The curious case of ‘missing’ beneficiaries
• Headcount revealed 6 lakh fake beneficiaries in Anganwadi list
• The CM ordered an inquiry into the same and asked the Anganwadi in-charges to remove all the fake names from the list
• This will provide a relief of Rs 150 crores to the state exchequer
• Officials said that children who are already enrolled in schools, were also registered at the Anganwadi centres
• Further, in some places, children who are not enrolled in the Anganwadi centres, come to eat when the meal is served.
• During the summer vacations, the number of children attending the Anganwadi centres increases manifold
• There are 61,690 functioning Anganwadi centres in the state while 62,153 have been sanctioned
The state social welfare department recently detected huge irregularities in the beneficiary list for Anganwadi centres.
Following the directions of the central government, the department carried out a head count of the number of beneficiaries recently in Anganwadi centres across the state. It revealed that six lakh fraudulent names were included in the list of beneficiaries in Anganwadi centres.
“As per the central guidelines, we directed every Anganwadi centre to conduct a headcount of the number of beneficiaries in February. The results of this came out in March and the new list was brought into effect from April,” said a senior official in the social welfare department, on the condition of anonymity.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal took stock of the department and ordered an inquiry into the anomalies found in the number of beneficiaries. The fake names were then deleted from the list. Sources informed that allegations of fraudulently entering names into the beneficiary list which resulted in illegal siphoning of state funds had also emerged.
Further, the chief minister had also ordered an inquiry into the same and asked the Anganwadi in-charges to remove all the fake names from the list. This will provide a relief of Rs 150 crores to the state exchequer.
Anganwadi centres are a part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) programme which aims to combat malnutrition among pregnant women and to provide adequate nutrition to children in rural areas.
Officials informed that the state social welfare department sends the funds to the deputy commissioners (DCs) of respective districts every month who then disburse it further to the Anganwadi centres.
Double registration of names
Another senior official in the social welfare department informed G Plus that the huge discrepancies were due to the fact that some children who are already enrolled in schools, were also registered at the Anganwadi centres.
Further, in some places, children who are not enrolled in the Anganwadi centres, come to eat when the meal is served.
“Some centres see a surge in the number of children consuming mid-day meals when it is served and we have no option but to serve them,” said an official. He added that according to the guidelines, if a child eats a meal in an Anganwadi centre even for a day, the child automatically becomes a beneficiary.
Further, sources in the social welfare department informed that during the summer vacations, the number of children attending the Anganwadi centres increases manifold.
“Most of the children who are enrolled in nearby Montessori schools come to the Anganwadi centres during their summer vacations. If the headcount would have been carried out during the summer break, the number of beneficiaries would have been much higher,” said an official highlighting the factors behind the numbers in the beneficiary list.
Authorities said that the head count was a necessary step which was conducted for the first time in the state. Prior to this, the beneficiary list was prepared after conducting a survey in each district.
According to official figures, there are a total of 61,690 functioning Anganwadi centres in the state while 62,153 have been sanctioned.
However, the officials said that they have now become stricter in their approach after the fiasco. “There are monitoring committees at the Anganwadi level called Anganwadi centre managing committee which conduct social audits of the centres and keep track of the workings of the centres. They will be the first ones to become aware of any irregularities and will immediately rectify it,” said an official.
New initiatives in Anganwadi centres
Authorities said that from this year onwards, fortified food will be provided in all Anganwadi centres. For this initiative, the government has tied up with NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India). Further, providing gas cylinders to all Anganwadi centres is also on the agenda.
Officials informed that Vedanta group will construct 300 Anganwadi centres with proper infrastructural facilities across the state as part of its CSR activities.
“In a new development this year, we have received additional funds for water and sanitation from the central government. Apart from this, funds for Swachhta have also been provided from this year onwards,” informed deputy director of the social welfare department, Bimal Mahanta.
The chief minister also conducted a review of the Poshan Abhhiyan and directed the officials to complete the works needed for its implementation. This would initially be started in 24 districts and would later be extended to all districts.