SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu, GANDHINAGAR, October 5, 2013
‘1.87 crore people were deprived of the benefits of ICDS’
Though Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been waxing eloquent about the Gujarat model of development, the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India as well as the State government’s own admission speak of malnourished and underweight children in the State.
According to the government’s own figures, produced by Women and Child Development Minister Vasuben Trivedi in a written reply to the State Assembly, there are at least 6.13 lakh children in 14 districts who are malnourished or extremely malnourished as of August this year. Not to speak of the rest of the 12 districts, for which the numbers are not available.
What is more, the district of Ahmedabad, considered to be the commercial capital of the State, has the highest – 85,000-plus – children who are malnourished or extremely malnourished. The Minister told the State Assembly that “there are 54,975 malnourished children and 3,860 extremely malnourished children in Ahmedabad city” alone.
Meanwhile, the CAG in its latest report has found that despite the government’s claim of “providing supplementary nutrition to the targeted children between the year 2007 and 2012, the monthly progress report as on March 2012 states that every third child was underweight.”
The auditor pointed out that as opposed to 75,480 anganwadi centres needed in the State, only 52,137 had been sanctioned and only 50,225 were functional. It observed that 1.87 crore people had been deprived of the benefits of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
The Women and Child Development Minister’s reply pointed to the fact that malnutrition was not confined to any specific region in the State but was found through and length and breadth of Gujarat. The tribal districts of Banaskantha in the North and Dahod in central Gujarat on the Madhya Pradesh border are next to Ahmedabad district with 78,421 and 73,384 malnourished children respectively. Junagadh district in the western Saurashtra region has the least, 17,263, children who are malnourished.
The CAG report also lambasted the government for insufficient coastal security stating that despite Gujarat having the longest coastline in the country, the security along the border was quite inadequate. It pointed out there were very few marine police stations and lack of trained personnel, besides inadequate night patrolling.
The auditor pointed out that in spite of a 235 km coastal stretch of Kutch district bordering Pakistan, there was only one marine police station in Mundra but there was not a single between Dwarka and Harshad.