has been wallowing in Dispur’s neglect.

The Rs 2,250 crore scam in the Social Welfare department relating to ‘ghost children’ in 390 fake Anganwadi centers in Assam, recently detected by Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal, is a testimony to the previous Congress government’s callous approach in dealing with malnourishment and infant mortality in the State.

To do a reality check of anganwadi kendras in the State randomly, The Sentinel team recently visited two such kendras – the Khagori Anganwadi Kendra at Noukhagori village and the Bishnupur Adarsha Gaon Anganwadi Kendra, both in uboisa LAC of Lakhimpur district. The pathetic conditions of these two kendras came as a sty surprise.

Established in 1985, the Khagori Anganwadi Kendra was built with bamboo and mud, topped by tin sheets. Its earthen floor is yet to be converted to pucca by the authorities.

Thunumai Phukan, an Anganwadi worker of the kendra, told The Sentinel: “On several occasions earlier, I got in touch with the Social Welfare department to get the mud floor of our kendra converted to pucca, but nothing has been done in this regard till date,” adding that her family doted the land for the kendra.

Phukan revealed that a person identifying himself as a contractor told her in 2007 that funds for construction of the kendra have been sanctioned, and even started construction work. The contractor also assured Phukan that construction would be done as per government rules, a condition she had insisted upon. “But when I objected to the sub-standard work, the contractor took offence and quarreled with me. After a few days, he left the work half-done and never came back. Only half of a wall of a portion of the kendra was built by that contractor,” adding, “I also informed the Child Development Project Officer of the area about the whole incident, but no action was taken. Filly, I built the makeshift house with bamboo, mud and tin to keep the kendra running.”

Phukan also told The Sentinel about the poor quality of pencils, rubbers, balls and toys supplied to the kendra by the Social Welfare department during the erstwhile Congress regime. Now, the kendra doesn’t have many children in its roll. “We are also not getting funds from the department concerned for providing food to children,” lamented Phukan.

The condition of Bishnupur Adarsha Gaon Anganwadi Kendra is also no better from that of Khagori Anganwadi Kendra. Established in 2009, the Bishnupur Adarsha Gaon Anganwadi Kendra was also made of bamboo, mud and tin. The land for the kendra was doted by a school located nearby. Juri Bordoloi, an Anwanwadi worker of the kendra, told The Sentinel: “I met several times with the official concerned for construction of the kendra, but it has not yet been done due to a land related problem.”

Pencils, rubbers, toys, umbrellas and other items provided by the Social Welfare department under the erstwhile Congress government were also of very poor quality, alleged Bordoloi. “No funds were given to the kendra for providing food and Take Home Ration to children and pregnt women,” she added.

Both Phukan and Bordoloi have appealed to the present BJP-led coalition government at Dispur to look into the issue and take corrective steps so that anganwadi kendras can fulfil their objectives and help out poor children and pregnt women.