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Corruption claims lives of children daily
Some forms of corruption feel more vile than the rest. The monetary gain made by siphoning off of food meant for poor children is one such.
An investigative report telecast by NDTV on June 8 exposed a major racket in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in Thane district in Maharashtra. `India’s shame: Starve children, feed chicken’ revealed that nutrition supplements meant for children at anganwadis (health centres targeting women and young children) across the district were being sold in the black market.
The supplements later made their way to poultry farms and were fed to chickens and pigs. As usual, government officials and middlemen are operating partners. Though the findings emerged from Thane, it is suspected that this malpractice is spread across the State, particularly in tribal dominated areas.
This corruption is all the more painful to digest when one realises that 1,17,493 children died in the State during the last four years due to malnourishment. Of this, 21,533 kids died during 2011-2012 alone. The Bombay High Court had recently slammed the apathy of the State towards its children.
Thane alone has 4,865 anganwadis, the report states. Despite that number, there are 6,224 severely malnourished children in the district.
India has the ignominous distinction of having the highest number of malnourished children. Anganwadis are the ambitious and most far-reaching measure through which the government aims to tackle this.
A whopping Rs 1,280 crores is spent by the Centre and State to ensure food to children across the State. Reports of corruption in this sector keep cropping up quite often across States.
The Bihar government has been experimenting various steps to put an end to this graft. Last year, the State roped in self-help groups and handed over funds directly to them to prepare food and distribute them at the centres.
A new twist was given to the whole corruption issue in Orissa in 2010 when a village official conceded that bribes were taken even to appoint anganwadi workers!
Unless a fool-proof mechanism to cleanse the system is put in place, this mammoth effort to improve the lives of mothers and children, unparalleled across the world, will not fetch desired results.
By S. Lalitha
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