Tehatta, Oct. 5: The subdivisional officer (SDO) of Nadia’s Tehatta found closed 35 of the 40 Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) centres he visited in the past two days.
The villagers said the centres did not open regularly, adding they had “no clue” why. Some of the centres had not opened for a year. One ICDS worker The Telegraph spoke to said she did not “get time” to go to the centres after finishing her household chores.
“I paid surprise visits to the ICDS centres because I wanted to see for myself the condition of the children and the mothers going there. What I saw is shocking,” SDO Sudipto Bhattacharyya said. “If ICDS workers behave so irresponsibly, the scheme will be frustrated.”
Bhattacharyya said he had warned child development project officers in his subdivision to “ensure proper services”. “If they don’t do so, they will be served showcause notices.”
“The basic objective of the ICDS is to prevent malnutrition of children below six years by giving them midday meals. Under the scheme, mothers are told how to look after their children and provide them nutrition. Mothers are also given iron and vitamin tablets,” a district official said.
Each ICDS centre, which operates between 7am and 11am, has a worker and a helper. The workers impart basic education to children, make mothers aware about nutrition, provide vaccination and visit expectant mothers in villages. The helpers mainly cook and serve midday meals to children and mothers.
District officials said the SDO would hold a meeting with ICDS workers and programme officers on Tuesday to review the situation.
District magistrate Abhinav Chandra said: “I am not aware of what has happened in Tehatta. But I can say that the overall picture of the ICDS camps in the district is not healthy. I have alerted the programme officers concerned.”
Yesterday, the SDO first visited the ICDS camp in Khanpara. Only the worker, Archana Das, was present. Asked why the helper had not turned up, Das said: “It was raining in the morning, so she could not come.”
Azida Biwi, a resident, said the workers and helpers at the ICDS centres were irregular. “The helpers don’t cook food. When we take our children to the centres, we find them closed,” she said.
An ICDS worker said: “Sometimes, it becomes tough for me to attend the camps daily because of domestic chores.”