Wanted: more anganwadis at slum resettlement sites

Lack of childcare facilities in resettlement tenements of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board has denied children access to nutrition and health, reveals a recent report released by the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC).

A detailed analysis of the information available with the Ministry of Women and Child Development reveals that of seven anganwadi centres in Perumbakkam, a TNSCB tenement, there are 11 boys and 13 girls who are malnourished.

Of them, two girls in the age group of 0-3 and one between 3-5 years of age are severely malnourished. The rest 21 are moderately malnourished.

The report also analyses the availability and access of children to anganwadi centres at the TNSCB sites in Perumbakkam, Navalur and Gudapakkam.

The tenements in Perumbakkam, with a population of around 52,000 is mandated to have 65 centres, as per the population norms, but has only seven.

Navalur, which has 8,000 people residing in the tenements, requires 10 anganwadi centres but has only 3 and Gudapakkam is mandated to have four centres to cater to a population of 3,600 but has only one.

However, the existing centres too do not function regularly. Discussion with families in Perumbakkam revealed that a few centres demand parents to contribute Rs. 100 — else the children are not allowed access.

Residents also complained the irregularities in operating the centres causing inconvenience to families.

“I have stopped sending my child to the centre, because they do not feed him on time, and he comes home hungry. I’ve called my mother here to look after my two-year-old when I go out to work,” said Andal, a resident and a daily wager from Perumbakkam.

The data points out that three of the centres do not even have staff, and teachers in the others manage more than one anganwadi, to make up for staff crunch. This indicates that they do not have the vessels nor any personnel to prepare food which is thereby affecting the nutritional status of the children.

The report filed by the Advocate Commissioner appointed by the Madras High Court highlighted that there was difficulty in getting potable water, regular rations for mid-day meals at the anganwadi centres, and while a few centres had stoves, they had no gas cylinders.

Many centres did not have ceiling fans. He added that the centres either had only one teacher or one helper and was not adequate for the hundreds of children living in the sites.

“These issues have been brought to the notice of the authorities several times but the situation remains the same,” said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher, IRCDUC.

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