Calcutta, Oct. 4: For hundreds of poor children, pregnant women, lactating mothers and the Bengal government, temporary shelters used for the central government-sponsored Anganwadi project means someone else’s house.
The government provides nutritious food to children up to six years and pregnant and lactating women under this project.
However, the shelters where the food is provided to women and children are either dilapidated structures or simply patches of green under the sky. Worse, most of the so-called shelters are without drinking water facilities or toilets.
But things are expected to be different as the state government will start constructing some buildings it can call its own under the project.
The government will start the construction of 240 such centres in seven districts — Howrah, Hooghly, Birbhum, East and West Midnapore and North and South Dinajpur — a senior official of the social welfare department said.
Although the state government has been carrying out the centrally-funded Anganwadi project for some years, most of the centres where the food is provided have been donated to the government.
The lack of hygienic surroundings often defy the main purpose of the Anganwadi project. Inclement weather, too, has proved to be a hindrance, causing inconvenience to social workers while distributing food.
“After all, an open space under the scorching sun or heavy shower is certainly not the perfect place for anyone to enjoy a meal,” the official added.
But with 75 per cent of the funds coming from the Centre, the Bengal government will construct 983 centres in the first phase.
The government plans to construct all the 51,000 Anganwadi centres under the scheme later, in phases.
By January, 240 centres would be constructed and the remaining by September.
“We have been meaning to build all the centres covered under the project. But money has been a problem. However, now with the Centre’s assistance, it would be possible to begin constructing some buildings and we hope to gradually replace all the dilapidated buildings or open spaces with proper structures,” said Jaya Dasgupta, principal secretary of the state social welfare department.
The government will start off by constructing 240 centres immediately after the Durga Puja.
“The condition of centres in the districts is much worse than those in Calcutta. So we are starting off with some of the districts like Howrah, Hooghly and Birbhum. We plan to have the centres in Calcutta and the remaining districts renovated later,” the official said.
“The main idea behind the state government’s initiative to construct its own centres is to have good toilets and drinking water facilities available to all the beneficiaries,” added the official. Each centre has 80 beneficiaries on an average.