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Grand sham at anganwadi
- Borrow kids who can count till 100 for principal secy

State social welfare, women and child development department launched Chalo Anganwadi Kendra Se Judein Hum in Ranchi on Friday with a ceremony that was more fiction than truth.

Though the state department announced on Wednesday that the campaign would link the needy with anganwadi centres, the Jaganathpur centre launch smacked of drama from before the word go.

Two hours before launch, when The Telegraph reached the centre at 7am, it was bustling with activities. Clean children in their best clothes recited Hindi alphabets and counted from 1 to 100.

This proficiency is unusual for an anganwadi centre, even in Ranchi. But a chat with tiny tots unmasked the efforts of functionaries who wanted to dress up the centre and the status of pre-school education in anganwadis for children between three and six years under integrated child development programme (ICDS).

Main to udhar school mein jata hun. Garmi chutti hai. Ma ne bola mithai milega isliye aa gaya (I go to a school over there. It’s summer vacation, mom said you’ll get sweets here),” lisped a boy.

Asked if they were taught daily, a child looked blank.

A five-year-old suddenly opened a Pandora’s box. “Pata hai, yeh sab kal lagaye hain, yeh sab bhi (showing some playing materials and IEC posters), yeh sab to yahan nahi aata hai (pointing at some tots), aaj hi aaya hai. (These were pasted yesterday, the games were given today and those children don’t come every day but they came today),” the child said.

The register showed 36 children had enrolled in the centre while 20 were present.

Anganwadi worker Sujata, appointed on May 11, said she joined on May 14 and did not know anything about the children’s attendance.

“I am just obeying orders. I was instructed to conduct home visits and jot down children’s names in the age group of three to six on a new register. I am keen about teaching. Please check my track record, I am good at work,” the harried lady said when some breast-feeding mothers pointed out that old registers were “carried away” by child development project officer (CDPO).

CDPO Surbhi Singh refused to speak to The Telegraph over phone.

Kishoris or adolescent girls who had gathered to present a welcome song weren’t regular visitors. None took the mandatory IFA (iron folic acid) tablets from the centre, a little prodding revealed. But, they stressed they were instructed to say so. When asked who instructed them, they kept mum.

When anganwadi workers were asked why they were staging a false show, they said: “We are government servants and we just take orders.”

Principal secretary Mridula Sinha, social welfare, women and child development, reached the centre at 9am. Department officials told Sinha how well the centre was doing, kishoris sang a welcome song. Children listened to Sinha patiently. The show ended with kheer, puri and sabzi being served to the child stars. They had earned it.