Shillong, Dec. 11: The Meghalaya social welfare department today claimed that the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is being implemented in the state in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Centre and Supreme Court orders.
The reaction came after a group of NGOs alleged that independent tests prove that the department and its contractors/manufacturers earn on an average Rs 12 crore every year by supplying substandard and unhealthy food to children. This is done under the supplementary nutrition programme of the scheme through Anganwadi centres, in violation of Supreme Court orders.
“To ensure that the quality of food items supplied under the programme meets the required standards, samples are sent by the department for nutrient analysis at regular intervals to the Food & Nutrition Board Laboratory, Calcutta, approved by the government,” social welfare department secretary T. Dkhar said in a statement.
He also said the reports of the analysis so far have not indicated that the food supplied under the programme is “substandard or unhealthy”.
“The department, on the guidelines and directions of the Supreme Court, has procured choco malt and milk powder directly from the manufacturer as this would be no violation of the Supreme Court order,” Dkhar added.
He also said these food items are not readily available in the open market and can only be obtained from manufacturers.
He also stated that the department had introduced fortified food items such as milk powder, malted milk food, biscuits and ready-to-eat noodles as “non-conventional food items” distributed under the programme on the guidelines issued by the Union ministry of women and child development. This was done by engaging self-help groups throughout the state for greater participation by village communities on buying grains and preparing meals.
Dkhar also said the department has taken steps to discontinue supply and distribution of ready-to-eat noodles and a certain brand of biscuits at the Anganwadi centres.
The official said the nutrients level has been “increased” by conventional food items to “safeguard” the health of women and children. The SNP committee was constituted to recommend and monitor the diet menu for maintaining quality of the food supplied and served at the ICDS centres.
He said the department has taken serious note of the allegations that have appeared in the newspapers and shall initiate steps to conduct nutrient analysis test in reputed laboratories to confirm the veracity of the allegations.