By Mujahid Nafees
The Indian Constitution secures the rights of children up to the age 6 under Article 45 as part of the directive principles of state policy. The Government of India launched Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme on 2nd October 1975. The beneficiaries under the scheme are children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. ICDS offers a package of six services:
- Supplementary nutrition
- Pre-school non-formal education
- Nutrition and health education
- Health check-up
- Referral services
In 2002, the historic 86th amendment to our constitution was made. Education became a fundamental right of children. In all, Parliament amended three articles:
- Article 21 A, making primary education fundamental right for children,
- Article 45, which amended the directive principles of state. It said, “The state shall endeavour to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years”, and
- Article 51, which said that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions.
To comply with these amendments, a law was enacted in Parliament in 2009 for providing free and compulsory education. Article 11 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act makes it mandatory for the “appropriate government to provide for pre-school education.”
It says, “With a view to preparing children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate Government shall make necessary arrangement for providing free pre-school education for such children.”
Unfortunately, no government, including that of Gujarat, has so far made implementing rules for this fundamental right to provide pre-education and early child care. One cannot call it a mistake. It is an act of cool-minded negligence towards child rights.
In 2013 the Government of India came up with the National Policy for Children. Its important provisions are:
- Section 2.2 says, “Every child is unique and a supremely important national asset”;
- Section 3.3 says, “Every child has the right to life, survival, development, education, protection and participation”;
- Section 4.6 (i) says, “The State shall take all necessary measures to provide universal and equitable access to quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) for optimal development and active learning capacity of all children bellow 6 years of age”.
- Section 4.6 (i), says, “Ensure that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years is in school and enjoys the fundamental right to education as enshrined in the constitution”.
The same year, National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy, 2013, was released, which reaffirms the commitment of the Government of India to provide integrated services for holistic development of all children. Following are its important provisions:
- Section 2.2.1 says, “Through amended Article 45 of the Indian Constitution which directs that, the state shall endeavour to provide ECCE for all children until they complete the age of six years”.
- Section 2.2.2 says, “The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act which came into effect from April 1, 2010, has also addressed ECCE under section 11 of the Act which states, with a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years”.
- Section 3.2 addresses the child’s specific age needs; its sub-section 3.2 (iii) says: “Three to six years-need is Protection from hazards, health care, Nutrition, attachment to an adult, developmentally appropriate play-based preschool education with a structured and planned school readiness component for 5 to 6 years old”.
- Section 5.1.6 says, anganwadi centres (AWCs) would be repositioned as a “vibrant child-friendly early child development (ECD) centres” with adequate infrastructure, financial and human resources for ensuring a continuum of ECCE in a life-cycle approach and attaining child development outcomes.
- Section 5.2.1 says, “To standardise the quality of ECCE available to children, basic quality standards and specifications will be laid down for ECCE which will be enforced across public, private and non-governmental service providers”.
The following base standards were made non-negotiable for promoting quality under ECCE and were made mandatory for all service providers rendering any kind of ECCE service:
- An ECCE programme of 3-4 hours duration
- One classroom measuring at least 35 square meters for a group of 30 children and availability of adequate (at least 30 square meters) outdoor space for a group of children.
- Adequately trained staff
- Age and developmentally appropriate child centric curriculum transacted in the mother tongue/local vernacular
- Adequate developmentally appropriate toys and learning materials
- A safe building which is within easy approach. It should be clean and should have surrounding green area
- Adequate and safe drinking water facilities
- Adequate and separate child- friendly toilets and hand wash facilities for girls and boys
- Separate space allocated for cooking nutritionally balanced meals and nap time for children
- Immediate health service in terms of first Aid/Medical kit available at the centre
- The adult/caregiver child ratio of 1:20 for 3-6 year old children and 1:10 for below age of 3 should be available at the Centre. Children should not be unattended at any given point of time
The policy’s Section 11.1 says, “Resource group/ voluntary action groups of experts and professionals from higher learning institutions will be identified at regional, state, district and sub-district levels and invited to support government efforts in monitoring, supervision and capacity building for ECCE in a gradual and effective manner”.
And, Section 11.2 says: “To achieve the objectives of the policy and supports its own efforts, the Government may enter into partnerships for specific time bound initiatives with multiple stakeholders including community, non-governmental service providers and the private service providers while ensuring adherence to specified guidelines and standards”.
In reply to a question asked in Parliament by Nalin Kumar Kateel, the women and child development minister said on May 18, 2012 that “insofar as Government of India is concerned the universal service of preschool non-formal education is being provided under ICDS scheme to the 3-6 years age children”.
The Supreme Court of India ordered in Writ Petition (Civil) 196 of 2001 that “the universalization of the ICDS involves extending all ICDS services (supplementary nutrition, growth monitoring, nutrition and health education, immunization, referral a pre-school education) to every child under the age of 6, all pregnant women/lactating mothers and all adolescent girls”.
In 2014, the Gujarat government decided to carry out a comprehensive nutrition survey in order to assess the condition of the state’s pre-school age children. The survey was carried out by the International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, with the support of the state government. The data of this study is supposed to serve as the baseline information for the state’s department of women and child development. It was meant to pave the way for working out developmental strategies for state-wide implementation of nutrition interventions.
The survey was carried out in six metro cities of Gujarat – Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Gandhinagar, Surat and Vadodara – and their rural areas. As many as 127 rural primary sampling units (PSUs) and 76 urban PSUs (census enumeration blocks or CEBs) were selected across the state. Twenty households in each unit were selected for the survey. In all, 4,828 children up to the age of five were assessed.
Interestingly, the survey did not include any of the backward districts of Gujarat, including Dangs and Dahod.
The survey results showed that only 77.5% rural people live in a ‘pucca/semi-pucca’ house, and 61.8 households used piped drinking water. A very important aspect of the survey is, 44.3% of children below the age of 2 practiced open defecation. As many as 37.2% children were found to be stunted, and 11.3% were wasted. Further, 20.8% were severely stunted, and 5.1% children were severely wasted. As many as 10.6% children were underweight, and 3.2% were severely underweight. The survey concluded that a total of 88.2% children needed special focus.
The survey showed that availability/reach of immunization and micronutrient supplements among the children aged 6-23 months, who adequately used iodized salt, was 88.2%; and among the children of 12-23 months, 83.2% children were fully immunized (BCG, measles, 3 doses of polio and DPT). This suggests that neither nutritional services nor basic health services reach common people in the rural areas surrounding Gujarat’s top metro cities.
As for anganwadi services, it was available among 64.4% of the children in the age group 3-5 years. Just 48.8% children in the age group 6-36 months received take home ration, which the parents receive from the anganwadis. All this suggests that government claims about universal ICDS reach in Gujarat is fake.
As for anganwadi centres, 64.2% of them had separate kitchen, 53.7% had toilet facilities, 45.4% had special play room/ground available for children to play, 76.6% had medical kits, and 74.8% mothers visiting the anganwadis had child protection cards.
Interestingly, the Annual States of Education Report (Rural) 2013 showed that 72.9% three years old children, 75.5% four years old children, 29.2% five years old children, and just 3.1% children of six years of age went to anganwadi centres in Gujarat. The report said that 22.6% three years old children and 14.2% four years old children were not getting any pre-school education.
In reply to a right to information (RTI) application filed by me in 2014, as many as 15,016 (30%) anganwadi centres did not have toilet facilities and 15,695 (33%) anganwadi centres did not have water facility. Further, as many as 1,961 posts of anganwadi workers and 3,096 posts of anganwadi helpers were vacant; 357 posts of child development programme officer (CDPO) and assistant CDPO were vacant out of 572 sanctioned posts, and 346 posts of supervisors were vacant out of 2,222 sanctioned posts.
The monitoring authority for child rights in the state is Gujarat Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GCPCR). The commission is without any member for the last one year. Only chairperson has been appointed. This commission does not have any clearcut rules about delegation of power to the chairperson and members. Significantly, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson has powers equivalent to secretary, Government of India, and its members have powers equal to joint secretory to the Government of India.
The Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act requires special courts and special prosecutors to be appointed in each district to deal in child rights cases. In Gujarat, no any special prosecutors have yet been appointed. One can surmise that the state government has made no proactive effort for implementing child rights; after all, they are not a votebank.
|Number of children surveyed under 5 years||4828||3074||1754
|Live in a ‘pucca/semi pucca’ house (%)||84.9||77.5||93.2|
|Households that have electricity (%)||98.5||97.9||99.1|
|Households that use drinking water from an improved source (%)||94.5||91.3||98.1|
|Households that use piped drinking water (%)||75.0||61.8||90.0|
|Households that have access to a own toilet facility (%)||57.5||34.4||83.9|
|Households that practice hand washing with soap(%)||94.3||90.5||98.6|
|Households that have BPL/AAY ration cards (%)||31.3||45.5||14.9|
|Children >2 years practicing open defecation (%)||44.3||65.9||17.6|
|Children 6-23 months whose stool are disposed off in toilet(%)||34.9||26.4||44.6|
Nutritional status of children 0-59 months, Gujarat
|Children who are stunted (%)||37.2||38.5||35.7|
|Children who are severely stunted (%)||20.8||21.1||20.4|
|Children who are wasted (%)||11.3||10.8||11.9|
|Children who are severely wasted (%)||5.1||4.9||5.3|
|Children who are underweight (%)||10.6||11.2||9.9|
|Children who are severely underweight (%)||3.2||3.5||2.9|
|Children who were weighed at birth(%)||87.0||85.6||88.7|
|Children who were born with a low birth weight (%)||13.5||14.2||12.7|
Nutritional status of children 0-59 months by Administrative Divisions
|Sample||Mean height||Mean weight|
|Stunting< -2SD||Wasting< -2SD||Underweight< -2SD|
Immunization and micronutrient supplements
|Children 6-23 months who live in households that use adequately iodized salt (%)||88.2||84.0||93.0|
|Children 12-23 months who are fully immunized (BCG, measles, 3 doses of polio and DPT)(%)||83.5||82.3||85.0|
Services received from Anganwadi
|Children 3-5 years availing services from Anganwadi (%)||64.4||83.3||40.7|
|Children 6-36 months who received Take Home Ration from Anganwadi(%)||48.8||68.6||25.0|
Maternal nutrition and health
|Mothers aged 20-24 who were married below age 18 (%)||29.8||29.8||29.8
|Mothers who registered their last pregnancy during the first trimester(%)||60.7||62.9||58.0|
|Mothers who had at least 3 ANC visits in the last pregnancy (%)||68.5||69.1||68.0|
|Mothers who consumed iron and folic acid supplements for 90 days or longer during last
|Mothers who had an institutional delivery for last child (%)||89.4||85.2||94.4
|Mothers who received take home ration from the Anganwadi center during last pregnancy (%)||62.0||84.2||37.1
|Mothers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) < 18.527 (%) (Thin)||25.0||29.8||19.2|
|Mothers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) >= 25.0 (%) (Obese or Overweight)||13.8||9.2||19.2|
|Mothers with height below 145 cm (%)||10.0||11.9||7.7|
Mother’s education and empowerment
|Mothers who have completed 10 years of schooling (%)||42.9||29.8||54.4
|Mothers who are involved in income generation activities (%)||10.4||13.9||6.4
|Mothers who take decisions (individually or jointly) regarding own health care (%)||90.2||89.9||90.6
|Mothers who take decisions (individually or jointly) regarding food items to be given to
their children (%)
|Mothers who are members of self-help groups (SHG) (%)||3.2||3.9||2.5|
|Mothers who have their own saving account in bank/post office (%)||37.9||28.7||48.0
|Mothers who have access to print and/or electronic media (%)||74.5||63.7||86.7
Anganwadi Centre (AWC) Indicators
|Number of Anganwadi Centers(AWC) covered||218||188||30|
|PSUs that are having more than one Anganwadi (%)||85.3||87.2||73.3|
|AWC functioning in own building (%)||74.8||80.3||40.0|
|AWC having separate kitchen (%)||64.2||64.9||60.0|
|AWC having toilet facility exclusively for AWC (%)||53.7||52.1||63.3|
|AWC that have soap in the toilet for hand washing (%)||82.9||79.6||100.0|
|AWC that have special play room/ground available for children (%) supplementary food
|AWCs working with AWW and assisted by AWH (%)||90.8||89.4||100.0
|Anganwadi Worker (AWW) has secondary and above level education (%)||69.3||66.5||86.7
|Anganwadi with medicine kit available (%)||76.6||77.1||73.3
|Anganwadi with mother child protection card (%)||74.8||79.3||80.0
|Anganwadi with functional baby weighting scale (%)||95.8||95.8||96.3|
|Anganwadi with functional adult weighting scale (%)||94.6||94.4||95.8|
|Anganwadi visited by ANM at least three times in last three months (%)||69.7||71.8||56.7
|AWW who have knowledge about exclusive breast feeding (%)||98.2||97.9||100.0
|AWC that provided any type of supplementary food in last month to 6-35 children (%)||99.5||99.5||100.0
|AWC that provided any type of supplementary food in last month to 36-71 children (%)||99.5||99.5||100.0
|AWC that provided any type of supplementary food in last month to pregnant women(%)||99.5||99.5||100.0
|AWC that provided any type of supplementary food in last month to lactating mother (%)||97.7||97.9||96.7